"As an Indian—a South Asian—Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month shouldn’t be a buzzword thrown around for Internet points. It should be a time to meaningfully celebrate the cultural beauty and diversity of Asia and the Pacific Islands."
Growing up as an Indian-American, I never experienced meaningful representation. When I told people that I was Indian, I was always asked if I ate curry every day or if I could do an Indian accent. I couldn’t even find it in me to be mad at the stereotyping; the people who asked me these things were just misinformed. They only repeated what they saw. After all, the characters on American TV or film that depicted individuals that looked like me or shared my culture were stereotyped caricatures, not people.
When I went to a charter school, I found other disgruntled Indian-Americans, upset at the lack of representation of our culture, and we decided to fix it. Our school provided a supportive environment, and this year, we, as Indian-American students, were able to host our own Holi celebration, celebrating our own culture and sharing it with others. Our school’s diverse environment allowed us Indians to learn interesting things about other cultures, too, and it made us proud of the culture that we had and made us excited to learn more about others.
As an Indian—a South Asian—Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month shouldn’t be a buzzword thrown around for Internet points. It should be a time to meaningfully celebrate the cultural beauty and diversity of Asia and the Pacific Islands. During this month, we need to acknowledge that this group of people isn’t a monolith limited to one ethnicity, nationality, language, or religion and uplift AAPI voices of all types, whether its by supporting the media we produce, our businesses, or even learning more about our cultures. To me, AAPI Heritage Month is an opportunity to learn about other people. After all, ignorance isn’t a crime; willfully doing nothing about it is.
2022-23 Rising Leader Naimisha Chakra is a junior at BASIS Scottsdale in Arizona and a member of the inaugural class of the Rising Leaders Initiative.
The Rising Leaders Initiative is a one-year advocacy training program for charter high school students who want to become active participants in education policy decisions in their local community and state and develop skills to guide their educational and professional pathways. Meet the full Class of 2022-2023.