Racism

An Open Letter to the South Asian Community

We are not as unfortunate as our black brothers and sisters to share all of the same prejudices placed upon them by white society, which has afforded us a better level of comfort within our shared uncomfortable surroundings

Dear South Asians,

We have a problem in our community, that’s not discussed anywhere near enough. 

The south Asian diaspora have remained largely homogeneous after immigrating to western countries, due to facing racism at the hands of our white hosts. I have never known my parents, their friends and other members of our community of their generation to have any black friends outside of the workplace, never made any effort to invite them to community gatherings or attempt to organise and form bonds between our two communities. However “liberal” our thinking may be, our community continues to perpetuate racism towards the black community because in the hierarchy of the society we entered, “at least we weren’t at the very bottom”. This sort of thinking has allowed us to uphold the structures that work not just against the black community but ourselves too. 

Our struggles do certainly differ, but they also interlink. In England, it is more true than anywhere else, when the National Front were fighting us in the street they did not care if we were black or brown, they cared that we were non-white! This is one of many instances our community would do well to remember. We cannot turn a blind eye to the injustices the black community faces, because to some degree we too have faced them and it does not serve us well to forget that. In turn we need to unify, show solidarity and remember that we are brothers and sisters in a joint fight against white supremacy. Showing support for the black community in ways they deem important, is crucial to our mutual end goals.

Anti-blackness continues to this day. In the UK, black women are five times more likely to die in childbirth, black people have a lower life expectancy, are more likely to be detained under the Mental Health Act, have twice the unemployment rate of white people, are 50% more likely to be the victim of a crime. Black men are ten times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police and a third of all deaths in police custody are black people. 

Within our own communities, we often perpetuate unfair stereotypes of black people and belief that blackness is negative. We often promote the idea that “fair skin” is much more desirable, and marrying a black person for many people in our community is still taboo. Despite benefitting in this country from the struggles for liberation that black people have made, we do not internally as a community have an anti-racist view of blackness.  

This letter is especially for the middle class South Asians, because for some reason we believe we have been afforded the luxury of social mobility due to our status as lawyer or doctor. If this is the lie you choose to believe then I would urge you to reassess the reality of the world that surrounds you. We are not as unfortunate as our black brothers and sisters to share all of the same prejudices placed upon them by white society, which has afforded us a better level of comfort within our shared uncomfortable surroundings. However, without dismantling the entire structure of white supremacy, us South Asians will never have an equal place in this society until the black community gets theirs.

So, let’s make a pledge to: 

  • speak up when we see injustice happening, not just blatant racism but microaggressions that we too are well familiar with. 
  • Let’s begin to view ourselves as a part of a unified community, so as we are going about our day, we do not contribute to the discrimination against our black brothers and sisters. 
  • We should use the power of our pocket to empower black businesses and de-invest from large corporations that serve and perpetuate white supremacy. 
  • Let’s donate to help organisations that are fighting for equality. 
  • Let’s educate ourselves and others so we can fully understand the whole context of the structures that we live under. There are no shortages of reading lists floating around social media at the moment, however I have added a few things under this letter to help you make a start in the right direction.

I am upset, disappointed and frustrated. But I am hopeful,

Zara Abrar

Books 

Natives by Akala

Ain’t no black in the Union Jack by Paul Gilroy

The good immigrant by Nikesh Shukla

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

Reading lists

(free online pan African school)

Online resources 

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Many think of the Civil Rights Movements as only being relevant to the Black community, but it also paved the way for non-white immigrants. ⁣ The United States passed the Immigration Act of 1917 which banned immigration from South Asia, most of Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, and the Middle East.⁣ ⁣ To further tighten immigration, the United States passed the Immigration Act of 1924 (also known as the Asian Exclusion Act) which established a quota system that prioritizes immigrants from white countries and lowering the quota numbers for non-white countries. Arabs, Asians and South Asians were completely banned. Eugenics was considered a "science" among the elites and the purpose of the law was to preserve the "whiteness" of America.⁣ ⁣ "While the US was restricting immigration by race, it was also denying full rights to African Americans whose ancestors had been forced into bondage. It robbed them of their voting rights, deprived them of labor rights, and forced them into segregated facilities."⁣ ⁣ Then came the civil rights movement, a struggle for social justice that took place mainly during the 50s and 60s.⁣ ⁣ The civil rights movement took down Jim Crow and brought the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965. But the change didn't end there: it also played an important role in removing the discrimination that formed the centerpiece of US immigration policy for nearly 40 years.⁣ ⁣ As the the civil rights movement grew in the 1960s, the idea of White America became increasingly unacceptable. "Just a few months after passing the Voting Rights Act of 1964, Congress passed the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, ending the race-based immigration quota system and replacing it with a system that prioritized refugees, people with special skills, and those with family members living in the United States. It also forbade discrimination in issuing of visas on the basis of race, sex, nationality, place of birth, or place of residence. President Johnson signed it into law while sitting beneath the Statue of Liberty."⁣ ⁣ Source: "How the civil rights movement opened the door to immigrants of color⁣" by Rebekah Barber, photo from Smithsonian museum

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