Q: What’s your background, and what does it mean to you?
A: My parents are Russian, and I was born in Russia. We came here when I was young because my dad got a job offer, and then my parents won their green card in a lottery. When we came here, we didn’t have anything at all. We had to literally start from scratch. We’re still the only of our relatives in the United States.
Q: What effect does the community have on you from a social standpoint?
A: There’s definitely a big Asian influence here, and it’s made me fond of Asian and Indian food for one thing. But anyways, the diversity here is much more more than you’d find anywhere else. I basically get to meet everyone and find out for myself if the stereotypes are real or not.
Q: How do you think other other people view Russian culture and society, and what is your take on that?
A: To be honest, I’ve never had too much of a problem with racial stereotypes about Russians. I don’t need to do anything really to combat stereotypes in the community. What would I do? If a stereotype is like a generalized description of one race or ethnicity and you’re just one person who’s “defying the stereotype,” it’s not going to change anything. Of course, there’s going to be exceptions in any situation. For defying the stereotype, I just do what I do. I enjoy math, I do science and technology, but it doesn’t really change anything about me.
Q: What thoughts do you have on so the so-called idea of “white privilege” in the community?
A: That’s one thing that I dislike about how Americans view society. When I came here, and I’d chat with others on the internet, people would always say “oh, you’re white, you have white privilege”. I strongly disagree with this: what kind of privilege do I have in comparison to other people? When I came here, I didn’t get any privilege. My parents came here and they had to start from scratch. I didn’t even have a bed to sleep in until half a year after we settled, and we literally had nothing. And I don’t really see where this whole “privilege” notion is coming from.
I don’t know what to say when people who are part of a [non-Caucasian group] act as though I owe them something. What do I owe to people of other races? I came here as an immigrant myself without anything. We didn’t have financial support, we had nothing. Where was our privilege? I don’t see myself as any more privileged than anyone else here.
Interview conducted by Saagar Sanghavi