I see you speaking up to show solidarity with the black community, and I am proud of you. I see you passionately voicing issues that you feel strongly about, and I am happy that you are doing so. But why is it that it takes outrage in the United States for you to understand the need to address systematic oppression?
Have you asked yourself why this is the case?
The protests upon the death of George Floyd in the United States, and the anti-CAA protests that occurred in India through the winter share some dark parallels. Both revolved around the killing of minority groups, both suffered from police brutality, and both had state-ordered military deployment to put down protestors. Videos and images from India were also widely circulated but did not seem to spark the same level of pain.
Like racism in the United States, islamophobia, caste violence, and queer-phobia are prevalent in India as institutionalised flaws. Systematic oppression is deeply rooted in India’s colonial history and exists today in 2020 because of the enablement of its citizens.
When you repost valuable resources on your social media, participate in blackouts, and hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, your solidarity is greatly needed and appreciated. But where is this same level of activism when your voice, understanding, and awareness is required for your fellow Indian citizens with no voices? Why was it so convenient to overlook the Indian Parliament passing an act that banned millions of Muslims from their homes in India, the silencing of Kashmiri citizens, and the brutal killings of protesting students?
How did you manage to unintentionally play into this hypocrisy?
Urban India has an infatuation with Western life and pop culture. For our entire lives we have fed into the idea of assimilating as much as possible into a Western world, because that defines social success in comparison to our own poverty-stricken communities. Without even realising, we dismiss the mirroring events in India because it has been embedded that “these things happen in India”. With that thought process, we ourselves justify oppression by staying rooted in the colonial thought of South Asian communities being backwards communities.
How did you become an oppressor?
There is a simple answer. Being in a position where you have a personal inclination to comment on the Black Lives Matter movement because you have either attended university in the United States, you have friends in the United States, or your go-to news sources are full of the events in the United States, is a position of high privilege.
It means that you received higher education, have had access to an international community, and that the events of the Western world are the most relevant to your life.
It means that you are most likely not on the blood-stained end of the stick that beats minorities on the streets of India. It means that you are not threatened by islamophobia, queer-phobia and the caste system in India. It means that in most cases, neither are the people in your close circles.
As people of colour in the United States, we experience life as minorities and as outsiders. We then fail to remember these same experiences when we find ourselves high up on the social scale in our Indian communities. Speaking as a middle minority does not directly interfere with your own lived privilege. It is less threatening to stand in solidarity when you can be distanced from the role of perpetrating oppression.
It is easy for us to participate in being the oppressors, if not by directly perpetrating violence, then by standing by and watching it.
When I was deeply disturbed about the events of Kashmir last August, angry about the police brutality upon students protesting against CAA in December, and completely torn up about the religious riots on the streets of Delhi in February, I did not find very many South Asian peers to share my thoughts and concerns with. I noticed a deafening silence, an embarrassing sense of unawareness instead, and a lacking sense of urgency to understand the problem.
Today, being aware of, posting about, and speaking up about the #BlackLivesMatter movement makes you a part of a modern Western world. We need to make sure that we do not fall victim to double-standards, performative activism and the appropriation of cultural movements. Convenience cannot be a factor when choosing to stand against discrimination.
This is not written to make you feel guilty, but rather as a wake-up call to the western-centric world that we have been raised to prioritise. I have not written this to call you out, but rather from a place of love. I hope that you continue to stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, and I request that you please share that same passion with addressing injustices at your own doorstep. If you don’t, nobody else will.