This weekend the boyfriend and I had dinner with commenter SM and her family. We had a wonderful time. She mentioned that she might want to start a blog and I hope that she does. If you do, SM, come and share the link with us!
Also, another of our commenters has just started a blog. Art is writing about creating a Hindu American Identity: http://bamboothoughtlemons.blogspot.com/
I know a lot of people seem to be interested in forming a new identity as non-Indian Hindus. I am cautious because it is hard for me to separate out what is the religion and what is the culture and what will you lose when you let go of some of the things. But there should be a way to separate them. I was not satisfied with how it was done by the community I grew up in, but that does not mean that it's not possible.
As I was reading up on this other Churchill fellow from the last post, it brought to mind an issue that came up for me in college. I haven't faced it that much since only because I am not involved in Native American things. Although when I tell someone that I'm involved in Indian things, sometimes they think I mean turquoise jewelry and totem poles and someone once told me that she had heard that the swastika was actually an ancient symbol of Native-Americans. Sigh. No, it's an ancient symbol of India.
In America there are many different terms for different ethnic groups. In our society we put a premium on what has been labeled "Political Correctness." This means being polite when referring to ethnicities or cultures (or sexualities, religions, abilities/disabilities) different from our own. Some people say it goes too far, as many of us are very afraid to accidently offend someone by calling him the wrong thing. The "correct" term for a group can go in and out of fashion. I recently saw a debate on a message board between saying "black" people or "African-American" people. I think most people default to African-American these days. The possible trouble with that is that it qualifies someone's "Americanness" and makes it sound like they are less American than I am because no one ever calls me Irish-American.
But that example is not the point. The point is that there is a huge amount of confusion with the word "Indian."
When I was a kid I was taught that the people native to America, the ones Columbus mistakenly thought must be Indians because he thought when he got to America that he had reached India, were properly called Native-Americans. That was the PC term then.
In college I had a professor who was involved in these things and he told us that now the people preferred to be called "Indian." They were "taking back" the term. We read a wonderful book called The Lone Rancher and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, about Native-Americans living on reservations. You can see, I stubbornly continue to say "Native-American."
I asked this professor, what then would we call actual Indians? People in India? He said "East Indians." I thought that was ridiculous. I'm sorry to Native-Americans, but you can't have the term. It's been taken. The people from India or who live in India get to call themselves Indian before you do.
Not that the word "India" is native at all, but it's been around for a lot longer than America has been.
Native words for India include Bharat and Hindustan. I welcome commenters in India to add to that list.
But still, to me the word "Indian" is always going to refer to people in India and the Native-Americans are going to have to find another term if they don't like that one.