Are you wondering what I am talking about? I’ll tell you. But before I do that, let me tell you something else: we are living in a world that thinks, people who are a lot different from what the rest of us are do not have the right to dream, the right to live. That is why we poke fun at midgets. That is why we don’t consider trannies as ordinary human beings. And that is why question marks and exclamation marks appear right on our foreheads when we come across someone with a different hair or skin colour than what we are used to. In short, most of us are snobbish.
America is as racially biased a society as India, in spite of their presumed liberal outlook. If we are bothered about caste and language here in India, they are bothered about colour. Blacks and Whites. Heidi’s life is significant because she is a mixture of both, she is grey. She calls herself a ‘mixed chick’. She is the only daughter of an “African-American enlisted Air Force man and a white Danish woman.” And when she was 11, they moved to “a racially divided town” She writes in her bio:
What are you? I remember people started asking me that question on a pretty regular basis when I was about 11 and we moved to a racially divided town. At first I thought the question gave me license to tell my life story. "I'm the best speller and I'm best in my class at multiplication all the way through the 12s. I love to run—really fast. And my favorite color is blue. I'm also someone who likes to write poems." I soon learned that what people wanted to know was: why do you look like you do? Why do you have curly brown hair and light brown skin and blue eyes?And Heidi wrote a novel, with her life at the backdrop. As I read from her website:
This debut novel tells the story of Rachel, the daughter of a Danish mother and a black G.I. who becomes the sole survivor of a family tragedy.With her strict African American grandmother as her new guardian, Rachel moves to a mostly black community, where her light brown skin, blue eyes, and beauty bring mixed attention her way. Growing up in the 1980s, she learns to swallow her overwhelming grief and confronts her identity as a biracial young woman in a world that wants to see her as either black or white.America is ruled by an Mixed President now, Obama. He is the son of a black African father and a white American mother. But that doesn’t change a thing in USA or anywhere in the world. It is in human nature to be snobbish. Heidi’s story reminded me about the hundreds of years of caste system in my own country, India. I remembered the time when I was in the University and the opening question when you met someone there for the first time was about your caste.
I remembered a friend who was surprised when I said i have no clue what my caste is, when I told him that where I come from Christians do not have caste. I am from Kerala and today I know that even the so called casteless religions entertain subtle caste biases that are strong enough to last another century and Kerala is not an exception. Just that I was lucky to be born in a family that did not care about such things and to live in a neighbourhood that was not as openly biased as the rest of the world. I said, ‘not openly biased’ for a reason. I said that because, today I know, looking back, a lot of snobbishness was kept under wrap. I suddenly remembered the only mixed marriage to happen in my village then and how people used to look down upon the family of the girl because she fell in love with and married a lower caste man. Yes, people were nice and less snobbish as long as everyone kept to their own cocoons. I never realized something was seriously wrong until someone had tried to break that cocoon.
I am imagining Heidi living in India. No offence meant to anyone of us, she would have hardly survived emotionally to write the novel. Where she lived, it was just that people were curious about her skin colour and blue eyes. Up here in India, people would have abhorred her because her mother married a lower caste man. Her parents would have found it very difficult to marry her off because of the social stigma of mixed marriage. We are still bothered about the purity of our blood and scared of religion, aren’t we?
The image is taken from Heidi's Blog. The Amazon Book Order link is a Pre-Order Link. The book is scheduled to be released in February 2010