When I was growing up as a young girl and teenager in Texas, my parents would attend and also host dinner parties. I remember that most of the people resembled me, brown in skin tone with black hair. Every weekend would be a repeat of the last, the faces and places blending together. In retrospect, I believe my parents tried to recreate the environment of their birthplace in India. The woman would banter in the kitchen about some recipe, while the men would sit in the living room discussing US politics, debating in broken English and Gujarati (just one of the many languages in India). The kids would hang out in the rest of the house, conversations happening only because the parents insisted that they play. In my memory, the evenings were light, fun and filled with conversations, and nobody cared that it was a replay of the previous weekend activities.
I understand my parents missed their home and looked for the quickest way to transition into their new life in the United States. Of course, because of this lingering homsickness, their close friendships didn’t include many people from other races. Even though they lived in a “melting pot” their relationships were with people who were like them. They didn’t try to move out of their comfort zone and inadvertantly they formed their own clique. As I grew older, I found it a little funny that there was so many different cultures and languages around us, yet my parents were interested in mingling with only people that reminded them of their own culture.
I’ve deviated from this pattern. I am a product of where I am from. I’ve always been home and had the luxury of only “immigrating” from one state to another. I didn’t have to move continents, like my parents.
My circle does include Indian friends, but I also have close friendships with people outside of my own culture. I’ve learned so much from these friends, which I don’t think I’d encounter if hadn’t stepped out of my own Indian comfort zone. The world and the people in it have so much to offer; to gravitate only to what you know is too limiting. We desire tolerance and seek to understand people and want to encourage diversity, but I pose this question, “What color is your circle?”
Image by antwerpenR
Do you have diversity in your friendships? Do you gravitate toward people who are the same as you? Do you think your parents friendships effect your own? Do you think it is important to have a wide diversity of friendships? Is tolerance born from embracing diversity?
Like your parents, my husband’s parents do not have friends who aren’t Indian, and it seems so odd to me (his father immigrated before he was born; he then sent for his wife and son 3 years later). His parents have lived in the US longer than they’ve lived in India, and yet they still only socialize with other Indians.
Like you, my husband runs in a very multi-racial circle.
I find this very interesting. I’ve known many people of different cultures and their parents did the same thing. Most of these people socialize strongly within their own families, but unlike their parents they have allowed themselves to make friends outside their own culture. And now, I see their children opening up and fully accepting friendships outside their circle…I suppose they are creating their own circles. We are often products of our environment, and stepping outside the circle takes courage. Provoking topic.
I come from a very white community. When I was in public school there were no black children, or really any children of other ethnicities. Things started to change in high school, but just. And still to this day, our town is very uni-cultural. It makes me sad, I think there is much I would like to learn about other cultures, celebrations and foods. And I want to expose my children to it too. We’ll do it mostly through travel, but I’ll make sure it happens!
When I first came here from Malaysia to go to college, I saw many of my friends from back home socially but I was determined to not just get an education but to experience the culture as well. The only way to do that was to branch out and to seek people of diverse backgrounds, and to welcome all types into my social circle.
And that has been my modus operandi ever since.
I’ve known friends who only stuck to their own race and I can understand it’s their need to establish a connection with their own past and cultures, but it just isn’t for me. As a result, my own ties to my origins have loosened, which is sad, but I’ve learned so much from the people I met across cultures that I don’t feel the severity of my loss. Rather, I celebrate what I have gained.
My own family is pretty diverse with my sisters and me marrying outside of our ethnicity. Husband’s siblings are the same as are many of our cousins. My friends are very much the “rainbow coalition”. I think geography also plays a big part in our willingness to broaden that circle. I’d like to believe that it’s possible to keep what’s good about a culture and still be able to embrace others. Too much exclusivity breeds insularity that can sometimes be unhealthy.
This is a very provocative post. My parents are white but always gravitated towards diversity. Perhaps because of their openness, I married a Puerto Rican and never really thought twice about it. In fact, I never really considered us a cross-cultural couple. However, once we had kids, our cultural differences in child rearing definitely started showing up.
We are raising our kids bilingually and I am very proud to have two such beautiful, adventurous and culturally curious kids.
Love this question, Rudri. A friend/colleague and I posed it to a group of girls this summer during a small group activity, and it made for a thoughtful, stimulating discussion. I’m glad that my circle is colorful, and I value it as an intersection of cultures, faiths, experiences and beliefs. I am drawn to people I can learn something from – something new, something unfamiliar – but whose ideals and communication style are compatible with mine.
Weird, I was just thinking about this the other day. My circle is pretty much…suburban white Moms. Not on purpose, just the way it is. But we are very similar in our beliefs and the way we handle life.
Hey rudri, doesn’t matter what the colour is as they say in Benetton since the early 90’s United Colours. Yes diversity leads to richness but familiarity breeds comfort. That’s what your folks would have actively sought out. If you crave for engagement the circle naturally changes shape, size, geography and yes colour too.
What a wonderful question, and something I hadn’t seen in blogs. I definitely relate, with Chinese parents who really just circulated among fellow Chinese immigrants after they moved to the US. But for them, I think the US was so overwhelming and the adjustment so huge that if they didn’t have their Chinese community I don’t think they could’ve handled the move.
Like you I really value diversity in my friendships. I don’t look for any particular group but simply gravitate toward nice people I like. I had lived in Japan for a long time and most of my friends there were Japanese (by chance). But we left to raise our son here, simply because we didn’t want him growing up in homogeneity. The town where we live now is very “colorful,” but I’m running into pockets of ethnic communities that cling together. It’s been disappointing for us, because we’re a tricultural family and we’re painfully aware of how we really don’t fit in anywhere, except among those who don’t care for the cliques.
Very interesting question! I grew up attending fine arts magnet schools under I entered 10th grade. As there were only a few in Houston, the students attending the schools were bused in from all over town. It was great because I was exposed to so many different types of people (different races, religions, etc.), instead of just being around the kids in my neighborhood school. This really taught me to embrace all kinds of people, no matter what their color, religion, or background. I am thankful for that experience because otherwise, I likely would not have been around different types of people because my family, not intentional, did not really have various types of friends. As you said with your own story, I think as children we are typically “forced” to be around those people that our parents associate with, unless we are able to encounter them through other means, like school.
I love having all different kinds of friends in my circle because you learn so much from people who are not like you. Ru, you for example, have taught me so much! I’m sad to say that I had never had an Indian friend prior to you – just never had the lucky opportunity, I guess. I don’t mean that to imply that I look at you “differently”, but rather than I treasure the new knowledge and perspective that you bring into my life that people from different backgrounds can share with each other.
One thing I actually miss about being in school is that I’m not around as many people from different cultures, backgrounds, races, religions, etc. as I used to be. I look around my office, my core group of friends, my family, my church, and the people are all relatively similar!
Your post has me sitting here running through my circle of friends. And my conclusion is: I have a diverse group of acquaintances, mostly colleagues, but my close friends are “just like me.” I can speculate many reasons for this, but much of it is probably the ease of relying on what I know and the utter shortage of time I have to build and maintain friendships. Not very good reasons, but nonetheless, there they are.
PS: Interestingly, my blogging circle of friends is probably my most diverse!
I can see why your parents would want to create a comfortable space that reminded them of “home.” And that you, being raised in a multi-cultural place, would seek friendships based on character and not culture.
I grew up in a very caucasian area, but now I live in Southern California so it’s much more diverse (tho not as diverse as I would like, for my kids). I also married someone who is bi-racial and we have friends of all races and cultures.
What a beautiful post.
I find that people stay in friendships with “sameness” is because they are afraid. They are afraid of making a fool of themselves, of being misunderstood, of failing, of seeming insensitive, of facing insensitivity. It’s safer being with people who are “just like you”… but here is the paradox. It is not safer because you stand the chance of being left behind, not in the know, not equiped to deal with others.
It is safer to go out and meet new people. Rejection comes. But so does tommorrow.
In answer to your questions, my parents (my mother really) taught me that people are the same no matter where they grew up or where they got their ideas. We all bleed red and we all need air to breath. So, as a teenager, I had many friends from many cultures.
An iteresting thing happened when I was a young woman working in a Brooklyn Hospiptal. It affected me greatly how I approach people. In the department where I worked me and an Indian gentleman named Josef always could not seem to get along. Undtil one day, he said to me, “We are the same, Our skin is the same color.” From that day forward we were both respectful of each other and we because each other’s “go-to” person if something was wrong in our department.
Now, because of many life lessons, I have many friends from different ways of life. And because I sell Mary Kay Cosmetics, I know that we all have skin, and the only thing I should be concerning myself with is SERVICE. The friendships come. And so does the financial compensation for selling a product. It’s all about RESPECT and how you behave with others.
I enjoyed this post. thank you for this. Your post is very thought provoking.
You make a very important point. We need to sometimes bury our own insecurities and take the plunge in meeting new people. I often think (when the opportunity to travel is limited) that meeting new people is the best way to learn about the world. You never know what they maybe carrying.
Thanks for your insight on this topic.