Abi.jpg

ABI ILAVARASAN

My parents came here from India with hopes and dreams of a good life for me and my brother. This really had an impact on my love for America. It filled me with false ideals of meritocracy. I think this is something that really challenged me growing up. I started noticing differences between me and my peers in the Indian community. I moved around a lot in my life. I’ve lived in about 7 places, where I’ve had different cultural experiences, which has been really challenging for me but has also broadened my mindset. 

Being American is something that I've always wanted to be. That’s always been the ideal standard. Being Indian was something that was instilled in me by my family through food, music, and movies. It’s not a half and half situation. In my opinion, Indian Americans have their own culture. It’s so hard when people make us conform to either side. There is no requirement to be perfectly Indian American. Everyone is Indian American in their own way. 

Some time ago, I was at my brother’s friend’s house, and a lady was asking me what kinds of things I was involved in. I said I’m super passionate about Asian American rights, and she asked “What do Asian Americans have to worry about? They have everything!” I had to decompose that myth. She said, “Here is what I believe.” As a white person, her believing that she knew more about being Asian than me, an Indian American, was really frustrating. She just didn’t get it. 

Being portrayed as the model minority, given that I have economic and educational privilege, people think I don't experience racism. Racism looks very different for people who do have those privileges, it’s not based on those factors alone. It's very hard to constantly keep explaining myself to others. Being aware of the racism happening to me and others makes me feel really hopeless. But other times it makes me feel empowered and I feel I have agency and an avenue to create change.