Home >> Editorial,Lakshmi Iyer >> Steering the conversation from “What are you?” to “Who are you?”
Steering the conversation from “What are you?” to “Who are you?”
Lakshmi Iyer
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Lakshmi Iyer

Managing Editor at the Parent Voice, Magazine
Indian by birth, American by choice, Lakshmi identifies more with the hyphen in Indian-American. Read More under "Meet the Team".
Lakshmi Iyer
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In the month since our last issue, I was lucky to be part of the screening for I Am or How Jack Became Black by Eli Steele (with whom we have a series of interviews published in September.

The interview, presented in two parts, is available here and here.). The screening was attended by about twenty people all of whom were engrossed in the movie that Eli had made.

But it is not the movie I want to talk about for now. I want to talk about my experience as a member of that audience. When the end credits rolled and the person hosting the screening set the computer up for Eli to talk to us, the reaction from the audience was one of pride and recognition. As I stood up at the podium and invited questions, the response was slow initially and then it picked up speed. At one point over half the audience had walked up to the podium to either thank Eli or share personal stories or ask questions following up on the movie.

As we were ready to wrap up, Jack and June on whom the movie is based made a cameo and the joy in the room was palpable. I stood, watching people linger at the table where I had some material about theParentVoice, and a few giveaways. A few of them shared their stories and promised to take back the message with them when they went back to their families or their schools.

Mostly, the one thing most viewers said was that the movie made them think. It made them look back on their lives and figure out where they stood in the spectrum that is the racial divide in this nation. It made them look at identity politics, affirmative action, reparations, white privilege and Black Lives Matter from a different lens.

As a member of the audience, that is exactly what I came away with. As a parent who is Asian and views myself as neither White or Black, as a parent who is raising white children, I drove home wondering what I could do as a person and as a parent to change the conversation and thinking from, “What am I?” to “Who am I?”

By shifting emphasis from the group to the individual, the elements of race become inclusive. They urge people to embrace all parts of who they are instead of having to pick one part over another.

If you are intrigued by the film that is bound to make you think, here is how you can request a screening

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Indian by birth, American by choice, Lakshmi identifies more with the hyphen in Indian-American. Read More under “Meet the Team”.

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