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.’”
Give people of color space to care for themselves, deal with the hurdles life provides, and to generally live their goddamn lives compared to exerting the constant pressure of joining a movement that, so far, doesn’t seem to care about them.
By Gloria OladipoBrace yourself: I am proud vegan. But, not that proud. While I recognize and appreciate the value of veganism in a world rampant with increased health ailments and environmental crises, veganism remains a fairly inaccessible and ‘white’ movement. An introspective veganism movement, one with a more inclusive focus, is critical. It will be hard to reform veganism, but it can be done. Many tangible efforts can be made to create a more encompassing veganism movement for all:
Cooking “cultural” vegan food
For many cultures, meat tends to be a prominent ingredient. This can make efforts to reduce people’s reliance on meat seem an appropriation of ethnic recipes. To counteract this, it’s important that trying to “veganize” ethnic recipes comes from people of that ethnicity compared to white vegans trying to “spread the good word”. For example, there are clear differences between a white-owned vegan soul food restaurant opening up in Harlem compared to a black-owned version opening up in Chicago’s Southside: one is a classic case of “culture vultures” while the other is a move towards a more sustainable and healthy way of eating supported by community members. Additionally, it is key to remind people who talk about the cultural centricity of meat that non-meat eating cultures do exist. Jainism, an ancient religion from India focused on harmlessness as a means of liberation, Hinduism, and Buddhism are just a few groups that don’t eat meat and instead promote plant-based diets.
Making produce more accessible
A major tenet of veganism is a renewed focus on a plant-based. However, for those who live in a food desert, an occurrence that happens in mostly minority communities, constantly buying fruits and vegetables can be near impossible. It is important that vegans take an active interest in trying to make produce more accessible by supporting community gardens and encouraging similar initiatives. Groups such as Growing Power, a nonprofit based in Milwaukee, WI with an active Chicago office, has started many programs in Chicago that bring gardening into vulnerable communities and engage residents in the growing and buying process. Growing Power and groups like it are always looking for volunteers and funding — needs that vegans can and should meet.
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