Black Lives Matter: Are Indian Americans guilty of silence?

Black lives matter
Photo credit: BlackLivesMatter.com

South Asian Americans tend to view Black Lives Matter and racism through the white prism of ‘model minority.’

By Revathi Siva Kumar

The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people, but the silence over that by the good people, said Martin Luther King, Jr.

Amid a re-energized Black Lives Matter movement ignited by the brutal killing of George Floyd under the knee of a white police officer, South Asian Americans are grappling with an uneasy question.

Have the people from the land of Mahatma Gandhi done enough for the oppressed African Americans? How many of them stood in solidarity with the protesters against police brutality and racism?

To be sure all the five Democratic lawmakers of Indian origin — Representatives Ro Khanna, Pramila Jayapal, Raja Krishnamurthy and Ami Bera and senator Kamala Harris — have voiced their shock and come out in support of legislation for reforms for police accountability.

Some community organizations like the South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) and the American Association of Physicians of Indian origin (AAPI) have condemned racism.

RELATED: A message to the Southeast Asian community regarding the Black Lives Matter movement (June 2, 2020)

A number of Americans of South Asian origin did join in the protests. But a huge majority remained quiet, while many just looked away. Few acknowledged the immense gratitude they owe to the African Americans.

“Let us be clear: our community is not guiltless,” acknowledged the Indian American Impact Fund, a Democratic-leaning advocacy group, which encourages Indian Americans to participate in politics and run for elected offices.

Many people of Indian and South Asian origin have been, at best, “silent” and at worst, “complicit for too long and this must change,” it said citing the killings of Floyd and Breonna Taylor, a black woman, at the hands of police.

Terming these killings symptoms of the underlying dreaded disease of anti-blackness and racism, the group said they exposed the horrifying reality of human greed and racism in America.

Asian Americans have benefited from the “myth of the model minority”. Using the age old tactic of divide and rule, white supremacists have pitted other communities against blacks, suggesting that the Asian community got ahead with the dint of their own hard work.

Asian Americans have tended to believe the myth ignoring the reality that no other community has faced oppression by majoritarian communities and groups for centuries as the blacks have. Many are convinced that the blacks have themselves to blame for their plight.

RELATED: Indian American lawmakers back reforms for police accountability (June 9, 2020)

Fired Minneapolis police officer Tou Thao, a Hmong American, stood with his back turned as white officer Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, ignoring Floyd’s desperate cry of “I can’t breathe”.

This image of Thao, which has gone viral, has raised questions on why Asians not only refuse to support blacks, but also show solidarity with brutal, white supremacists.

As Kabzuag Vaj, founder of a nonprofit, Freedom Inc, a Hmong American, told NBC News, “People don’t have a baseline of an understanding of what anti-blackness even is.”

“Yes, we [Asian Americans] have pain and we suffer from oppression and discrimination and racism. Black people are in a different boat.”

Everything is learnt through the prism of white supremacy, which makes people give their support to oppressors, she noted.

The Asian community itself feels threatened and slams its own members who support the blacks. Many Indian Americans, who also believed the ‘model’ myth, have transferred blame on the blacks and identify themselves with the supremacists.

Stop perpetuating the idea that South Asian kids are perfect students: Dr. Punita Rice (August 29, 2017)

What the Asian community forgets is that it has benefited from efforts by the civil rights and black advocacy groups of the 1960s.

Working tirelessly to petition for better access and privileges from education, jobs and opportunities, the black community has put in immense efforts to open doors for racial minorities, including Asian Americans.

Black Americans pressurized President Franklin D. Roosevelt to establish the Fair Employment Practices Committee after World War II. It finally laid the road toward the rise of affirmative action in the 1960s.

Deepa Iyer, advocate and author of We Too Sing America; South Asian, Arab, Muslim and Sikh Immigrants Shape Our Multiracial Future, calls for introspection by the Asian Americans in the aftermath of the Floyd killing and the struggle by the Black Lives Matter movement.

“Let’s not forget that state violence in the United States has affected Asian Americans, too,” she said asking them to inquire into these institutions of brutalities and oppression, especially on the black community.

Fortunately, the tide seems to be turning for the black community with the growing George Floyd protests around the world.

Indian American advocacy groups agree that it’s time to come out in support of and work with African American communities in their struggle to dismantle the instruments of systematic oppression and end the plague of racism in America.

ALSO READ:

Indian American teen raising funds for African American businesses affected by riots (June 6, 2020)

Mahatma Gandhi statue in Washington vandalized amid George Floyd protests and riots (June 4, 2020)

Ami Bera calls for healing ‘the wounds of racial injustice’ (June 3, 2020)

George Floyd’s killing: Trump is handling the situation correctly (June 3, 2020)

Indra Nooyi, Sundar Pichai raise voices against ‘systemic racism’ (June 2, 2020)

AAPI says racism hurts minority communities’ health (June 2, 2020)

Four-in-ten Americans support the Black Lives Matter movement: Pew Research survey (July 8, 2016)

Ferguson in a state of emergency as people stay wary of what the night would bring (August 11, 2015)

26 Comments

  1. Saket Kapur

    I refuse to participate in ‘oppression olympics’ . Yes there is racism but also is an education issue plus some huge sense of entitlemeny. I have a bunch of colleagues from actual African nations who seem to be doing fine. In the end we all face difficult choices. I did not see these kind of hit pieces targetting other communities if they refuse to take sides. I did not see BLM coming to the aid of Hindus or Sikhs when they were being indiscriminately targeted in the aftermath of 911. Yes there are racist cops that need to be fired and prosecuted but then there are also idiots who disrespect the law blatantly.
    I will never in my dreams be disrespectful towards a cop asking for ID or issuing a ticket. If I feel being wronged then instead of arguing with law enforcement would prefer to have my day in court. That is one theme that runs constantly through all these situations. Live to fight another day . This country understands money. If wronged then walk away, sue and win in court instead of losing your life mindlessly. Also remember Indian Americans are way to few in number and most are on work visas. If they get arrested right or wrong it’s not even a jail sentence. Its a deportation flight home. Have other minorities ever thought of asking what the issues are that unlike other folks despite following all the rules why it takes over 10 years for Asian Americans to get a green card. Are there any minority quotas that ensure that our kids will get preferential treatment when they fill their college forms.
    It’s easy to blame but do remember it takes two to tango. Also isn’t it a bit rich to assume that because we are a minority we should only vote a particular way.
    News for my democratic friends. Everything is not black or white. There are varying shades of gray and brown in the middle too. Please do not try to think for us. We do have brains and feel that more change is affected through education and at the ballot box. All that marching will achieve short term changes. If you want to push your agenda long term then vote in November. And do not take anyone for or anybody’s vote for granted. Its demeaning. Hit pieces like these have the exact opposite effect.

    • Bongani Nxumalo

      Victim blaming piece of shit go back to India.

      • Nigel Ward

        Totally agree with you

        • You sound racist too for “agreeing” . No one (including Indian Americans) can be intellectually bullied (told to “go home”) for expressing their opinion. As an American, I am sick and tired of types like you that bullied people during this racialized movement just for disagreeing.

      • Your comment towards this Indian to “go home” just for expressing his opinion sounds xenophobic and racist. The fact that the moderators didn’t delete is reflective of how biased they are towards some people.

      • Your comment sounds racist and xenophobic. Can you tell someone to “go home” just for expressing their opinion (that the constitution allows)? And why was such a racist statement allowed here? Why was it not moderated?

      • John Taylor

        george floyd was passing fake $20 notes

        presumably this is a crime so he was not blameless and what was said is correct, when other races are attacked you never see blacks standing in solidarity with them but they expect others to stand with them.

      • Wow! Just wow! This very attitude of hypocrite leftists make many of us sick. Liberals have just assumed intellectual and political superiority. Anything or anyone’s point of view that doesn’t fit into their dogmatic framework, they become bullies and assassinate someone’s character.

      • Racist.
        You are using the same language as white racists and you are as bad.

  2. Our American counterparts are best described as “Non Reliable Indians”(NRI). While in India the voting system brought a political democracy, it failed to bring around social democracy. And all those who think that the caste system has made its invisible in India, have a look around. Indian voting still is caste driven. I hope the spark of BLM rubs in India and we start similar protests for supporting equality in our existing social democracy.

    • John Taylor

      didnt india have civilization for thousands of years?
      why do you need to look towards them for any thing?
      also indians have been subject to racism in the west but you never hear or see blacks standing with them.

  3. Ajay Roonde

    Why are there no articles about Indians (or ANY SOUTH ASIANS) being racially discriminated against? Statistics show we are less likely to report racial abuse done to us THAN ANY OTHER race. Let that sink in. Where were the other communities when we were constantly called terrorists on the streets or the subways? Where was the media support? Where was the protests when Idi Amin KICKED OUT 50,000 ASIANS JUST FOR THE COLOUR OF OUR SKIN? They never teach you about that in school do they? About a black leader kicking 50,000 innocent people out of a country because we were not black. Where’s the uproar about the fact that England looted approx. $45 TRILLION from India and 1.8 billion Indians died from deprivation? People are dying EVERYDAY in Kashmir over a war of lands which wouldn’t happen if the Brits didn’t break up India in the first place! Of course, racism exists in India itself, with the backwards caste system which should never have been created in the first place, but this is about other colours racism towards us, not our own stupid inner racism towards each other. I always see IGNORANT articles like this from our own South Asians, who don’t know the first thing about our history or have MASSIVE identity problems. Every western South Asian I meet is either trying to be Black or White, the inner racism and self-hate within the brown community is so bad, that we completely disregard the racism that happens to us and focus on racism that happens to others. The South Asian population in UK is so high, yet where are the brown footballers? Where are the brown NFL stars? The brown NBA stars? The brown Hockey Stars? How many South Asians are there in UK, Aus, Canada and US? And how many brown actors are there in Hollywood? 10 maybe? Yes there is HUNDREDS of Black and White Athletes and Actors in Hollywood. And when there are brown actors in Hollywood – they’re always the IT Guy, the Taxi Driver or the grocery shop owner with the HEAVY THICK INDIAN ACCENT. Because apparently everyone in South Asia sounds like Apu or Doopinder the fucking Taxi Driver.

    THAT IS SYSTEMATIC RACISM. Go write an article about that? Oh wait, that’s right, South Asians just don’t give a shit about ourselves.

    • Yes, this is the problem. Sadly, those in power in America thinks black people are the only minority, and we are just people on the side. And those in power in India will always be corrupt and never fix the basic issues and try to do things that will never be true. Its like trying to learn calculus without knowing how to add. That is what India is doing wrong.

      • Let me know how many Indian Americans are living under the poverty line? I work in IT and all the Indian Americans there are making “bank” and you guys keep to yourself – you never are interested in black culture or struggles – I would say you are the most racist class on this earth – I angry at your silence.

        • Move to New York and you’ll find plenty of them as well as other unskilled Asian Americans . Stop stereotyping all Indians as skilled workers just based on their race and your isolated experiences .That’s exactly what the model minority stereotype does.

        • John Taylor

          a south asian girl was shot by blacks and they said “doesn’ t matter there are more pakis from where she came from”

          where is the outrage? where were the black peoples condemnation?
          why should they be interested in black culture?
          they have their own culture.
          and if they keep to themselves that is their business isnt it?
          they are not responsible for you.

        • Totally agree as an Indian.

    • Bongani Nxumalo

      I know of at least three cases of the top my head Indian grandfather on a walk in Southern American city beat by police until could not walk. Two computer programers in midwest shot by white guy he thought they were Iranians not that it excuses behavior. Indian business men hired killers for black mother of grandchild because does not approve. The last case of an Indian racism in America.

  4. Awesome post. Its true that many of the Indian-Americans and Asian-Americans buy into the ‘Model Minority’ myth. They are forgetting that it was the African-Americans who fought in the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s thus making the life easier for other minorities in the generations to come.

    • Propoganda

      Indians have always kept quiet about these things. Even in Uganada when Idi Amin kicked all the Indians out. They still quietly left without rebelling. Its because Indians dont have a rebelling nature in general. Another fact is Indians dont see themselves as the same people. South Indians never interact with Punjabis in general so if there is not even regional unity in the people then how would they have a unified mentality for George Floyd in general.

      Indians without a doubt dont even see themselves as having any connection with Chinese or any other Asian people at all, even the racist taunts they experience are different. The killing of Indians in the state of Kansas being mistaken for Arabs due to their brown skin and pseudo Middle Eastern type features gives them a whole different experience. Indians experienced racism after 9/11 but chinese did not. This is because people judge by looks and not nationality many times.

      • Thank you for pointing out the truth. Indians were victimized just as the Muslims were. Yet when there was recognition of what the racism was like, Indians were excluded. My sons who were 2 and 9 were literally strip searched and the TSA would strip my 2 year old to his diaper and check his diaper as if somehow we were placing bombs in his diaper. My husband was afraid to walk in the cabin with my little 2 year old because people would glare at him and he was afraid about what the cabin crew would do. Imagine being tackled and sent to court and you will lose your job. Who do you think was going to come to your rescue? There was no Go Fund Me page. I think it is shameful that young Indian Americans are using this as the opportunity to turn on their own to create opportunities for themselves. We have kept quiet because we have been ostracized by both sides. African Americans have NAACP and Urban League, Muslims have CAIR, and Latinos have LaRasa. What do we have? No organization and nobody to stand with us We are being scapegoated by young Indians who want to get ahead by destroying decent, hard working members of their community who are themselves victims and have never shared their own pain because, guess what, other members of their community do not want to have that discussion. The community did not want to have the discussion because we are a micro minority and did not have the numbers to speak up. We also feel for the decent Caucasian Americans who have been fair and have helped us. Many of us were victimized in India and know what that feels like. We are truly in a dilemma. If you truly want change, then I challenge you to get the community together and invite people to talk about their own experiences and go from there.

      • What is the difference between the Caste System and racism? Indians are racists in bones and they discriminate among themselves. To show solidarity with the African Americans is possible for whites and surely not by Indians.

        • Are you stupid? The caste system has nothing to do with Indians themselves. It is something invented by Hindus from North India. It only ever reached South India by 1100. It has nothing to do with race or religion. And now, its less of a problem these days, its only the stupid liberals overreacting and the dumb stereotypes people show in the articles. India is perfectly fine, at least in the south. It doesn’t make white people any more superior. They are the stupid people who kill black people and then burn cars and shops in the name of that dead black person.

        • And who said white people don’t discriminate among themselves? Have you ever seen a white person discriminate a white “nerd” for being smart? What kind of retarded country does that? America. Have you ever seen white people discriminate fat people, skinny people, short people, tall people, etc. of their own skin color? Have you ever heard of white people killing other white people for no reason? Caste is no different, except it is systematic and no one believes in that except the uneducated Hindu boomers who are dying of malnutrition anyways. Even though India is poor and seems problematic, it is way better than America (as long as you are rich). People don’t die because an orange face tells them tide pods cure Corona-virus, or because someone believes brown people are born Muslim. In India, people find knowledge as a gift, while in America people think its stupid and instead dream of prostitution, watch sports, and use social media. Then they will blame the successful Indian people in America as tech scammers because they were too stupid and want to be superior as always. In India, even though its corrupt in some states, at least you can afford quality healthcare, drivers, and servants. In America, guess what, you either need insurance or you get to die because you were to poor to pay 10 times your salary. Also, in America they don’t think its racist to portray Indian slums in movies, but racist to show the real Africa. When someone starts a controversy about racism in popular culture for countries in India and Asia, people will just say that “but it is reality” but whenever someone does it for Africa, everyone will support it. People will be racist when India becomes the first country to get to Mars first attempt AND the first Asian country to do so, but be happy when some low IQ black celebrity or athlete does something not worth anything to the planet except their ego. They’ll be happy to kick an Indian or Asian scholar out of college to accept a black or even white athlete who probably can’t even add fractions. In the news, if a white person murders a black person, they will explicitly state the race as if its the most important thing. As if the white skin color of the murderer is more important than the lost soul of that black person. And when a black person murders somebody else, the media will leave out the ‘black’ part from the headline. Why are we giving advantages to black people? Giving advantages won’t solve the problem. They will still die from racism, and everyone else will get to suffer for it. Why do we let black people get away with crimes because white people commit crime against them more? Couldn’t we stop racist crime instead? Instead of giving them free college applications, couldn’t we educate them? Couldn’t we fix the problems with black families and the effects of slavery instead? No, because America is flat out stupid. Immigrants only move here because they need a job, not because its a better country. You were lucky that you extracted all the wealth out of Africa, China, and India during the colonial era, but that didn’t do anything to your stupid white face. Sure, the white intellects built all the prosperity of America and Europe, but do you see that as often anymore? If you are really a superior country, then fix the broken society instead of pointing out the problems with other societies. Anyone living in America deserves to be treated EQUALLY, and caste has nothing to do with an Indian individual just like how covid-19 has nothing to do with a Chinese individual.

          • Correction: I said as long as you are rich, that isn’t true. Most people can live by with middle class salary. Only the poor people living in slums suffer which is still a large amount sadly due to the corrupt rule of Modi and the other Indians. He is doing his best to fix the economy but not the society itself. That is why Kerala is the model. If India spends a decade to redevelop its country like Kerala and Tamil Nadu, it will be much easier to grow the economy. They need literate and healthy people to create jobs and #MakeInIndia.

    • Speak!!!!!!

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