A Statement on Views of Racial Inequality and Privilege in the South Asian Community

By Maegha Lanka

DISCLAIMER: These are observations about the Indian American community based on my own personal experience. I have made some generalizations, and my intention is not to offend anyone with this post, but rather to encourage self-reflection.


Dear Indian American Community,

I'm writing this message because I have been following along with the discourse that has occurred in the aftermath of the George Floyd protests, particularly the words of the Black community from friends, activists, and peers at my college.

One of the most important things is for us to do in order to be an ally to the Black community is to have conversations among our own family and friends' circles and challenge the problematic statements that we hear. I want to challenge you all to reflect upon the thoughts and sentiments that echo throughout our community about the Black community. As a whole, the Indian community often lets negative, harmful stereotypes of the Black community directly affect our perception of the very real human beings that belong to this community. I will not go into detail, but I have heard such ignorant sentiments echoed throughout friends and family circles ever since grade school and all throughout college. And whenever a tragic racist incident happens such as the murder of George Floyd, our community is often not the first to come together and speak up.

It is time we put an end to this silence. To be silent is to be complicit in the systemic oppression of black people in America. It places the blame on the Black community for the disadvantages they face due to hundreds of years of institutionalized oppression and marginalization. Acts such as redlining, disenfranchisement, segregation, and discrimination in the housing and job market. I could go on and on.

It is not enough to just condemn police brutality. We must hold each other accountable when we say and do things that unknowingly (or god forbid knowingly) promote anti-Black ideologies. As much as we would like to believe otherwise, it's all connected. For example, the perception that Black males are more prone to commit violence is connected to the practice of racial profiling and the historical acceptance of police brutality against Black and brown bodies, as well as the negligent consequences that officers face as a result. What we're seeing on the news is not new - it's just being captured on video more often than before.

I have the privilege of not being afraid of the police when I get pulled over. My Black brothers and sisters do not have this privilege. Whether you realize it or not, we as a non-Black POC (People of Color) community have a privilege that Black people in this country do not have. And that means that if we aren't speaking out, then we are complicit in that privilege rather than using it for good. We must stand up for their rights and their humanity, but that only starts with each one of us acknowledging and challenging our own implicit racial biases first. Other communities of color, including ours, would not have the opportunities that we do today in this country without reaping the benefits of the continuous struggles of the Black community throughout history, including the victories of the Civil Rights Movement. We should view an assault on the Black community as an assault on all communities of color; their history directly affects ours.

I implore you to talk with friends and family at dinner parties. Talk with your kids. Talk with your cultural associations and charity organizations. Don't just watch the news and say “Oh it's so sad that this happened." Have critical conversations about the systems in place that allow this type of violence and racial targeting to occur. Ask yourself how many of your children have Black friends. And how many of you would be comfortable if your son or daughter was in a relationship with a Black person as opposed to a White person? If the answer is not many, then ask yourself why that is. Ask yourself not if, but how and why the media disproportionately reports crime stories involving a Black suspect or perpetrator. Ask yourself why Black people are given harsher sentences for the same crime that other races commit, particularly when compared to White people. Do not let our support for the Black Lives Matter movement be a one-time conversation and then fade out. Hold each other accountable. Seek out resources so that we can educate ourselves, learn, and grow together.

I hope you take the time to reflect on my words. I am not perfect, but I vow to do my best not to stay silent when I know of issues that demand our attention and of conversations that so clearly need to be engaged in among one another. Black lives do matter, and it's time we start acting like it.


Views are of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of Saathee Magazine or Saathee.com.

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Maegha Lanka is a graduate of Duke University, where she took courses on racial conflict in the US and social justice ethics, and attended an immersive retreat centered on race and identity privilege. Contact her at maegha.lanka29@gmail.com