I moved to the U.S. from India when I was ten years old — everything was new to me and for the first time, I was very aware of my skin color and my ethnicity. My family and I had moved to Vermont, one of the whitest states in the country, and for the first time, my race felt like a tangible characteristic. I’m sure this experience is relatively common for a lot of Indians who live in the U.S. or who have visited. It’s important to recognize this feeling, and recognize that it is symbolic of a much larger problem of America not being the inclusive and fully opportunity-bearing nation we perceive it to be.
We know what it’s like to live in the margins of a white American society, which means we cannot turn a blind eye when we see the same thing happening to other marginalized communities in the country. In May 2020, after George Floyd was brutally murdered, the phrase “Black Lives Matter” took over the world as everyone stood up against police brutality towards Black people in the United States. That summer was a summer of learning for lots of people in the country as people began to really reflect on the issue of race divisions in America. Instinctually, I lumped myself in with all non-white people, including Black people, as a victim of racism in America. As I iterated earlier, it cannot be denied that we, as brown skinned Indians, have experienced marginalization in the U.S.. However, a major moment of clarity for me was when I came to understand that my experience would never compare to that of a Black person in America.
During the summer of 2020, our country experienced a racial reckoning and I felt that if I truly wanted to call myself an ally, I needed to put in the work to learn about and understand the real experience of a Black person in America. Something felt wrong with me hiding behind my brown skin because I knew that in reality, I would never know what it’s like to be Black in this country. Therefore, it was my responsibility to make sure I was not complicit in reducing the validity of the Black struggle in America.
Faced with this, I took it upon myself to create a resource for my family and me to learn. I decided to create a month-long calendar filled with daily racial justice resources and actions to engage with. Soon, the calendar spread throughout my Vermont community and then the rest of the country. It became clear to me that many of us, POC or not, had a lot of learning and unlearning to do, so I continued creating what were dubbed as “Anti-Racism Calendars” so that people could put in the work every day.
It has now been two years and even though 2020 was pivotal in the way that we view race in America, it is undeniable that progress has stalled, and that we are not putting in enough work now. In the summer of 2020, most people were doing something – whether it was protesting in the streets, talking to politicians, or advocating for new school curriculum – but now racial justice actions have fallen to the back of people’s minds as we move into a post-pandemic world and leave behind the things that fell within that period of time, including the racial reckoning.
This Juneteenth, take some time to reflect on how you have been contributing to progress for racial justice in this country. First, recognize that even though we are Indian, we still have a duty to the Black Lives Matter movement, and that duty includes taking the time to educate ourselves and then take action. I urge you to remember that we are in the fight to collective liberation – everyone’s liberty is bound together and we must fight for the rights and lives of Black people in this country. Take the time to listen to Black voices in your community and use your privilege to amplify their message. Racism in America has not gone anywhere so it’s time we get to work and take action for change – all of us.
Tilly Krishna, originally from Vermont, is a rising sophomore at Harvard College studying Government and Education. Some of her past advocacy efforts have included creating the Anti-Racism Calendar for racial justice, spearheading educational equity policy in Vermont, lobbying for gun control measures, and working with the ACLU on criminal justice reform. Tilly plans to pursue civil rights law and advocacy through public policy after college.