Insufficiently Black or Indian to qualify as either

Insufficiently Black or Indian to qualify as either

On Zoom, I spoke with Reeju Davis to discuss what it's like to be one half of an interracially married couple. The couple, Meekahl and Davis, who are both from New Delhi, India, have been married for twenty-four years and have been together for thirty years. They're Tennessee residents.

how she met her spouse
As a senior in high school, I immigrated to the US in 1989, says Davis. "Here, I completed grades 11 and 12, followed by college. In 1991, my spouse and I both received our high school diplomas from Franklin. We therefore met there.

Davis continues, "He's African American."

I ask her to tell me how both sides of the family have responded.
You ought to wed an Indian boy.
Fortunately, Davis' mother was ok with it. He left a nice first impression, therefore I didn't get any pushback from her regarding marriage.

Davis' parents and close relatives provided support, but her extended family wasn't always on board. Later on, as Davis was clearing out her mother's home, she discovered a letter that her mother's mother, her naani, had written to her mother.

"The letter was quite hostile. Regarding the letter, Davis states, "Naani couldn't believe that Mom let me marry outside of our culture and outside of our race and what an awful thing I had done to marry a dark man.

I enquire about how Meekahl and her were received by his relatives.
Actually, they welcomed me with open arms. We went on our first date at a high school dance. Davis chuckles. And I believe that because we had been dating for so long, when we announced that we were getting married, the general response was "about time." I did experience things within the society and outside of us.

What? I enquire.

We attended college before relocating to Dallas, recalls Davis. There weren't many Indian friends we had there. However, she did come into contact with a young Black girl who objected to Davis dating a Black man.

She advised Davis to "date your own type."
The Davis family returned to Nashville in 2002 along with their two children (their third child was born in Nashville). In order to introduce them to her culture, Davis planned to start taking them to the temple. However, there were glances and glares. Although there was nothing overt, the family's children and spouse experienced some discomfort.

According to Davis, "They would stare at me, they would look at him, and they would look at our children." And we received different treatment.

I inquire if they still visit the Indian temple.

"No, I didn't do that anymore when they were young. Simply put, we wouldn't be asked for anything. Our children wouldn't interact with other kids. And we would typically take separate seats. I stopped going, which made me feel a little sad.

I'm curious about her husband's place of worship.

When they were younger, the children did attend church. There, getting admitted was not a problem for us. My elder children were the ones that wanted to go. For them, it was more of a social activity.
According to Davis, "my daughter was taking ballet, and she had become friends with this Indian child." They had been close friends. I had driven her home. Then she invited my daughter to her birthday celebration.
The friend's mother informed Davis that it was a family birthday celebration and invited her husband and son as well. The mother just called and asked, "Actually, would you prefer not bring your husband?" adds Davis, "like the day before the party."

It's okay, I don't believe I'm going to come either, Davis retorted. It was difficult for her to inform her young daughter—who had not yet entered kindergarten—that they would not be able to attend her friend's birthday party.

Davis explains with a hint of regret, "I let them play when they were at the dance class, but we never did anything social outside of it."

Other parts of the neighbourhood weren't much better either. "The glances and lack of acceptance I received were from the local Indian population. Although I hate to admit it, that is the case.

I wonder how the kids have handled having African American and Indian ancestry.
Are You Certain That You Are Indian?

Davis says, "My daughter attends Emory University. She struggled to blend in with the Indian group over there. Because of her dark [skin]. The Indian kids found it difficult to accept that she was partially Indian. They questioned me, "Are you sure?" She responded, "Yeah, I am.

So she had a pretty difficult time, and we had to talk it out, explains Davis. You just have to be true to yourself and trust in who you are, I had to tell her. Go with your heart. Sona, her daughter, now has two or three incredibly close Indian pals.

"Sona has black hair that is curly and typical of African Americans. She used to want to straighten her hair when she was younger so that she would look more like the other Indian females. Since then, she has learnt to love her curls.

at ease in their own skin
Davis is pleased with her daughter's current state of health.

"Sona ultimately succeeded in becoming her high school's first non-white female student body president. She also won the prom (first mixed-race winner). She is the Vice President of Emory's Black Student Alliance and currently minoring in Hindi.

Davis's younger child has no such problems. His closest buddies include several Indians.

However, Davis remarks, "He actually looks more like me, an Indian, than a Black person." But I'm sure that as he grew, the fact that he appeared to be of one race rather than of two brought him some sort of solace. Just being aware of what my other two were experiencing.

The Problems with Mixed-Race Families
Davis claims, "We live in a highly conservative society. "If you are a gay couple or an interracial pair, people will glance at you. Additionally, occasionally when my husband and I go out together, we are still questioned if it's separate checks.

Davis continues, "I've had Indian friends who didn't invite us to their family events. And right now, if the world can't accept my spouse and I together, perhaps you shouldn't be in my circle of friends. Before, I used to be really bothered by it, but more for the benefit of the kids. However, they've been able to succeed.

Future Prospects
My kids understand what it's like to be the odd one out, Davis claims. And perhaps they'll treat someone who is different with more kindness. In a few years, I predict there will be an increase in mixed-race children and marriages. "I get excited when I see young mixed couples, it simply makes me so happy," she continues. It implies that is where we are going. And hopefully it's enlarging the perspectives and ideas of others.
The California State Library (CSL), in collaboration with the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs, provided funds for India Currents' Stop The Hate campaign (CAPIAA). The opinions presented on this page and in other India Currents resources do not necessarily represent those of the CSL, CAPIAA, or the California government.

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