My Journey in Understanding Race

Updated: Jun 16, 2020

I know there are a lot of TCKs out there along with lots of folks from many places traveling all over the world. It's a global place, but there are still some stereotypes. This post is in advance of a post planned for later, that will discuss navigating race as an inter-cultural couple upon your return home. This post however, speaks specifically to my journey so far.

I’m a hyphenated American – Indian-American – to be exact. But until I was eight years old, I was just American. I remained Indian-American until right after college, when the identity roller coaster really started, but it wasn’t the first time I’d taken the ride, just a more advanced version of it. Coming back and going overseas as a hyphenated American has been a race evolution for me. Understanding what people react to, what that means for my own relationship with my identity, etc.

I was raised in a military family. While I was born and spent the first five years in a few U.S. cities, I moved overseas with my family at the age of six. This was critical because it was when I really was in grade school (as opposed to pre-school/kindergarten) and because I lived on an airbase. Living on an American base overseas means you are American. Also, the military, especially in that era was a strange mix of America, as is the case today, far from representative of what America’s diversity actually looks like. That is not to say that it is not diverse, just that the percentages are different than many U.S. cities. So, growing up overseas, seen as an American, in a fairly diverse school, I dealt with the same things any nerdy grade schooler does.

After we returned to the States, I moved to a FAR less diverse town, where my Dad had more or less grown up and considered home. Honestly, I do too now. But, I had just spent the last three formative years thinking that what mattered was what rank your officer/enlisted military member was…I was in for a serious civilian shock. My adjustment was difficult to say the least – I found navigating life in the U.S. to be confusing. I hadn’t really been raised with the slow seep of race conscio