Mathangi’s Skin


In today’s age, racism appears overt. It exists in the studies on maternal health outcomes, in communities exposed to gun violence, in racial profiling, in promotions at work, and in political speeches by progressively nationalistic governments. 

So, when two colleagues—one Asian-american and the other Black-american—boarded a flight, saw three White passengers take their seats near them, and then were asked by the flight attendant to move to the back of the airplane to better balance the plane’s load, why did it feel immediately painful (DeAngelis, 2009)? Dr. Derald Wing Sue, a psychologist, describes this as a racial microaggression—one of the “everyday insults, indignities, and demeaning messages sent to people of color by well-intentioned people who are unaware of the hidden messages being sent to them” (DeAngelis, 2009).

Unlike its overt avatar, this subtle racism is harder to call out, seeming almost imagined in its unassuming delivery. This is especially prevalent in professional settings. The impact of microaggressions is known as death by a thousand cuts, with no differentiation based on level of education or socioeconomic class. To address this complex reality, we turns to the arts, hoping to create a community to share lived experiences and transform how we identify and address toxic microaggressions.

Mathangi is the goddess governing music, arts, and knowledge. Her skin is dark emerald green, and it is this color that both makes her celebrated and separated in the Hindu mythos. This dance piece imagines Mathangi as a woman of color in today’s professional world, where, despite her intelligence, is not completely treated as equal among the others. Microinsults and microinvalidations are constant. Through this dance, we explore the steady, constant stress placed on professional women of color, forming the theme of this piece, as we question whether these real experiences with subtle racism are truly happening or just “in our heads”.

Music: Sri Matangi Stotra by R. Thiagarajan
Anoushka Shankar “Maya”

Quotes by Alice Stella, Supraja Chittari, Jenn Pamela Chowdhury, Nithya Ramesh

Music Editing: Lucas Anderson Audio

Video Editing: Nithya Ramesh

Choreography and Performers: Nithya Ramesh, Swetha Kasetty, Shilpa Darivemula 

Presented at the Reimagining Medicine Festival at Dartmouth Medical School, 2021