I come from India, where I learnt the bullet points of American History. Slavery was a major problem check. There were racial tensions check. Lincoln fought the civil war for the right of the enslaved check. I figured that I knew all that there was to know. After all, it wasn't my history, it was America’s. Therefore I was not prepared to be immersed the way I was in the museum and to feel so disconcerted by the experience. For the first time I was forced to engage. Engage with the idea that this was a part of the society that I would live in for the next few years, that this was the foundation on which the basis for my American Dream was built. Even though they were just figurines, I was forced to relive a past that had till then been distant for me. It was the first time I allowed myself to truly immerse in the reality of the United States, not just the vision I had created.
It made me realize the significance of the population distribution of Detroit. For the first time I truly felt the weight of the underlying realities of the racial bias in all the social issues facing this nation today. Till now I had behaved very much like a tourist, not just in Detroit but also at Duke. Looking only at the things I wanted to see, creating narratives around catchy pithy maxims like #DetroitVs.Everybody or #GTHC. I had been so busy getting the details that I forgotten the larger picture.
I am sure that had I not actually been forced to truly observe that day, I might have lived my years in the states being completely unaware of the impact that history has had and how it still continues to affect the United States today. I am aware that I am not even remotely close to understanding the depth of the scars that the past has left on this country but it made me see a glimpse of something I had been blissfully ignorant of. It forced me to truly look at the problems in Detroit in a new light, to view the context of the American dream through a different lens and above all truly immerse myself in the American experience that I am lucky enough to have.