This message may apply to many communities, but I can only speak from my perspective as an Indian who was born and raised in Minnesota.
Finding the words for this post has been difficult, but I know that importance exists in being as frank as possible. Many of you need to read this. I am tired of having social or political discussions with aunties and uncles who make me feel small, and who are comfortable in their moderate ways. Many of them use the excuse that they worked hard to immigrate to this country, and had to build their lives here with little support, as a way to argue that other communities should be able to do the same. They do not recognize that others may not have the same resources or may not be treated the same way. Their hard work is appreciated and admired, but it does not excuse them from being racist or hiding behind the walls of the privileges that they do have.
As many know, George Floyd was murdered by the police a little over a month ago right here in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and while he is not the first person to fall victim to police brutality, his murder has instilled an awakening that, I hope, does not fade in the same way that it has in the past. This should go without saying, but Black lives are more than a way to fill your social media timelines for a week to exude your awareness. We care because we are all people, and liberation for oneself cannot occur without the liberation of every community.
While people of color face challenges that our white counterparts will never know or understand, I never consciously worried about my Indian friends, my family, or myself being beaten by the police here in the United States as I was growing in my bubble of a hometown. From an early age, Black children are instructed on how to act around police, white folks, and in professional settings not only because of how people in these situations will perceive them, but because their lives depend on it.
I have heard a lot of Indians complain about protests and looting over the past few weeks. I have heard a lot of “those people” statements. I have heard many say that the changes being requested and made are “too radical” (because, apparently, wanting to live and be treated well is a radical notion). The folks who are quick to say how hard they have worked are the same ones who are quick to judge the Black community for “not doing the same.” I have also heard an overwhelming amount of silence. Many Indians live comfortably, drive nice cars, have extravagant weddings, pay for their children to partake in as many extra-curricular activities as they desire (among other things), but have failed to donate even a single cent to the Black Lives Matter movement. In other words, they have failed to assist their own communities. Many of my Indian family friends are doctors. How can they work in healthcare and fail to address the harm that the Black community faces? Silence is harmful. The comments that you make behind close doors are harmful. Your inactivity is harmful.
One may find everything that I have written in this post thus far troubling or hard to digest, but let’s take the concept of anti-Blackness within the Indian community a step further. For as long as I can remember, fascination with lighter skin tones has consumed much of Indian media, Bollywood, and social situations in general. Black folks are viewed as less than even in India, and many of them have written about their experiences regarding their treatment. This is sad. This is a problem. This most certainly is a human rights and race issue. Whether conscious or subconscious, these judgments stay with those who immigrate to the United States, and Indians are quick to view themselves as superior without fully examining the history of how Black people have been treated in this country (let alone on a global scale). Furthermore, while glorifying lighter skin, I’ve seen many Indians appropriate Black culture at the same time. You are not Black just because you are brown. You are not Black just because you are a person of color. One cannot pick and choose what they like and dislike from other cultures and use these qualities to make themselves funnier or more attractive or cooler or however it makes them feel.
The opportunities that other communities of color, and particularly we as Indians, enjoy in this country lie on the activism and suffering of the Black community. While this is true, fighting for Black lives is not transactional. One should not need to validate the Black community’s existence to care. One should not feel obligated to care. We care about the Black community because Black folks deserve to live and prosper without fear flowing through their bodies. Black people deserve support because they are human beings. I cannot believe that I even have to write any of this, but again, some of you have still failed to comprehend something that should just be a given.
This post may have an angry tone. That being said, I am angry and those who read this should be too. I refuse to be surrounded by Indians who cannot acknowledge that the Black community matters. If you are Indian and you stereotype and appropriate Black culture, and/or you do not actively care about Black lives, you should be aware that your ignorance is showing. You are being disrespectful. You are being selfish. Do better. I could write pages about all of this, but hopefully this post has an impact on some and encourages them to improve.
Whether you are Indian or not, I urge you to ask yourself this question: Are you participating in this movement because you actually care or are you just participating because of how you would look if you refused to acknowledge it?
a small list of resources & donation links (please remember that you could have researched all of this yourself…now that I have done it for you, you do not have an excuse to avoid expanding your minds and opening your purses):
– Black Lives Matter donation page: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/ms_blm_homepage_2019
– a list of Black-owned businesses to support in the Twin Cities: http://mspmag.com/arts-and-culture/black-owned-businesses-in-the-twin-cities/
– a list of Black-owned businesses & brands (that can be found at stores near you) across the United States: https://www.glamour.com/story/support-black-owned-business // https://nymag.com/strategist/article/black-owned-businesses-support-shop.html
– donating to the Black trans community: https://www.elle.com/culture/career-politics/a32839834/black-trans-lgbtq-organizations/
– the FIRST Black-owned bookstore in Minnesota (I’m excited!): https://www.blackgarnetbooks.com/
– Reclaim the Block has a list of community groups that need support: https://www.reclaimtheblock.org/donate // bit.ly/fundthecommunity
– article written by Ezeugo Nnmadi Lawrence on being a Black man in India: https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/let-s-talk-about-racism-kallu-was-the-first-word-this-african-man-learnt-in-india/story-f04HSkREMwyIBh3GlO3DDM.html