It's definitely a taught hatred, and it's taught ignorance.: Becoming Minnesotan

Deepak Nath, c.1999.
  • Name - Deepak Nath
  • Age at interview - 23
  • Gender - Male
  • Generation - Second Generation American
  • Date of Interview - 03.20.1997
  • Junior Dance Troupe, SILC, Como High School, St. Paul, April 13, 2002.

    Essential Question

    Becoming Americans: What does it mean to be an American?

    Problems in America: What could have helped this person’s adjustment in the U.S.?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    Immigrants face many challenges as they adjust to life in a new place that has different foods, housing, music, schooling, transportation, and so many other new things.  However, the prejudices and racism they face are the most challenging - especially for young children.

    To learn more about Asian Indian history and culture, visit our Asian Indian Community page.

    • Chapter 1

    Download Deepak Nath 5
    3:19 Minutes | 3.18Mb


    Narrator: Deepak Nath (DN)

    Interviewer: Polly Sonifer (PS)

    PS:  Tell me about going to school in the U.S. as an Indian child.

    DN:  Oh, nightmare. (Laughs)

    I say that as a kind of a joke more than anything else, but it was very tough. It was very tough going to school being the only one who had a tan. I say it that way, because it's funny, but everyone's heard the phrase, "Kids can be cruel." There's more truth to that than most words describe. It was a very different experience for me than any of my friends, either Indian friends, because I had just as many Indian friends as I did as Caucasian friends. I shouldn't say American friends, because I'm American as the next person. 

    Going to school every day, like I said, the only one with a tan, those kids would look at you differently, because they didn't know any better. And I sincerely believe that racism is taught. It's not an inborn thing. It's definitely a taught hatred, and it's taught ignorance. Really, a good word to describe it is taught ignorance. But I had to go through those types of abuse when I was younger. I was called "brown boy," "dirt boy," "spearchucker," all these types of negative terms. But the kids didn't know any better, and I forgive them for that, because I don't blame them. I blame either their parents or society for teaching those types of things, which I don't believe is their fault. But it's their fault now to see the wrong in their ways and not to correct it.

    So at first, in my early childhood, I tried to deny being different. I tried to deny being brown or being Indian or being different than the rest of my Caucasian friends. You can imagine the kind of confusion that gives you at home. I had to go to school eight hours a day, I was at home for eight hours a day, and I was sleeping for eight hours a day. Eight hours of those days I'm a white American. I'm a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, that whole WASP thing. Eight hours a day I'm Indian. I'm supposed to be a good little Indian boy and follow the Indian path religiously and culturally and everything, and eating Indian food and that whole bit. Then eight hours a day I'm sleeping.

    So I was going through life as two different people, until I learned to realize, when I got older, not to hate the fact that I was different, but embellish it and revel in it, and I loved it. To this day, I am so glad that I'm not white. I am different than you. I can say this as another joke. White people spend thousands of dollars a year to get my skin color. I have it, and I spend zero. I mean, it's great for me. But it's very tough to balance those two things and to come to grips, actually, with being different.

    I went through what I call the juggling act, trying to fulfill my mother's dreams and hopes to being that perfect little Indian boy, but then also assimilating with all my friends who were Caucasian-born. They had the apple pie dinners and they had that whole church on Sunday morning and the whole bit, and I never was exposed to that aspect of life. But if I didn't act like I was, then I wasn't part of the gang and then I was isolated, and I didn't want that to happen.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Noun:  Part of something; the way something looks when viewed from a certain angle.


    Verb:  To absorb into a community by adopting that community's traditions or culture.  (assimilates, assimilating, assimilated)


    Adjective:  Of European descent, white.


    Verb:   To refuse to admit; to say something is false.  (denies, denying, denied)


    Verb:  To make more beautiful and attractive; to decorate; To make something sound or look better or more acceptable than it is in reality, to distort.  (embellishes, embellishing, embellished)


    Noun:  1. Participation in events, leading to knowledge, opinons, or skills.  2. The knowledge thus gathered.


    Verb:  To introduce to; to become familiar with.  (exposes, exposing, exposed)


    Verb:  To satisfy, carry out, bring to completion (an obligation, a requirement, etc.).  (fulfills, fulfilling, fulfilled)


    Noun:  The condition of being uninformed or uneducated; lacking knowledge or information.


    Adjective:   Innate; posessed at birth; herditary.


    Verb:  To set apart or cut off from others.  (isolates, isolating, isolated)


    Noun:   The belief that one race is superior to all others; prejudice or discrimination based upon race.


    Verb:  To celebrate.  (revels, reveling, reveled)


    Adverb:  Honestly; truthfully.


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access].
    nid: 621