I thought the phrase was behind me.

Photo by Ron Hansen on Unsplash

I grew up in a diverse town in New Jersey. Despite the diversity, I was called a “Dothead”. One day when I was around 7, I remember walking behind a boy with a turban and another child yelled “rag head”.

While that was common in the 1980’s, I certainly didn’t expect it in today’s world.

Instead of “Hey Dothead”, a child in my son’s class said “You’re not Indian, you don’t have a dot on your head”.

I am aware of the hypersensitivity these days. Everyone has an opinion about something. While I fully understand that you can not control the things said to your child, it’s not an appropriate comment to make.

Every day I tell my children we love everyone. I try to instill in their minds that skin color means nothing. I do this especially because we are mixed in our house. If a 7 year old is bringing up having a dot on your head, what is being said to her by siblings or her parents? Or maybe she heard this on TV, or read it somewhere? Or maybe she saw an Indian person in the grocery store with a red dot on their forehead? I was really hoping it was the latter.

As any doubtful mother would, I discussed this with a group of mothers. The responses I received proved that none of them had experienced any type of racial comments in the past. I heard everything from, “well that’s unfortunate” to “you can’t control everything that’s said to your child”.

In truth, I didn’t need their validation. It was enough that I was upset by the comment. I did raise my concern to a good friend of mine who said it is my job to educate.

So here I am educating. I wrote a note to my son’s teacher asking her to do the same.

There are many reasons why an Indian person may have a dot on their forehead.

The red dot worn on the forehead represents a married woman.

The red dot, or sindoor in this case, is put on a married woman to express her desire for her husband’s longevity. Usually, it is the husband that puts it on his wife. This is a way of ensuring they will be together for the rest of their lives. He will use a red powder to place a dot between her eyebrows and one in the middle of her hairline.

Every year after my family has a prayer ceremony on Diwali, my husband places sindoor on my forehead as I described above. The sindoor also represents respect to the Goddess Lakshmi who is responsible for bringing good luck and wealth to the family.

A dot on the forehead is the third eye in the Hindu religion.

It is put on using a red powder after prayer. So yes, you may see men with a red dot as well. This will be a shape applied using a red powder or paste which symbolizes a blessing from the Lord and a protection from bad luck.

It may also not be a dot, but a line on the forehead. It comes in different sizes and shapes. It is referred to as “tilak” and applied either right between the eyebrows or higher on the forehead.

Some areas in India don’t wear the red dot at all. It’s not common for everyone to wear one and from what you see above, there are different reasons why you may see one on a man or a woman.

So to respond to the statement made to my son— I am Indian with or without a dot on my head.

Written by

Indian American. Mama. Wife. VP of Product. I write about personal growth, life lessons, parenting and love.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store