Are Indians a Model Minority? Why is this a Problem?

In a CNN report from London, the slogan “White silence is violence” became one of the most powerful messages shared in Black Lives Matter protests, marking a massive shift in expectations – you have to be vocally anti-racist, if not, you’re automatically a part of the problem.

It didn’t take long before this was extended to brown silence. Should all races be acknowledging their privilege? Calls for this are deafening in the South Asian diaspora, particularly Indians in the UK, USA and Canada. They are asked to accept their privilege and be vocal against anti-Black racism.

This situation has come to the fore partly because some Asian groups are held up as ‘model minorities’, recognized for higher levels of socio-economic success, oftentimes crossing the White majority. The problem in such practices is that it pits ethnic minority groups against each other, instead of fostering more harmonious relations. It also sustains stereotypes around the group and, can potentially give governments and institutions of power a mask for their systemic racism.

In addition, such practices thoroughly undermine the fact that each minority group faces very different challenges from the other. Furthermore, it is also important to remember that each minority group brings along with it its own set of traditional & cultural knowledge, which differ the coping mechanisms exhibited by each group, which in turn affects outcomes. Many British media reports highlight the Indian diaspora’s success in the country, specifically, their earning more than most other ethnic minority groups. It charts their performance in school, and compared with the White majority, they do score significantly higher, second only to British-Chinese students. They are also more respectful of the law, showing lower arrest rates than White people.

There are multiple ways to understand this sort of data. It is imperative to remember that diversity is very varied and that terms like BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) and POC (people of color) are not broad enough to address the challenges of the varied racial treatment meted out to each of the ethnic minorities. It flies in the face of taking structural racism seriously, and is counterproductive to collective global harmony.

Kriti Srivastava, Assistant Professor, School of Fashion Design, Unitedworld Institute of Design (UID)

Disclaimer: The opinions / views expressed in this article are solely of the author in his / her individual capacity. They do not purport to reflect the opinions and/or views of the College and/or University or its members.

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