Hello, everyone. It's time, once again, to meet the Angry Reader of the Week, spotlighting you, the very special readers of this website. Over the years, I've been able to connect with a lot of cool folks, and this is a way of showing some appreciation and attention to the people who help make this blog what it is. This week's Angry Reader is Shefali Kulkarni.
Who are you?
I'm Shefali S. Kulkarni (not to be confused with the Canadian Shefali Kulkarni, though I'm sure she's pretty dope).
What are you?
Sleepy and... always thinking about chocolate.
I'm a workoholic who also stress bakes and tries very hard to make people laugh if there are long stretches of silence.
I'm a journalist -- specifically -- I'm the Audience Engagement Producer for BBC News.
I'm also the daughter of two incredible Indian immigrants.
I'm the younger (but slightly taller) sister.
And I'm -- proudly -- an American-born (not confused) Desi.
Where are you?
Right now I'm sitting on the small couch I bought at IKEA and kept in its box for almost two years. I moved around a lot over the last few years and had to keep most of my life in boxes. It feels good to have this Swedish bad boy out of the box and assembled. Now I'm all unpacked in Washington, D.C.
Where are you from?
I was born in New Jersey, and lived there until I was about 9 years old. Then our family moved to New Hampshire and lived there for about 5 years until we all moved to Oregon -- that's home for me. I love Oregon. I went to high school there and that's where my folks live. Around this time of year the weather is pretty perfect and the U-pick fruit season is on point and the farmers markets are open for a little longer. After high school, I went to a small private liberal arts college in Wisconsin called Beloit College. Then bounced around through a bunch of newsrooms around the country. In the last year I've lived in Boston, Brooklyn, Newark and now (back) in Washington.
What do you do?
Essentially, I pay attention to conversations that are happening on social media platforms. I've been a journalist for about 10 years now, and I use that experience to work with the journalists at the BBC to figure out how their stories can create conversations on social media. And, conversely, I try to figure out what conversations on social media can turn into stories for the BBC. My goal is to enhance the BBC's coverage using social media -- personally, that means focusing on stories and conversations that impact communities of color. When our stories reflect a diverse audience, then they soar on social media -- plain and simple.
What are you all about?
I'm all about using my role in the journalism industry to improve the media's coverage of people of color.
I'm all about making sure that we don't move backwards -- and that we don't read, watch, or listen to stories that paint an inaccurate or basic picture of communities of color. I feel like we are in a delicate place right now in terms of how we are reporting on POCs and I just don't want to go back to reading stories that marginalize ethnic minorities.
The thing that made me want to become a journalist in the first place was the news coverage I was reading after 9/11. I suddenly felt like a "they" rather than an American. At that time, journalists were basing their stories and reporting on fear rather than facts and it was hard to read that kind of coverage.
Every single internship, fellowship and job I've have in a newsroom, I always make it a goal to expand that news outlet's coverage. I'm all about taking my experiences with racism and channeling them into creating journalism that is impactful and educational. That's why I made a monthly newsletter called BBC Diversity. It's where I engage with audiences who feel that diversity matters. They are journalists, friends, family, news consumers.
What makes you angry?
I'm frustrated with the fact that the stories I consume as a woman of color are NOT created by other women of color. I hate that sometimes I can tell when a newsroom is white by the headline of a story or a Tweet or Facebook post.
I'm angry because sometimes...YES...it is really the media's fault.
I'm angry that white people seem to think racism is a man in a white sheet and not when the media ignores a breaking news story of a black man getting shot.
I'm pissed that it is 2016 and I get cut in line, interrupted, ignored, asked a range of insulting questions like where I learned English? Will I have an arranged marriage? And what's my immigration status?
When can I go up to white people and poke and prod them with these questions? Will I be alive by the time this country becomes a majority minority? (I'm pissed that even when we become the majority we will still be called the minority.)
I'm angry that when people say Americans they really mean white.
I'm angry that I have to suppress my browness on a daily basis to ensure I'm not "angry" to ensure that I don't come across as bitter and enraged -- all for the comfort of white people who tell me I'm not an angry person.
I'm angry that I still have the remnants of a scar from second grade when I got beat up and called a sand nigger by a classmate. I'm pissed that when I got called a sand nigger at a Halloween party when I was 22 all I could do was knock down the guy's cup of beer instead of punch him in his bigoted mouth. I'm angry that later I had to explain to my friend what that word meant, and why it pissed me off so badly.
I'm angry that I don't always feel supported by other people of color. I'm pissed that while we all need to come together to support movements like Black Lives Matter, there's such a disconnect between the African American and Latino community and the AAPI community.
I'm pissed that there isn't a shade of browness for me.
The makeup aisles here in America show me bronzers, but at the Indian grocery stores all I see are shelves of Fair and Lovely. I'm angry that the best way I can describe my identity is through the fact that sometimes I put leftover pav baji into a tortilla with cheese and Sriracha and make it into a strange, but delicious, Indo-Mexican fusion dinner. I'm pissed that I only know a fraction of what there is to know about Hinduism and that I see my extended family in India about once every ten years. And to them I might as well be white because I sure as hell am not Indian. I get angry when the white yoga instructor says "Namaste" and when Oprah co-opts chai. I'm angry that some Indians speak to me in Hindi and that some of my social media accounts are flooded with messages from men in India who Indian men want to know if I'm married and can cook. I'm pissed when older generations of Indians raise their eyebrows at me because I am a journalist, who is unmarried, and cracks jokes, listens to hip hop, speaks Spanish, and plays lacrosse. And while I am so grateful to have AMAZING parents who let me be all these things, they get shade from these older Indians who tell them I'm "different."