My Teacher Missed This Opportunity to Replace Ignorance With Understanding

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It’s a natural reaction to turn away from that which we perceive as different. But it’s hard when the thing that’s different is me.

I’m Indian-American, but most of my classmates are white. Recently, my teacher announced we were starting a new unit on Indian culture. Finally, a class where I already knew the answers. Then a boy in my class blurted out, “Why do Indian people wear those weird red dots on their foreheads? Don’t they know it looks like blood?”

I stared at him in shock. Indian women put red vermilion powder on their foreheads as a symbol of marriage. In India, red is considered the color of togetherness and understanding.

As the teacher continued the lesson as if nothing had happened, I shrank lower into my seat.

I realized that my classmates shunned me because they simply did not understand. The problem with this cultural divide is that it doesn’t allow students to learn how to be open to things that are different. And this openness is the key to social change.

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