As hate crimes against South Asians continue to rise, we need to dispel stereotypes and wear our voices.
By Rachna ShahOn Sept. 4, 1907, a mob of around 400 white men attacked the homes of South Asian Indians in Bellingham, Washington. They threw them into the streets, beat them, and drove them out of town. Similar riots happened in Vancouver, in California, and elsewhere in the state of Washington during the rest of the decade. It was only a century later that the horror of these events was recognized by Bellingham’s government. Yet while race riots and Asian exclusion efforts are a part of American and Asian history, they are largely ignored in textbooks and the media. India is associated with the caste system and third-world diseases. In film and on television, South Asian Indians are portrayed as extremes rather than as spectrums — as either too willing to assimilate or not willing to assimilate. In moving forward, the coverage of South Asia must be more accurate and comprehensive. Mainstream media not only mirrors, but shapes our culture. It produces and reinforces stereotypes of certain cultural groups. Having one’s history and experiences recognized and appreciated in mainstream media allows young South Asians to embrace their culture, not be ashamed of it. South Asians have long been portrayed as separate and different than white people. They have heavy accents, eat spicy foods, and are generally nerds or geeks, until the very recent past, according to Dr. Bhoomi Thakore, Assistant Professor and Director of the Sociology Program at Elmhurst College. “Today, actors such as Mindy Kaling, Aziz Ansari, Kal Penn, and Priyanka Chopra are players in a larger Hollywood elite circle that inform the ability to move ahead in that industry,” Dr. Thakore explains. “For example, Kaling originally started as a writer for “The Office”, and essentially wrote her character for the show. Over the years, Kaling’s character existed as someone who just happened to be Indian, who was ‘just like everyone else.’”
The stupendous complexity of Hindu immigrants’ conundrum magnifies when they ‘attempt’ to celebrate Diwali in communities where Hindus are a minority.
By Nandita Godbole“If you date, find a Hindu fellow,” instructions from my doting father, as I left India for the United States in 1995. Given his long tenure in public service, he believed that sectarian differences were less contentious than religious ones, displaying and reading from holy books of different faiths at his work desk, offering a safe conversation space to those who approached him.Yet, he could not have imagined that although the premise of Hinduism appears inclusive, practicing it imposes subtle expectations on women. When one moves away, and becomes an immigrant, it intensifies their immigrant experience, affects their accent, attire, grooming, food, travel, etc. Along with these shifts of adjustments, the stupendous complexity of Hindu immigrants’ conundrum magnifies when they ‘attempt’ to celebrate Diwali in communities where Hindus are a minority.Until the late 1990’s the Georgian calendar did not include Diwali and I recall that friends would be taken aback by my ‘Happy Diwali’ reminders. What nuances remained veiled under enthusiastic celebrations in one’s home country, became targeted glaring differences in the new country. Outwardly, the vibrancy and essence of this unmistakably Hindu celebration filter through the lens of a new country and its commercial substitutions. Paraffin votives replace traditional clay lamps, floral wreaths replace fragrant floral doorway garlands, adhesive floor designs replace elaborate forms of rangoli, Christmas lights replace colorful ‘lanterns’, fireworks are limited. A quick trip to an ethnic grocery store freezer replaces the age-old tradition of handcrafting desserts, and spontaneous family visits become a trip to a ticketed ‘Diwali Mela’, if accessible and affordable.But these are not the problems.
by Sanjana Lakshmi When most of my non-South Asian friends hear about Diwali -- which begins this Sunday -- the immediate connection they make is, “Oh, that’s the festival of lights, right?” And while it’s true that Diwali features millions of