ISW eSandesh is pleased to introduce a section Community Voices where we publish opinion pieces from our community on issues. While these pieces provide perspectives and opportunities for conversation, they represent the viewpoint of the author and not necessarily those of ISW. We encourage a robust dialogue on these issues and welcome alternative viewpoints for publication.
Black Lives Matter by Aarshiya Sachdeva
“In a racist society it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.” - Angela Y. Davis
As most are now aware, the recent killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others have left many Americans in a state of fear, anger, and despair. Witnessing the instant outrage on social media and protests both in neighboring towns and across the globe, I, along with the other officers of the Shrewsbury High School Black History Committee, was certain that we needed to express our solidarity within our town. In the midst of a global pandemic, we found it even more necessary to unite our local community. With great political divide across the country, we wanted to convey one crucial message: this is completely a humanitarian issue. No difference in opinion can change the fact that George Floyd was a human being who did not deserve to die. By creating a peaceful remembrance - a march and vigil in the center of our Town of Shrewsbury, we wanted to bring our community together to mourn the tragic loss of George Floyd and the other endless victims of police brutality.
Now, as you are reading this article, you might be telling yourself: “yes, I agree, it was terrible that George Floyd’s life ended so soon, especially in the cruel way that it did, but what could I have done to help?” Fortunately for you, I am positive that many others are thinking the same. The influx of responses in our “RSVP” Form immediately after we publicized the event reiterated that the vast majority of our community was also left feeling hurt or confused - they were desiring an opportunity like this one to not only showcase their support for the Black community, but to discover the answer to our #1 asked question at the event: “What can I do?”
The first (and most important) thing that each person reading this can do right now is to open up a new tab and make a simple Google search. It is astonishing how much information is available right at our fingertips, but most can’t even take the time to seek it. Although there are countless ideas and events to research, here are a few helpful key terms to start: “school to prison pipeline, police brutality, racial wealth gap, war on drugs, systemic racism.” If you are as infuriated by the inequality present in our system as I was when I first became aware of it, I have linked a website below with a variety of ways to support the Black Lives Matter Movement - including a map of protests, petition and donation links, and other resources.
However, I understand that many do not have the means to donate, or to attend protests. Nevertheless, I urge each and every one of you to use your voice. At the beginning of this article I chose to share one of my favorite Angela Davis quotes. I used to believe that as an Indian-American, I couldn’t possibly be racist. I failed to realize how America was built on principles of systematic oppression of Black people, and that it will take several years to fully resolve this issue. By staying silent, we are also contributing to the racist tendencies of our country.
There are countless ways we can adjust our daily lifestyles to be actively anti-racist. Have those difficult conversations with your friends and family members. Continue to educate yourself through books, movies, podcasts, and documentaries. Use your race to your benefit - as a way to empathize with those who feel like outsiders in their own country. Support black-owned businesses. Don’t center the narrative around you. Recognize that even as an Indian immigrant, you are privileged. Condemn the privilege. Create a long-term strategy to ensure that you will be an ally and advocate after the outrage ends.
As members of the Indian-American community, we must do better.
Link to BLM Resources: blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/
Link to George Floyd Vigil Footage (video credit:Krista Fogg of Shrewsbury Media Connection) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4WW1_z262M
(Image credits Megan Albertson & Angelica Vlahos)
ISW eSandesh asked Kavya Balaji, who had written an impassioned piece titled “Black Lives Matter - An Informational Letter to the South Asian Community” about what motivated her personally to get involved or speak out about this issue? We thought we would share her message to the community.
I have always been passionate about social justice from a young age and I always voice my opinions and concerns when I feel like something is unjust. Growing up in a country where people love to say that everyone is equal and all lives matter, but behind closed doors support a system that has never stopped oppressing Black communities felt unbearable to me. I empathized with my Black brothers and sisters who constantly undergo this suffering and I did my best to be informed about the issues. For years, I read up on unbiased accounts of American history and read/watched stories from Black storytellers. I studied social issues and community resilience in depth through my undergraduate and masters degrees in International Affairs, Social Entrepreneurship and Resilience studies. With the knowledge that I had gained, I knew I had to do everything in my ability to support the Black community and thus, I went to work to put out a newsletter to educate our South Asian community on why we need to support this movement. If you don't feel the urgency and feel their pain, you probably haven't scraped the surface of knowledge of what they have underwent. Black people built this country up, and America owes everything it is to the Black community. We Indian Americans owe our comfortable lives in the US to the Black community. We can no longer continue to live unaware of the struggles faced by Black America, it is time we open our eyes, open our hearts and open our pockets to support this movement.
Kavya has worked with her colleagues to also translate the original article into Telugu and Hindi. These articles can be found at:
The Everything Podcast
Aditya Khanna, Spencer Dodge, Kevin Harper, and Nihal Wadhwa
This year has been incredibly unique and we are certainly living in unprecedented times. That being said, many college students are left with more free time and the ability to pursue interests aside from their university. Me and three other friends are typically involved in current affairs and have found ourselves having conversations that may be beneficial for other people to listen in on, so we decided to start recording them and creating a podcast out of it!
All 4 of us having grown up in different environments; we have two people, including myself, of the South Asian community and two of the White community. In addition to this, we’ve all grown up in different political atmospheres and have been exposed to a wide range of views which believe makes our perspective unique. All 4 of us have diverse opinions on current issues and believe that having a civil conversation about why we feel the we do can unite others over their differences.
Our first episode, titled “Racial Injustice”, comes after the recent killing of George Floyd. Our episode, however, is not limited to that as we talk about the entire Black Lives Matter movement and what it means to be a Person of Color in America. We also touch on stereotypes within every community and the role that we play in defining the future. We release episodes on a weekly basis and the upcoming episode, titled “Coronavirus”, covers the entire pandemic response and what out fall looks like!
Google Podcasts: https://www.google.com/podcasts?feed=aHR0cHM6Ly9hbmNob3IuZm0vcy8xNjhlMjczNC9wb2RjYXN0L3Jzcw==
The Hidden Disease
By Danush Chelladurai
Had you told me a year ago about the events of the past couple months, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. Most people wouldn’t have either; and yet, there were so many signs that pointed to it happening. To think it really took this long to happen is delusional. Many people want to go back to their life as it was pre-2020, but we can’t. The trope of a “new normal” is an understatement. Yes, I’m talking about a disease, but not the one you’re probably thinking of. I’m talking about the systemic racism against black people that has plagued this country for nearly 400 years. We’ve all looked at ourselves and remarked how insane it is that this problem hasn’t been solved yet, but we were all alive back then. “Black Lives Matter” has been the rallying cry for this movement, and we can’t even meet that incredibly low bar.
The scariest part of this isn’t the introspection about our own microaggressions and discriminatory practices, it’s that almost everyone around you has as well. As a kid, it’s realizing not only that the “adults don’t have the answers,” but that they’re part of the problem. The people you look up to: celebrities, teachers, friends, relatives, older siblings, and even your parents - many of them aren’t exempt from blame. But, this is bigger than just police vs the rest of us, or black and white, it’s a problem with our whole way of life. We’ve all stereotyped before, and ultimately, African Americans are just the first group in the infinite queue of groups such as, women, LGBTQ people, and people from low socioeconomic backgrounds, who’ve been hurt by stereotype threat. It really is up to our generation to take on a bigger role by not only voting for our next president but also participating in local elections. When we have kids of our own, we have to not only teach our kids about math, science, writing, and reading, but also place equal importance on subjects such as politics, ethics, and sociology. It’s up to all of us to continue the process to make sure everyone genuinely has the human rights of “life, liberty, and
the pursuit of happiness.”