South Asians and African Americans have long held a special bond. Now it’s our turn to step up in solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter.
White supremacy is like an octopus whose arms reach far and long across the globe. One arm wrapped tightly around America early on, leading to the genocide of over 99% of Native Americans and slavery and oppression for African Americans ever since the white man set foot on its soil. Another arm wrapped itself around India—the brutal British empire who stole uncountable lives, wealth, and culture from India for nearly a hundred years. A man key to India’s freedom from the arm, Mahatma Gandhi, helped inspire another man halfway across the world in America to lead his fight for freedom from white supremacy—Martin Luther King, Jr. The Civil Rights Movement ended de jure segregation and helped enact immigration reforms that allowed our communities to come to this country.
And just like how the scars of British Colonialism linger in Indian politics today, the scars of slavery, segregation, and systemic injustice remain in black communities across America today. South Asians have a duty to stand in solidarity with organizations like #BlackLivesMatter the same way Gandhi stood with King half a century ago.
Don’t forget that South Asians can be the victims of police brutality and racism as well. We all remember when a kind Indian grandfather, Sureshbhai Patel, was viciously attacked and left paralyzed after an encounter with a police officer in Alabama when visiting family in 2015. Indian Americans have also been killed in hate crimes by white supremacists since Donald Trump was elected. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain by standing with the black community against systemic injustice.
So what can you do to help? The first step towards allyship is introspection. Examine your personal biases towards black people. How would you feel if your child dated a black person or if you saw a black man walking alone on the street? Acknowledging the bias is the hard part. Examine why you feel that way and how it might be harmful to others, and removing the bias becomes simple.
The next step is proactively working to become an anti-racist, which means to be actively fighting to stop systemic racism rather than just not being racist in your personal life. You can join protests if you feel safe to do so, donate to organizations like ACLU or Black Lives Matter, and educate yourself through books like “How To Be An Antiracist” by Ibram X Kendi or “The End of Policing” by Alex Vitale.
Fight your reflexes to immediately reject activist demands such as #DefundPolice, and instead try to understand their proposals. Finally, try to share your learnings and attitudes with your friends and family. Martin Luther King, Jr., famously said: "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice." But that arc requires ALL of us to fight together.
(Ashvin is a software engineer who grew up in Austin, Texas, currently working in Los Angeles in the gaming industry. He graduated from UT Austin in Computer Science and Government in 2019.)