Changing the Way We Think About Cultures
By Indira Fayson
My family moved to a community that is predominantly white. This was a big difference from my previous neighborhood. At my old house, we lived around people who came from all over the world. I’m biracial with African American and Indian heritage. This means I have a unique background. The children at our elementary school lacked an understanding of people’s cultures, which is why people treated my sister and me differently.
I brought homemade lunches that had curry, paprika, turmeric and other aromatic Indian spices in my thermos. I could never understand why people made fun of our food or clothing. I always thought that the food we ate was bold, spicy, and delicious. My sister liked to wear an Indian accessory called a bindi. I thought her bindi was pretty, with the different colors and designs. But she was teased. People said she looked stupid. They said it was weird to wear a sticker on her forehead. What they didn’t know is that it means third eye.
For two years, I never told my parents anything, but when I got to fifth grade, I had enough. I told my parents how I felt, and they told me that I just have to ignore the nasty comments others say.
My mom one day came up with an idea. She said that we could make something that educates children about different cultures. I thought that was a great idea, and that’s how the Culture Corner came to be.
I wrote a proposal to my principal asking if I could make a Culture Corner for the school. She decided that it would be a great idea, and I quickly got to work. The Culture Corner would be a bulletin board that had posters giving information about certain cultures. During a rally one morning, my principal announced that we were going to have a Culture Corner and that everyone could participate. People brought in posters explaining their cultures. I learned a lot about different cultures, from Mexico, to Germany, to India.
Although in the beginning we had a slow start, this year, my sister took over the Culture Corner, and now everyone participates in it. Ever since the Culture Corner, I hear good comments about it. My sister told me that she hasn’t been teased since I made the Culture Corner. I am glad to leave it in my sister’s hands, and I know that in the years to come, the Culture Corner will still be a known legacy.
Sixth grader Indira Fayson, John Poole Middle School, Montgomery County, deals with cultural ignorance at her school in an innovative way.