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December 16, 2003

Small town, bright lights

I have lived in a variety of urban situations. When I lived in a larger city, or visit them, people rarely make much note of me. When I lived in a medium sized city in upstate New York in the early 1980s, people would often ask if I was from India (I would say "Yes" for simplicity's sake). When I lived in a small town in eastern Imbler in the 1990s the only time people would note my race would be to hurl insults at me.

Now I live in a small liberal arts town filled with yuppy boomers. And here I am noticed, but not in a "racist" way. Rather, it usually goes like this....

Liberal-Broad-Minded-Person-Who-Is-Too-White (LBMPWITW): Are you from India?
Me: I was born in Bangladesh[1].
[pause]
LBMPWITW: I went to the temple complex in Madurai....
Me: [nodd] [thinking-I just told him I'm from Bangladesh, not India....]
LBMPWITW: The images of Lord Shiva were incredible. You could feel the planet speaking to you, there is a lot of spiritual energy there. Far more authentic than Western religion you know.
Me: [nodd]
LBMPWITW: India really turned me on to vegetarian food. It's much better for you. And it tastes better. Meat is unnatural, we were meant to be vegetarians.
Me: [Uh, I like beef. My family has eaten beef for centuries...should I tell this guy?]
LBMPWITW: Well, I'll let you go. But let me ask, how do you like America? Isn't it terrible what we're doing to the people in Iraq?
Me: [blank expression]
LBMPWITW: Hope I see you around.

I wish the above was an amusing fabrication, but it is a pretty good truncated composite of 3 recent encounters I've had. Not a big deal, but it does remind you that Westerners with disposable income who regularly travel to Third World nations, but live around only white people, can sometimes get a superficial conception of us coloreds, though their heart might be in the right place....

My plans for the future? Get a T-Shirt silk-screened that has I LOVE BEEF! on the front and I HATE ALLAH! on the back. Of course, if I really wanted to keep people away, a shirt with JESUS SAVES! would also do the trick....

fn1. Quick back-of-the-envelope shows that 30% of the population of India+Bangladesh+Pakistan is Muslim.

Posted by razib at 02:25 AM