Anti-Black racism in South Asian communities. Yes, even in 2021, it exists.
In most South Asian American families, there exists generational racism against Black people. This needs to end with our generation. Let’s talk about how you can combat it on a personal level!
There is a trend that exists when it comes to anti-Black racism in South Asian families. The oldest generation (60+) tend to be racist. They are prejudiced against Black people and believe the stereotypes wholeheartedly. The middle generation (30-60) understand that racism is wrong, but they still hold on to some of the stereotypes. The youngest generation (under 30) rejects racism and its stereotypes, but they don’t address the racist mentality present in their family.
If this is what your conversation at home looks like, then things need to change.
Dada/Dadi (Grandpa/Grandma): “Hide your jewelry when you go there, it’s a Black neighborhood.”
Mummy/Papa (Mom/Dad): “I’m not a racist. These people [Blacks] have stolen from me before, so I’m just telling you to be careful.”
Beta/Beti (Daughter/Son): “Mummy Papa, you can’t say these things. You sound like a racist.”
You need to have a conversation at home that explains racism and its complexities to elder family members. It is simply not enough for you to not be racist. You have the ability to erase the misconceptions that they believe in.
How Do You Talk About Anti-Black Racism?
According to Vox, “As a [Asian] child, explaining something to your parents or elders can be considered disrespectful, even when you’re not trying to come off as so. You’re not supposed to be the authority, which prevents good communication and any dialogue from starting.”
Yes, I agree. It is very easy for the elders to shut you down by calling you “badtameez” (disrespectful). You have to understand that it is difficult for the older members of your family to “unlearn institutionalized racism.” Also, keep in mind that for your immigrant parents/grandparents, “these racist beliefs are generated through specific historical circumstances.”
So, the conversation needs to come from a place of understanding and compassion. Take the time out to understand why so many first-generation South Asian Americans feel this way. “You have to see this not as a fight, but as a commitment to a conversation about our own beliefs that we grew up with and the systems that oppress us.”
Help them understand that they simply can’t believe the stereotypes so deeply embedded in our society, despite their life experiences.
Here are some tips:
- Try to create parallels between Indian history and Black history, so they can relate more.
- Expose them to the different social concepts that exist for race. A place to start:
To our beloved families—We need to talk about anti-Blackness in our own homes because #blacklivesmatter.
— LettersForBlackLives (@LettersForBL) June 8, 2020
- Correct your family members if they say something racist.
Creating a dialogue about anti-Black racism is the first step towards the long road of combatting racism. I hope these words from Barack Obama inspire you to begin. “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
Mariyah Rajshahiwala is a junior at Brooklyn College. She discovered her passion for format editing when she joined her high school’s literary magazine. In her free time, she loves to travel and explore halal restaurants.