Engaging in social justice work and community level change is a marathon. The past year has brought waves of engagement from people and we continue to have major work ahead of us. As I reflect upon this past year, I am aware of the ambivalence I often confront within my Indian-American community, with some folks being co-conspirators to others who have completely internalized the Model Minority positioning they have been gaslight into. If we look at the immigration history of Asian Americans and South Asians within the United States, it is obvious that were it not for the work of Civil Rights leaders within the United States, many of us could not have immigrated here. In many ways, South Asians owe a debt and have an obligation to work towards Black liberation within the United States.
Additionally, let me clarify that South Asians are not a monolith and South Asia should not be made synonymous with India. The experiences of all Indian immigrants within the United States are also not identical. Various identities such as religion, caste, SES, education, place of origin, intergenerational factors, among others intersect and dictate the level of belongingness an Indian immigrant may experience within the United States.
So, what is our role?
1.) The good news is there is not one way to stay engaged. You engage with the work in a way that plays to your strengths. A wonderful resource for this would be Deepa Iyer, a South Asian author and activist’s model for “Roles in a Social Change Ecosystem.” She identifies 10 roles that people can take in the work towards social and community change. Her work can be found on her website: The Map: Social Change Ecosystem – DEEPA IYER
2.) Understand our positioning within the larger racial and socio-cultural context of United States. In what ways are we benefitting from White Supremacy and how may we be perpetuating oppressive and essentialist views?
3.) Take time to tend to your own pain and the harm you have experienced as part of the system.
4.) Introspect on biases you may hold about race, skin color, and various marginalized identities.
5.) Have active conversations on current events with others within your sphere of influence.
6.) Donate funds to community organizations.
7.) Don’t stay silent when you see harm done within your own community and be aware of the within-group biases that exist.
8.) Remember this work can be isolating and exhausting and cannot be done alone.