Home > Christanity, India USA friendship > Hate Hindu Brigade “ ON ˜TEL AVIV MEETS BOMBAY AND SOUTH ASIAN ASSIMILATION “





My migration story looks and feels like the migration story of many South Asian immigrants in the late 20th century.  My parents were upper-caste Hindus, who, through a combination of a casteist education system and enough money to attend school, became skilled in computer science and math.  We landed first in Ohio, where they both secured IT jobs, and began their relatively short ascent into the American middle class.  We moved from our formerly colonized country to become settlers on this other occupied land.  Our brown bodies and the professional income they would eventually carry were also gentrifying neighborhoods.

Unlike many Black, Latino, and Native communities, my community did not face disproportionate levels of police brutality, incarceration, etc.  Indeed, until 9/11, when folks from across the South Asian diaspora were persecuted as possible Muslim terrorists, I did not consider myself a target for racist state violence.  My assimilation was easy.  I was becoming a White lie packaged in a brown body.  The expectation in my household was also clear: that I would get good grades, attend a good school, continue my family’s class ascent, and not challenge or question the racist attitudes of this nation.

This strategy of assimilation has its roots partly in colonization: it was often safer to collaborate with the British colonial government than to challenge its White supremacy.  India is more palatable to the West as a place for henna, Bollywood, yoga, and saffron.  Growing up, this the India I became skilled at narrating to my White peers.  At home, I learned Indian classical music and dance, with no mention of the political position (often both patriarchal and casteist) of these art forms.  In Hindu Sunday school, I was given Mohandas Gandhi.  I was given Indira Gandhi.  I was given Jawarhalal Nehru.  I am grateful for my queer body, because it forced me to begin questioning these ideologies, which have deep roots in both colonization and Hindu patriarchy.

It took me coming to Stanford University, and to the Bay Area—to have the privilege of classes in critical race studies and time to organize—to do my diasporic political education.  It was here that I started unlearning India as chai and saris, and started remapping it with meanings of anti-colonial and other struggle.  It was here that I got schooled in Dalit (lower-caste) feminism, in South Asian people’s movements, in the resistance of gender and sexual minorities.  It was here that I started identifying as ‘South Asian’ rather than ‘Indian’ to build solidarity with those countries, which, following British rule of the Indian subcontinent, are under military and financial duress from the Hindu-nationalist Indian government.  It was here that I started politicizing South Asian-ness, and ceased viewing it with a White gaze that renders the subcontinent as purely aesthetic.

tel aviv meets bombayThis week I saw the flier for the ‘Tel Aviv meets Bombay Mixer’, an event co-sponsored by the Stanford Israel Alliance and Sanskriti.  The flier depicts pictures of the shores of India and Israel respectively, along with both nations’ flags.  For me the Israeli state (and its associated flag) represents the colonization and mass violence enacted by Israel against Palestinian people.  It represents the forced sterilization of Ethiopian Jews within its borders.  It represents segregated bus lines and other public services.  It represents racist values enacted as apartheid.  The collusion of Sanskriti and SIA for me spurs great sadness—the complicity of Stanford’s most prominent South Asian cultural organization in the celebration of the colonial Israeli state.

For those who would pass this off as ‘just’ a cultural event, I offer that culture must be contextualized in its political context.  This is particularly relevant in the case of Zionism (Israeli nationalism).  Indeed, the initiative to mark Israel as a site of cultural and progressive vibrancy—and thereby erase its colonial occupation of Palestine—is literally called ‘Brand Israel’.

For those who would pass this event off as ‘just’ a student mixer, I posit that this event has broader global context—India and Israel’s military trade is around $9 billion, and as a whole India has more pro-Israel politicians than much of the world.  What’s more, because Stanford students will go on to accumulate much more wealth and political power, it is a dangerous game to reinforce the attitude on our campus that Israel is a great party theme, rather than an enactor of apartheid.

Mostly, the event is symbolic for me of the assimilation of much of the South Asian diaspora.  We come from different class, caste, and regional backgrounds, to be sure, but our overall cultural and economic position in this country tends towards safety and assimilation into whiteness.  It says something that Stanford’s most prominent South Asian cultural organization is hosting an event that endorses Israel with no mention of its colonial occupation of Palestine. It represents erosion of a possible global brown solidarity, the forgetting of our anti-colonial histories.  It represents our complicity.

sanskriti-chaat mailing list

  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: