Throughout the world there are over 165 million Bengalis who speak our own distinct language and follow various religions. Growing up a first-generation Bangladeshi American, I often found myself explaining who I was, and where I was from, and detangling many other cultural misunderstandings to people mostly only familiar with the Indian country and the Hindu religion.
Aside from explaining the intricacies of my identity, I found myself combatting stereotypes and biases from various angles. Of the many cultural aspects of contention I’ve experienced, one that stands out as standard has been around food.
During my high school and college years, I was exposed to and became friends with people of all backgrounds. Our diversity dinners allowed me to taste the best of the world- Thai Corn Fritters, Ethiopian Injera, Dominican Plantains and so much more.
Raised on some of the best spices and flavors of the world, I always knew just how great Bengali food was, but I also vividly recall all the not-so-funny jokes about how our food could sometimes be smelly. It’s been interesting to see how unpopular foods like curry were when I was growing up, compared to how much people enjoy South Asian food now. I’ve also seen how our culture has been appropriated without due credit (Yoga anyone? Henna tattoos…Wigs and Weaves).
However, compared to the time when I was growing up, today, many more people are aware of differing cultural experiences. It seems, the culture of appropriation can also given space for cultural appreciation.
Cultural appreciation has been one of the main reasons we at I Am Perspective are committed to creating more dialogue, awareness and empathy around multicultural issues. We know firsthand how appropriation feels, but also know there is so much growth in appreciating each other’s culture. America is comprised of so much culture from food to the arts and more.
From our multicultural holiday parties to our diversity dinners we continuously seek to appreciate different facets of culture.