How I Grew Up Alien
I knew I was an alien since I was five years old. The government gave me a little green card that said so, it said RESIDENT ALIEN. I looked at it curiously whenever my parents brought it out. I needed it to go back into the atmosphere, I guess so they wouldn’t scramble jets and shoot me down. I was a little green man.
In truth I was a little brown boy, but what did I know? I only knew what I saw. I saw that card. I saw that I was different from everyone else. I was an alien.
I grew up in Upper Arlington, Ohio. A relatively progressive but deeply segregated town. I didn’t know it at the time, but black people and Jews couldn’t buy property there until 1970s. I was part of the first wave of Asian migrants that started moving there in the 1980s, and I mean literally the first. In 1986 it was basically just me.
I can really understand when people say “I don’t see race.” I never saw race unless I looked in a mirror, and as a child I was just too short for most of those. Besides family, I can’t remember meeting anyone of color until middle school. My high school was 99% white.
The weird thing about being such a minority is that I ceased to be a minority. Minority is a category and I was just one kid. Sri Lankan? Indian? Who cared? I was just Jit. Even the entire category of ‘Asian’ was just me and the twins (Janet and Joyce) for years. It was far more relevant that our names started with the letter J. That at least affected where we stood in line.