This post is far from comprehensive and is a fraction of my thoughts on the issue. I hope to write about these topics more often in the future.
The 2016 election, while gifting me with headaches due to Drumpf’s barking, has sparked significant discussions regarding allyship in multiple communities. After the Orlando shootings, the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castle, and the increased mainstream media coverage of hate speech, more questions have been raised: what do we do if we witness such a situation? Do we call the police or whip out our smartphones?
From an Indian-American perspective, this is interesting. I do not have white privilege, yet I am part of a racial group that receives positive stereotypes ranging from “hard-working” to “smart”. Thanks to casteism and resulting social mobility that benefited my parents, I do not need to worry about my financial capacity on a daily basis. The South Asian community is divided when it comes to politics: we see individuals actively fundraising for Drumpf and others participating in #BlackLivesMatter activism. The issue of race results in mixed reactions, ranging from appreciation of the discussion to anger for even suggesting it.
A specific aspect of allyship I wish to discuss is our relationship with the Muslim community. In some languages, the word “Hindu” is synonymous with “Indian”. I’ve witnessed the blatant hatred and bitterness from Hindus towards Muslims; several times in India, I’ve been told about how Islam is a “violent religion” from family friends to taxi-drivers. In the United States post 9/11 era, we’ve witnessed forms of discrimination Muslims still face on a daily basis. Some of us have even experienced it at TSA security checks. Sikhs have experienced increased rates of hate crimes due to anti-Muslim sentiment. From what I’ve witnessed, the Hindu community has expressed outrage at these behaviors, but most reactions I have heard basically consist of: “But I’m not Muslim, so I shouldn’t be pulled aside.”
But this is not the reaction we should be expressing.
In February 2015, three Muslims approximately my age were shot down for their religion. Every single Muslim I have engaged with on this issue has faced some form of discrimination, whether that be being called a “terrorist” on the bus or receiving a threatening comment while walking on the sidewalk. And yet, instead of showing solidarity and support, we choose to distance ourselves and close our eyes to institutionalized racism.
Our history is filled with bitterness and is often used by Hindus as justification for their bigotry. But as of right now, Hindus dominate Parliament, universities, and state governments. Insisting a temple was torn down four hundred years ago is no proper justification for the slaughter of 2000 people.
Yes, the Indian-American community faces discrimination too. We have to perform higher than our white counterparts to get into college, a lower-than-3.7 GPA could cost us a job offer, and we are fetishized in mainstream media. But insisting that Muslims bear their discrimination in silence is unacceptable.
So how can you be a better ally? Be active. Dispel stereotypes when they’re mentioned. Joking that someone is part of ISIS because they wear a hijab isn’t funny–it leads to hate crimes. Be vocal, because we cannot dispel hatred if we choose to remain silent.