I once had the opportunity to listen to Ken Ono, an amazing mathematician and one of the people who worked on the movie about mathematician Srinivas Ramanujan titled “The man who knew infinity”. He was giving a talk about Ramanujan’s life and showed us clips from the movie. Even though this was months ago, I remember how intrigued I was by Ramanujan’s special but sad life.
Recently, I was browsing through Netflix when I saw that The man who knew infinity was available to watch. I knew that the movie will tug so hard at my emotions, and of course I was reluctant to watch it at first, but I soon gave in. I can’t describe to you how much my heart ached, both while watching the movie and after.
I had so many questions and lessons after I watched the movie, but that’s talk for another time and place. What I intend to focus on about the movie was the hard life Ramanujan lived. I hurt so much when I saw how he was mistreated. I saw how insignificant they thought he was and how they called his self-confidence pride. I was hurt because they looked at his formulas with disdain, for no other reason than the colour of his skin. I hurt so much because Ramanujan died nearly 100 years ago and dark skinned people, regardless of race are still looked upon that way. I hurt because some people still don’t see what the problem is and still think that racism and a pure hatred for dark skinned people is a thing of the past.
Ramanujan’s theorems are still being used to solve problems today and everyone looks at him like a hero, but all the celebration he is getting now was unavailable during his lifetime. He had to somehow keep believing in himself when pretty much everyone around him didn’t think he deserved to matter. He had to take orders from people he was smarter than simply because his skin colour came in a darker shade. Whenever I get sensitive about something or a reference to my skin colour, I have the occasional conversation with a Caucasian who thinks I am overreacting. There are few things that make me angrier than that. I truly believe there are things about history we should not joke about. 100 years ago, people literally gave up their lives and happiness, stuck their necks out, refused a life of subservient comfort, rejected the option to be mediocre, all so that the world could see the diamonds in dark skinned people.
Yes, this post is about dark skinned people: Indian, American, African, it doesn’t matter. There was a time when it would have been an acceptable thing to say that I am stupid because my skin is dark. The crazy thing is that even today, some people don’t expect me to be smart because I am dark skinned and I am African.
Two things I want whoever is reading this to take away. First, there is still prejudice in this world and it is your responsibility to stifle it. Second, if your skin is dark, you are precious and capable of whatever it is you put your mind to. Believe that! You are not a diamond in the rough, you are a diamond PERIOD! Unfortunately the world is still occupied by some dull people, but don’t let that stop you. Don’t act stupid just because that is what is expected of you. Let your actions reflect all the great potential you have inside you. Don’t let the people who have gone before you down, and don’t let yourself down. You owe it to yourself and the world to let your light shine. Now go and shine!