This is the first entry in our new column highlighting the voices and experiences of people of color on Brown’s campus. This post, by Krishnanand Kelkar ’15, focuses on interracial dating.
I wasn’t your typical kid growing up. Let’s just say it’s not very often you find a Catholic-educated, gay, half-Indian, half-Caucasian guy who speaks Japanese. On the other had, my boyfriend grew up with a more typical experience, especially in the context of Brown. He’s from an Italian and Irish family, grew up on Long Island, and went to public school. Our backgrounds are different, and at times it has caused rifts in our relationship.
The most obvious difference is our race. I remember one of the first times I held his hand, I looked down at our laced fingers and told him, “Wow, my hands are so dark in comparison to yours.” The “wow” seems unnecessary, but for me it was a bit shocking. Being half-Indian means I have always been complimented on my light skin—something India is obsessed with. And his hands are starkly lighter than mine; not to mention they are so soft, and mine are so hairy. With each new step we took physically with our relationship, I was thinking about how different my Indian features are from his white ones.
But the differences go beyond skin deep—being in an interracial relationship has had its difficulties. One time in particular, my friends, including my boyfriend, were talking with me and, out of nowhere, they made racist remarks towards me. They meant no harm by it, and they didn’t know what they were doing, but that’s exactly the point. In our society today, the idea that “race doesn’t matter” is so prevalent that, even amongst the educated at Brown, who consciously acknowledge the role race plays in life experience, there are many people who do not recognize that they’ve internalized this “beyond-racism” mentality.
I was wounded. People I have come to love and respect over the past 3 years managed to hurt me in a matter of minutes. And so there I was, hurt but paralyzed, unable to blame them even though it was their fault. For the first time, I felt I couldn’t tell my boyfriend the truth. I harbored my feelings of exclusion and kept them to myself. I hoarded my resentment.