Thursday, November 03, 2005

From the mailbox: SouthAsianism in US colleges _ Rajiv Malhotra

oct 3rd

this 'south asian' crap is killing our brand and giving the pakistanis and bangladeshis unnecessary support, using which they infiltrate indian groups.

i have taken out the names to protect the innocent.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: n
Date: Nov 3, 2005 6:30 AM
Subject: SouthAsianism in US colleges _ Rajiv Malhotra

Came in the email, requesting wide dissemination: Apparently some kid
wrote this to him.

"> On 11/3/05, xxxxx wrote:

I have read many of your articles and you often talk about how Indian's
identities often get reprogrammed to 'South Asian'. Until reading your
articles I never really gave much thought to this 'South Asian' movement on
campuses. I am currently enrolled in college and I have personally seen many
of my own friends reprogram their identities to 'South Asian'. It is
alarming to me how impressionable many Indian youth are while in college.
Nowadays most Indian kids are more concerned about being politically correct
and appearing "open minded". After reading your articles I have tried to my
best to convince people to assert an Indian-American identity however, I
believe my efforts so far have been failures. You have written about how
Indian's identities are "South Asianized" but you have not written why so
many Indian youth have followed this path. I think one reason is that this
'South Asian' movement has been successful is because Indian kids often have
strict upbringings and this creates a rebellious mentality in many youth. I
believe that Indian girls are often the most susceptible to brainwashing of
"South Asianists" because they are often subject to stricter treatment from
parents and the rest of the Indian community then boys. "South Asianists"
seem to exploit this and exaggerate it to the point where Indian/Hindu
culture is associated with social ills against women. These "South
Asianists" also exploit the way Indian parents push their kids to enter
wealth generating fields and denounce this as being materialistic and
superficial. Another trend I've also noticed is the way "South Asianists"
dismiss the success of Indians in America as not being the result of hard
work, intelligence and education but because of "immigration law" as Mr.
Vijay Prashad put it.

Even my own sister constantly tries to propagate this to me. It amazes me
even more how almost all the people getting caught up in this 'South Asian'
movement are Indians. Pakistanis and Bangladeshis always join their own or
Muslim student organizations. Every time I point this out to fellow Indians
none of them can ever give a valid reason or beat me in a debate as to why
Indians should bother with the 'South Asian' tag. I grew up in a mainly
Bangladeshi and Pakistani part of Brooklyn. From when I was a little kid I
understood how different and how little I have in common with non-Indian
South Asians. I believe Indians in Britain are much more aware of their
Indian identity because skirmishes and fights between the Indian and
Pakistani youth there are a common occurrence from what I have heard. On top
of that is the well documented gap in education and achievement between the
two communities with Indians rising to the top and Pakistanis confined to
ghetto areas like the ones in Bradford and Birmingham. Because America is a
big piece of land and also the fact that the more affluent areas where
Indians are more prominent and the working class neighborhoods/ghettos of
NYC where Pakistanis and Bangladeshis are more prominent, are so
geographically isolated, Indians living in places like Long Island and
Edison, NJ have no idea how different their ideal of South Asian unity and
how reality is. I commend you for what you are doing for the Indian-American
community. It is absolutely essential that we do whatever we can to make
sure India is portrayed in positive light.

-- Sxxxxxxxxx

Rajiv's comments in response:

He correctly observes that while Pakistani and Bangladeshi organized
counterbalancing initiatives also exist on campuses, Indians have more
willingly internalized the British imperialist structures and now are
available for American institutionalized reprogramming. In some call
centers in India they are being "taught" to think, feel, dress, eat
and talk like Texans, New Yorkers, etc - some specific white identity
they can select from a catalog.

"South Asian" seems to be a temporary/unstable state pending further
engineering - it suggests, "I am ready to be tutored to become
whatever you want." Its significance is not based on what it is, but
based on what it leaves behind (by way of implied and polite
rejection) so as to clear the space for fresh programming.

The emerging global caste system has whites at the top, whiteness (as
cultural identity for people of color) as second, and South Asian just
below whiteness for those still unable/unwilling to claim full
whiteness. Those who remain behind as "native" Indians are seen as the
new outcasts; they are vulnerable to future genocides resulting from
overpopulation and civilizational clashes. Are we Indians turning into
global shudras-for-hire with no identity of our own other than
whatever the latest master assigns?

Postmodernism is an imperialist export - via co-opted (whitened) third
world intellectuals - to distribute "theories" that support this trend
as being desirable and/or inevitable. Whitened intermediaries like
Harvard's Homi Bhabha are rewarded with cushy Ivy League jobs and
turned into role models for facilitating the bandwagon effect among
Indian intellectuals who are anxious to escape the "problems of
Indianness." Meanwhile, the Harvard cabal under the choirship of
Sugata Bose dishes out demonology against Indian culture to make the
carrots more attractive for assuming new identities: hence the role of
Harvard as the epicenter for studying sati, dowry, incest, caste,
gender conflict as Indian "essences."

Indian culture which is deemed valuable is repackaged as "white" (such
as yoga/meditation these days...) and this appropriation is sold to
confused Indians as being a compliment by the whites. Whatever is left
behind after the scavenging is branded as backward/facsist Indianness.
Between these two extremes of whiteness and Indianness, the South
Asian labeling provides the safety of a middle ground with enough
ambiguity and wiggle room to customize and personalize. The student
who wrote the email rightfully blames orthodox parents. I would add to
his list the role of US based lazy and pompous Indian cultural leaders
who naively play into this phenomenon...


Kalyani said...

Very true. I went to a distinctly South Indian school(not a convent)where Tamizh was the first language and english the medium of instruction.Still I was made to feel ashamed of myself for applying 'thilakam and vibhuthi',for wearing bangles,putting flowers in oiled and braided hair and above all for eating curd rice during lunch break.Intolerable cruelty and humiliation were heaped on us when some of us could not speak in english and chose to speak in Tamizh our mother tongue!

The blame squarely lay with 'converted'pentacoastal( catholic and other denominations too)teachers and our very own brown natives who desperately were aping the 'white man's culture(non existent).

I am afraid it is still hardwired in many Hindus's genes.When I tell my neighbour (who is also from Tamizh Nadu)I had idli or kanjee(porridge)for breakfast she 'advises' me as a "wellwisher":-"Please tell, you had sandwiches,cornflakes or mini pizzas,lest you should be ostracized as a fuddy duddy".

These are the same people who don silk sarees with all mandatory accessories during festivals and inanely lisp "you know Ram did this, Shiv did that......"to their confused children!

Add to that a new age guru who spouts "all religions are the same leading to the same is all in the mind......"blahblah and there you have the witches'brew.

Kalyani said...

The pernicious influence of movies cannot be overemphasized!

For instance, when a movie like "A Million Dollar Baby" was praised to the skies,I could not help wondering "what a wimp!Why not listen to how Sri Parikshit conquered death"!!

Why not take unedited stories from our Puranams to our own ignorant kith and kin?

Kalyani said...

A correction.I referred to the "pernicious influence"of our bollywood and kollywood movies!

Anonymous said...

Hey man thanks for posting the letter. I'm the guy who wrote it lol. I appreciate it very much.