“Mama, I’m through.”
When George Floyd said those words just before his death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, as a mother, it broke my heart. I don’t think any mother could watch that and not be overcome and over-wrought with emotion. And as a citizen, I was outraged. One more time.
We’ve known that racism has been a problem in the United States for more decades than we can count — and we’ve known that we need to do something, but we didn’t know exactly what or how. It’s also something we’ve lived through in India, in the form of the caste system and at the hands of British colonialism. Growing up, we learned about Gandhi, his fight against Apartheid, racism, his non-violent resistance and his civil disobedience movement which ultimately led to India’s independence from British rule. And we also learned about Martin Luther King Jr., who took cues from Gandhi with his own form of activism that encouraged peaceful protests to fight racism. Despite both of the legacies, we continue to struggle with racism globally.
George Floyd’s death — and the deaths of Treyvon Martin, Ahmad Aubrey, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, and so many others before them — must serve as a catalyst for us to be better and do better to eradicate racism. We have to do more than just be outraged for a few days. We have to work together to bring about systemic change. And we, as South Asians, must stand with our black friends as we join hands to fight racism together. That’s why we chose the above art by Zoe Harveen Kaur of ZHK Designs to illustrate this newsletter: It shows strength in solidarity between the South Asian and the Black communities.
Here at SEEMA, we stand behind the peaceful protests over the unspeakable deaths of George Floyd and so many others at the hands of the police. As we continue to celebrate and uplift South Asian women, we will also continue to denounce racism and to work harder at making this a more equal world for all of us. On a more individual level, it’s time for all of us to take a good, hard look in the mirror. To commit to being better allies. To listen. To learn. To speak up for what’s right. To vote. And to stand together to eliminate racism in all of its toxic forms. To stand up effect systemic and sustained change.
You might be thinking, What can I do? How can I be a positive part of this movement? I’ve put some resources and ways to get involved below. Because this isn’t going to be fixed overnight, but little by little, we can each improve ourselves and therefore improve the world.
Founder and CEO, SEEMA
Get educated. Learn about the protests. Read books like How to be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendo or The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. And have real, open, honest conversations with your children about racism.
Support Black-owned businesses. Plenty of publications have put together local resources, like this list of Black-owned restaurants from Time Out NY.
Lean on our community. We’re in this together. Check out organizations like South Asians 4 Black Lives for resources, conversation, and education.
Keep at it. This isn’t going to change overnight. Keep listening, learning, sharing, and improving, even after the news cycle changes.
Read more about this topic including Being Dougla in America and also South Artists in Solidarity with Black Lives Matter.