What do I have to do with Black Lives Matter?

Photo credit: Facebook.com/BlackLivesMatter

An FYI to all the immigrants in America: it is because of the struggles of black Americans, today new immigrants have all the rights.

By Sujata Tibrewala

Black Lives Matter. The killing of George Floyd. What do I have to do with any of it?

That was my first reaction. But then I heard the story of Amber Ruffin, a black writer on Seth Meyer’s staff. She was a terrified teen driver, driving at 45 mph in a 40 mph zone, while everyone else was driving at 50. And a cop stopped her. Seeing that police car convinced her that she was about to be shot and about to become tomorrow’s news. So in the few seconds before the officer walked to her, her whole life flashed before her eyes and she started crying uncontrollably. Suddenly the cop did not see her threatening anymore and hence let her go.

Sujata Tibrewala

This reminded me of something that happened to me about 9 years ago. We had just moved from India into a good neighborhood with one of the best schools, which happened to be — yes, you guessed it — white. So my daughter was at a birthday party and I was trying to find the house in the dark. And suddenly, I see the blue and red lights flashing brightly behind me. I was surprised, as I was not speeding.  In fact the opposite, I was stopping at each and every house, as I was looking for the right one. “Ma’am, are you okay, you are driving very slow.” I showed him the birthday invitation card and he let me go.

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

Now looking back, perhaps one of the residents thought I was a “suspicious” black driver in her very safe, non-black neighborhood? Well, if that wasn’t true, why do I remember being stopped randomly, all while in the dark, where I could be confused for a black driver and then let go? I did not understand back then, so I brushed it aside as a random police check, but now that I think back, I shudder for the life of a black person living in such circumstances.

A year after that I moved to the Bay Area, and I had to restart my career at a salary similar to that of a freshly graduated college student. This meant after paying rent, I had to stretch the remaining dollars to pay for food, utilities and gas. Eating out even once, or an unexpected doctor’s visit could easily throw me off track. So as a single mother, since my husband was still in Chicago, I was a driver, cook, and cleaner, not to mention working full time as a network software engineer at Cisco.

READ: Black Lives Matter: Are Indian Americans guilty of silence? (June 10, 2020)

This was the first time I could relate to the plight of minimum wage workers who had to pay for food. I was lucky that I could change jobs and now I am here with a decent salary, but the reality is minimum wage workers are often times working two jobs, stuck in a trap of poverty with no end in sight. And this is not true just for minimum wage workers in America; the conditions are worse for laborers and house maids in India. They need to work every day just to fill their stomachs but many cannot even pay rent and end up living on the streets. The house maids need to do chores of multiple houses in addition to their own house just to survive, when we upper class people cannot even do the chores of our own homes. Most of the time the only hope they have of survival is to have as many children as possible so with the additional manpower they can all earn enough combined daily wages needed to support the family.

This shattered my belief in meritocracy. How can meritocracy exist in a world where structural racism gives certain communities unfair access to resources, wealth, education and human connections? If you are reading this, or listening to me chances are your story is like mine. My great grandfather built a house where my grandfather lived with his brothers. By the time my dad came in, the house was too small for all of them so he moved out and over his lifetime he built one for his children. Now I migrated to the United States from India. Yes I am at a disadvantage as a brown immigrant in America, but I did have a head start due to my education and the fact that lot of my friends and alumni seniors are working here in the Bay Area who provide me with me a role model if nothing else. Most blacks do not have that in America, and neither do lower caste citizens have it in India.

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

It is the perfect time for each one of us to introspect, educate ourselves and become aware of the privileges that we come from because the contributions of blacks in America and lower class citizens in India are insurmountable. And just an FYI to all the immigrants in America: it is because of them that the immigration law of 1965 was passed, banning unfair immigration laws allowing discrimination by country, race or religion in the U.S.

This is not the time to stay silent. Because today the system is against them and if we do not speak up now, there will be no one to speak for us when the system decides to come after us. Support Black Lives Matter in the U.S. Use your time, money, voice, whatever you have, because it is time to be thankful that you have one and you can make a difference.

(Sujata Tibrewala is a California based eco-feminist and community development manager at Intel. She has exhibited her art at various venues in India and US.) 


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  1. Jews, Chinese, Indians, Japanese, Iranians, Vietnamese, Philipinos, and now South Americans arrived here during the last 50 years with almost no money, no place to live, no American background, little knowledge of American English! They struggled hard, competed with the local population, and today— the median income of most of them is far more than the median income of white/black Americans!

    • Vince Civiletto

      Dude whats your point?!? Its because WE allowed them to come here, to migrate with their large families and extended clans en masse by relaxing OUR immigration laws. We as HOSTS graciously accepted them — where is an IOTA of gratitude, now that you’ve become just another fat stinking immigrant bozo with an “opinion”??? Can you immigrate easily to Vietnam, Japan, Iran or even Israel?? Didn’t think so. So accept the reality, realize that US-born locals HAVE JUST ABOUT HAD ENOUGH of greedy immigrants coming by the millions, wanting more and more. US has the largest foreign aid (USAID, Peace Corps) to all nations, largest NATO allocation and all manner of humanitarian assistance to anyone who arrives at our border. That too is not enough apparently. Before so callously criticizing others, do some introspection and some soul searching. When was the last time outsourcing-rich India aided ITS piss poor neighbors Nepal, Sri Lanka and freaking Bangladesh, eh?? Point out one JUST ONE, instance of indians’ philanthropy let alone largesse, and you’ll find yourself in the record books. indians in particular are NOT KNOWN for philanthropy just stealing, scamming and taking everyone’s jobs, all the while looting the system. Yeah that’s your claim to fame, the whole world knows it.

      • A wonderful article! Glad to see South Asians stepping up and supporting Black people. There are many connections between the ignorance and undervaluing of Black Lives and contributions and casteism and classism in India and I’m glad you brought them up. Also glad you recognized your own privileges but also the role they can play in making a difference. Very good read :)

      • Actually, the Native Americans were in this country first so no one except them “let” anyone come to this country because everyone after them, including White people, are immigrants. Secondly, Canada, the US, Australia, and Western countries and countries settled by White people would be nothing without the resources, labor, and capabilities of South Asians (including Indians), Africans, Black People, Latino people and various other non-Western people (first as the colonized/the enslaved and now as immigrants/laborers etc). Third of all, considering the fact that India was exploited for centuries, Indians are plenty generous- for one India has a treaty with Nepal where Nepali people can come and work freely in India without a Visa, India is also providing a safe haven for the Dalai Lama at the moment and countless immigrants from Bangladesh, Afghanistan etc. India isn’t perfect, I’m the first to admit that, but there is generosity for sure. Also, the US has actively destroyed countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Chile through coups and wars and continues to support autocratic regimes such as Saudi Arabia. You are still entitled to believe what you believe but I do want to share facts and point out how ignorant, incorrect, and frankly, offensive, your statements are. Hope you take some time to reflect, educate yourself, and listen, especially since if that is your last name, you’re probably a descendant of European immigrants yourself and shouldn’t go around spewing anti-Immigrant sentiment and be this ignorant about your own history.

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