Most people in America see me as brown, and most of the time as Indian, as though the entire region of South Asia is represented only by people from India. While I am definitely brown and South Asian, I am not Indian. My ancestors are from Nepal, my parents are from Nepal, and I was born and bought up Nepali.
The culture of Nepal is very different from the other parts of the subcontinent. We all speak different languages, wear unique clothes and have different histories, just like most nations in the world. In fact, the culture in the city of Kathmandu, where I was bought up, is very different from the culture in other parts of Nepal.
But despite the many different aspects of my identity, I am simply "brown" or "Indian" in America. It is expected that I like curry, I am good with computers, and that someone I know probably drives a taxi or runs a gas station. These are all stereotypes of a brown person. The idea that a person like me with dark hair, sharp features, and dark skin can be reduced to those terms is deeply problematic.
The worst stereotype is that brown people are linked to terrorists and Osama bin Laden.
Recently, a professor at Columbia University, Dr. Prabhjot Singh, was attacked by a group of teenagers. The teenagers called him "Osama" and "terrorist" as they pulled his beard, and punched and kicked him, leaving him with a fractured jaw. The New York Police Department has ruled this incident as a hate crime, and investigations continue.
A day later, Anup Kaphle, journalist and digital editor of foreign and national security at the Washington Post posted on Facebook and Twitter saying he was called "Osama" on his own block but was too scared to say anything.
These incidents also come about a week after Nina Davuluri was crowned Miss America. Davuluri, a woman of South Asian descent, mainly Indian origin, faced a tirade of hate comments on social media.
By internalizing stereotypes, such as that an Arab is a brown person, or bin Laden is South Asian (both are incorrect), people, especially children and teenagers like the ones who attacked Dr. Singh, are generalizing multiple identities and religions, and often internalizing false messages.
"Brown" is not a fair classification for the variety of people that exist within this category. A brown person could be anyone from Latin America to South Asia, and as the population of South Asians and other minority grows rapidly in the U.S., it is important to unravel the category of race in America.
A report by the Asian American Federation shows that the South Asian population became the fastest growing major ethnic group in the U.S. between 2000 and 2010. The South Asian community includes individuals who trace their ancestry to Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
Outside the various nationalities, the South Asian community also comes with a variety of religions: Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, and Sikhism are the most common ones. The diversity and sub-classifications are endless.
Homogenization of brown people is dangerous and unjust. It not only reduces a multifaceted, diverse group into a single category, but it also prevents us from celebrating diversity in the U.S., a nation that prides itself on being a melting pot for all cultures.