Be brown & proud? Uh, I need to study for my test….

Bored in my hotel in Columbus I decided to check out Suman’s blog and clicked the link for Satya Circle, which is about brown issues. I stumbled upon this article titled THE INDIAN AS “BLACK-WHITE” AND AS NIGGER. If you don’t read the article, here is an example of the sort of thinking that it expresses: Imagine a scenario where an angry brown son comes home from college and confronts his successful engineer father and declares, “Father, you think of yourself as a man, an engineer, a Hindu, a Gujarati! Well, I think of myself as a sand nigger!”

I really don’t think that’s a step forward. Seriously people, this is pathetic. Look at this history of brown people in the US and you’ll see it isn’t anything like the experience of other “people of color.” The author of the above article states:

Currently, South Asians may not be a clear-cut case of “black” in US consciousness, but they are definitely “other,” which is one reason why Mazumder, as well as other intellectuals, believe that only if South Asians develop a broader consciousness of themselves as people of color will they be able to participate in a genuine struggle for social justice.

Why should South Asians develop a consciousness of themselves as “people of color” when we all know that most of us are brown, we see ourselves everyday in the mirror! And social justice? Where has that gotten the black community since 1960? Where is it getting the Latino community? Do we want our own curried Al Sharptons?

The author lingers over the fact that brown people have issues with their own identity and are terrified of being associated with American blacks, something that white people often do. Why wouldn’t white people do that? South Asians often have rather dark skin, like Africans, and most humans have similar features so why should whites notice that other aspects of phenotype mark us as non-African [1]? We don’t look that different. Granted, many white people like to express the patronizing phrase, “Indians are just like white people with dark skin,” which I suspect they picked up from brown guy with I-wish-I-was-whitey-complex [2]. There are good reasons not to associate with blacks in the United States, they are perceived as having low social status, and South Asians are if anything concerned about rank and order. ’tis human if a bit childish and petty.

But what does it really matter? Despite the fact that South Asians often suffer from “Oh you might be a nigger syndrome” they are well educated, have high incomes, and are entrepreneurial. It flies in the face of the assertion that what whitey thinks is the paramount issue and fact of human existence. Racism. Such a burden to bear, do South Asians want to define themselves as “people of color,” juxtaposed against the “white race,” the race of power and privilege? How idiotic does this look? Is the Indian doctor in rural Iowa treating white patients on Medicaid a “person of color” who is being victimized by the race-class relationship that whites impose on the “other”?

In my experience South Asians in the United States are fractured and clannish. Though united in their concern on immigration issues, Muslims & Hindus, north Indians & south Indians, professional & working class, do not often mix and form a united front against the “white hegemonic structure.” And where has that gotten us? The Washington Post reported a few months ago that as many as 50% of South Asians born in the United States out-marry. This is a very high rate for such a new immigrant group, and bodes well for future assimilation. Horror, oh horror! Of course it does not suggest a good future for the mobilization and actualization of a brown brigade in the racial legions.

What do you call your brown doctor? A sand nigger? Not if you want your meds on time.

[1] Other racial groups often blend and look similar to peoples of said racial group and confusions abound. Bushmen in Botswana assumed that Vietnamese workers were of their race, since they only understood the world as “black” or “Bushmen.” Columbus thought that the indigenous peoples of the Americas looked “Indian.”

[2] The author goes over I-wish-I-was-whitey-complex a lot in the article, and it’s worth reading, because there’s a lot of truth to it. Many browns wish their ass was a bit whiter way too much. As an avowed individualist, I’m not too concerned if my ass is blue, purple, brown or white, as long as I’ve got something going on between my ears and I’m well sated down under, but for some people, life exists in the context of their group affiliation. The above article criticizes the Indian fixation on wanting to assert their “Aryan” pedigree-but the author should qualify that such an assertion is not without fact, and the two peoples who unequivocally used the term “Arya” were the north Indians and Iranians. Yes, cognates exist in other tongues (“Eire”), but nevertheless, the Indo-Iranians of the satem branch of the Indo-European language family were the true Aryans, Europeans reappropriated the term because of Sanskrit’s supposed ancient lineage before the discovery of other more archaic Indo-European tongues like Hittite and the decipherment of Linear B as Greek. The author’s solution to I-wish-I-was-whitey-complex is to recreate a different identity, I-wish-my-ass-was-a-little-more-oppressed! My solution? Put your group affiliations in the background in a healthy fashion and try and focus on your individual strengths and achievements, rather than made-up shit about your ancestors. Additionally, understand that though injustice occurs, life sucks for everyone else on a variety of levels too, so try and make the best of it and reflect that focusing on your own life first is probably better for you (ergo, all yous become everyone in the group) than shifting your energies toward the mobilization of a sand nigger identity.

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