Reasons Why The Fight Against Racism Is Important to the South Asian Community

Disclaimer: Before reading this article, it is important to understand that this is not a piece to educate you on the Black Lives Matter movement. Instead, it is an explanation of why all communities around the world – including the South Asian one – need to partake in the movement as actively as the Black community, combined. 

Tracing back through historical events, the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement was an essential struggle to end racial discrimination, blatant injustices and class struggle against the African American communited in the United States of America. While, arguably, the Civil Rights Movement focused primarily on black rights, it is worthy to note that through this movement were the strict immigration policies dismantled that allowed innumerable South Asian communities to enter American borders. Along with the fight for class rights, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 was passed that opened immigration from all Asian countries. In this way, the same movement that helped fight black lives, also paved the way for all other lives that have and continue to struggle in Western countries. 

South Asian beauty standards have always sided with Western ideologies, and they have been seeped into daily conversations without our awareness. As a young child who’s had their parents or guardian tell them that fair-skinned males or females were preferred in South Asian communities, that is classified as racism. As a young child, when your idea of ‘skin colour’ was peach (that pale, bland pink colour) to paint or colour animated cartoons, that’s racism. And, as a child if you were belittled for being ‘too tan’ after spending your day in the sun, that’s racism. By denigrating a whole race on a colour that was not preferred by a specific community, racism has been used to justify ludicrous claims made by old and newer generations. 

South Asian definitions of supporting the Black Lives Matter movement also seeps in through the outright appropriation of the community, to begin with. By actively listening to their music and singing words of lyrics not meant for the South Asian community, many individuals feel they are somehow ‘supporting’ the black community while continuing to sit back and criticise their method of protest. Simply by searching up your favourite rap artists on Spotify is not a way to step up for the community, and it will only contribute wholly to stereotypes that have stemmed up from that one genre of music. The idea is to educate not only yourself by actively reading up important literatures and watching documentaries, but also engaging in conversations with your family members who still deny any ounce of racism seeped in South Asian dialogue. 

The South Asian community should accept realities of intense protest and such acts of change cannot be denied. To demolish capitalistic systems, revolution has been one of the most successful ways to bring about any sort of change. By claiming the protestors as ‘looters,’ the South Asian community is climbing the social ladder of acceptance within the white community by bringing down a whole other race. It is an act of perpetuating ‘anti-blackness’ and reinforcing oppressive systems rather than helping to fight the struggle. 

The Gandhi Mahal Restaurant in Minneapolis owned by an immigrant Bangladeshi family was burned down during some of the most intense protests in the past two weeks. The owners put out a statement saying: 

Hello everyone! Thank you to everyone for checking in. Sadly Gandhi Mahal has caught fire and has been damaged. We won’t lose hope though, I am so grateful for our neighbors who did their best to stand guard and protect Gandhi Mahal, Your efforts won’t go unrecognized. Don’t worry about us, we will rebuild and we will recover. This is Hafsa, Ruhel’s daughter writing, as I am sitting next to my dad watching the news, I hear him say on the phone; “ let my building burn, Justice needs to be served, put those officers in jail”. Gandhi Mahal May have felt the flames last night, but our fiery drive to help protect and stand with our community will never die! Peace be with everyone. #JusticeforGeorgeFloyd #BLM

Such stories can definitely not be generalized to all South Asian business owners, but reminds us of how important it is to mitigate any sort of barriers between model minorities. The owners, in this case, understood the frustrations of the Black community and empathised with a community that has similar (if not the same) experiences and feelings of colonial underpinnings. Thus, we should actively choose to alter our narrative and understand the broader themes of hegemonic western institutions, class struggles and inequality through such instances.