How to be the Only Brown Person for Miles

Me and Laura
Me and Laura

This past weekend was a historic moment for several reasons. My college roommate, friend of 18 years, got married. She happens to be from Remlap, Alabama. This was a state I had not previously visited. She, however, has made countless trips back and forth over the last 8 years to see me and our growing family.

“When you get married,” I said to her years ago, “I’ll come to Alabama.”

Cue July 11, 2015.

The day was hot, reminiscent of the desert where we normally live, upwards of 100 degrees. The bride was beautiful, her skin like alabaster.

And I was the only non-white person in attendance. I had mentally prepared for this possibility. The reality of the sea of white faces reminded me of the seven other weddings I had been in. My Indian features stood out each time I stood up for my friends across various churches in North Carolina.

“I am the brownest thing here,” I said to the wedding coordinator.

She surprised me by sharing the story of her sister’s adoption of a bi-racial boy.

“When I go into stores with him, I can see people see me differently,” she said in that southern drawl I found enchanting. “It makes me sad.”

In the age of police abuse and debates about the legacy of southern states, this small conversation helped frame for me that the only way around these divisions is through our relationships with one another.

Have you had any uncomfortable encounters?