Monthly Archives

June 2020

South Asian Allyship in the Age of BLM

By Courage, Curiosity No Comments

It’s bad to be Black in Desi culture.

Hasan Minhaj described it best. We shy away from the awkward discussions at the dinner table, let the racist comments slide, because, what do our parents know? British colonization (which ceased in India as late as 1947) had adverse effects on our parent’s values and biases. They grew up surrounded by Fair and Lovely ads, taunted by their classmates and parents for being “kala” (which means dark, or black in Hindi and carries a negative connotation), and exposed to these notions of anti-Blackness subtly throughout their lives. It only makes sense that once they immigrated, they translated these biases into American society. These stereotypes were reinforced by the de-facto racism that plagues our social and political institutions and the harmful rhetoric that our leaders spew, brushing the notion of white privilege under the rug.

Spending all of my formative years in Staten Island, New York, sheltered in the most-suburban and least-diverse borough of New York City, I easily internalized the casual racism and the “model minority” myth touted around my community. My parents instilled in me the drive that us first-generation Indian kids know too well. Anyone can work hard, get into the best-gifted programs and magnet schools, get the highest scores on all standardized tests, and eventually, get into the college of their dreams. So when I began attending a magnet school in Coney Island, Brooklyn, I was armed with the notion that everyone had an equal means of succeeding if they worked hard enough. Attending this school, however, came with an unintended side effect- for the first time in my life, I was exposed to children of all races and socioeconomic backgrounds. I went to school with the children of Academy Award winners, Ivy League legacies, and, alternatively, low-income students with drug-addicted and absent parents. Interacting with my peers helped me discern the intersectionality of race and socioeconomic status- it just so happened that the majority of the low-income students were people of color. It enabled my understanding that only a few years into their schooling, these students were already at a significant disadvantage compared to their privileged peers. But it was not until I took AP United States History my junior year of high school, however, that I could pinpoint the institutionalized racism in America, and the ripple-effect of longstanding policies that allow it to proliferate and adversely affect our Black community. It took an optional Advanced Placement class for me to recognize the significant whitewashing of our history curriculums, and the Eurocentric ideals that govern our social norms and beliefs, the effect of which has not been lost on the Asian community.

As Asian students, we proudly tout this “model minority” narrative, in which our immigrant parents have excelled as business leaders, innovators, and pillars of American society. We buy into this myth that we made it because we did the hard work, the work that our fellow Black Americans are too “lazy” for. We are so quick to ally ourselves with conservative groups intent on ripping apart affirmative action admissions processes, despite the fact that our minority is overrepresented at these leading academic institutions, and have minimal barriers to entry compared to our Black peers. What we fail to recognize, however, is that our families could only immigrate to this country subsequent to the Civil Rights movement, through the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which increased Asian immigration by five times. We turn a blind eye to the fact that our success in America has been directly contingent upon the bravery and struggle of the Black community throughout the 60s. We buy into this divide and blissfully ignore our privilege as non-Black people of color. And now, our silence is deafening. How is it that we proudly support examples of Black excellence such as the Obamas, rappers, and NFL and NBA athletes but remain silent as our Black brothers and sisters are ruthlessly murdered in our communities by the very force that has sworn to protect them? How is it that we ingratiate Black culture into our own through the likes of Nav and Drake, but are hesitant to step forward and speak up against the injustices and casual racism that persist in our Desi communities? How is it that we have normalized our silence on these issues, simply because they don’t affect us? 

A lot of us, as first and second-generation immigrants have the privilege of handpicking the elements of our culture that we identify with. And for us, racism and the model minority myth will not be one of them. Educate yourself, it is not the burden of Black people to educate you. Have those tough conversations at the dinner table. Share Black stories. Uplift Black voices. Utilize your privilege and platform to support the people and culture we revere so deeply. For our Black communities, this is more than just an Instagram trend. It’s reality. 

 

Educational Resources

  • To Watch:
    • Stream “Views for a Vision” to donate money to BLM
    • When They See Us
    • 13th
    • Dear White People
    • Who Killed Malcolm X?
    • All Day And A Night
  • To Read:
    • Stay Woke: A People’s Guide to Making Black Lives Matter, by Tehama Lopez Bunyasi and Candis Watts Smith
    • No More Heroes: Grassroots Challenges to the Savior Mentality, by Jordan Flaherty
    • I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness, by Austin Channing Brown
    • Stamped from the Beginning, by Ibram X. Kendi
    • This Book is Antiracist: 20 Lessons on how to Wake Up, Take Action and Do the Work, by Tiffany Jewell
  • To Donate:
    • Black Lives Matter: funding the BLM movement
    • Innocence Project: Non-profit dedicated to overturning wrongful convictions and bring reform to the justice system
    • National Bail Out: Black-led and Black-centered organization aiming to create a national community of leaders who have experienced incarceration
    • Black Visions Collective: Minnesota-based Black, trans, and queer-led organization committed to dismantling systems of oppression and violence
    • NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund: Nationwide organization that fights for racial justice and investigates police-involved murder

It is Not Enough to be Non-racist

By Courage, Curiosity No Comments

In the last week, as these events have unfolded, I’ve been going through a range of emotions, including feelings, of anger, distress, sadness, and at times, helplessness. Aside from taking action, I’ve found myself often letting thoughts race through my mind for long periods of time. They often weigh me down with angst and stress, but I’ve begun to find ease in just voicing them. With the support and platform provided to me here by Scholars of Finance as a black member of the organization, I’m able to further do that. One of these thoughts has been tied with the increased circulation of the Angela Davis quote: “It is not enough to be non-racist. We must be anti-racist.” This powerful and truly poignant quote is extremely relevant to the moment we are in, but I’ve begun to inexplicably see negative sentiments from white people arising towards the quote, questioning it and seeing it as almost “too pressured”, that’s it “unnecessary” to be making such distinction almost as if it’s petty in the wider scope of the movement. It’s pained me to see and read such reactions to the quote and expression, and to see that some people aren’t understanding the interpretation or meaning behind it.

In voicing my thoughts I want to shed some of my own light and personal perspective on the quote. In channeling my experience, I want to show there is entire validity to that expression, and for people to truly understand why it’s meaning is important within this movement.

I want you to put yourself in my shoes. You have a young niece living on the east coast. Your sister and her family are expecting a second child due this year. That’s two close, immediate young relatives who you wish the best and would do anything for. Whether it’s for them to have the best opportunity in life, be treated fairly, be able to live their lives without fear, go about their lives doing the things that everyone should be able to do without any worry, judgment, or prejudice against them; that’s what I want you to imagine. For someone that was of your family, looked like you, that was of not just your blood but of your ethnicity and you just wanted what was fair for them, but that the world around you just isn’t a place where that is possible. You have a friend aware of the situation you face, that they are aware that you are fighting for someone who is of your family, who you care deeply about, who you want to see treated the same as everyone else, just as you wish you were, but you want to fight for them. I want you to imagine that you ask your friend, “where do you stand on this topic?” 

Of course, you would hope that people would stand on your side where they are with you, they support you, they are there willing to fight alongside you for something as evidently important as this, for something as basic and fundamental as this, in terms of treatment, in terms of how one should be able to justly and equally live their life. That is the true ally.

On the other side of the scale of responses, there is the response of someone who explicitly doesn’t believe that. They believe they shouldn’t fight for you, they explicitly reject your cause, they hold firm that you are wrong, they are on the complete, evident opposite end. That is the obvious bigot, the racist, the oppressor. Hopefully, I don’t need to say too much to shed light on that. We’re aware of what that looks like, especially when expressed in an overt manner.

I then want you to imagine with this same scenario, same instance, you approach a friend and they say “I understand your cause, I understand where you’re coming from, I hate to see it but I’m not going to actively help you, I’m not willing to actively be there for you, I’m not willing to actively do something to help you, in ensuring that your family member, that your younger relative, that someone close to you, that someone who looks like you is treated the same way, is able to live a fair life, is treated in a manner that isn’t oppressive and unjust, is able to go about their life equally as everyone should.” I want you to imagine that a friend or someone you approached or was aware of your situation and took this neutral stance, that they weren’t showing they would be there with you fighting, actively pushing your cause on your side. They’re not saying they’re against you (oh no they wouldn’t say they’re against you), they say they’re not racist, but at the same time they are just going to stay where they are, enabled to do so by the position of their privilege (even if ignorantly unbeknownst to them) and wish you well, but they will not actively support you.

I want you to imagine that you’re in this situation and that it’s your family member, that it’s someone who’s life is at a constant risk just because of the way they look, the way you both look, and a friend or someone you know read a message you’d sent out, has seen the plight, the injustice, the cause, and the situation you yourself, or your family, or someone close to you, or someone who looks like you faces as I’ve described, and yet they’re not ready to actively step forward and actively fight with you for the position you’ve been subjected to. They may be “happy” with the motive of your cause, but they’re not ready to actively champion it with you.


Do you not see how in this situation you’d feel betrayed, upset, angry. You’d feel that their silence, their reluctance to act is just as good to you and to the fight for your cause, as someone who IS the oppressor on the other end of the divide. That is what Angela Davis means when she says “it is not enough to be non-racist. We must be anti-racist.” It is not enough to just say that you observe the injustice and you don’t support it. You must actively fight against it, you must actively be there to support those suffering the injustice. 

Once again imagine that is was a cause a close to home as your family, yourself, your future descendants, your children, your brothers, your sisters, your nieces, your nephews, your people that were in this position and being treated in such a way, and you saw that someone, a friend wasn’t there to support you, that they weren’t there to stand up for your cause with you, to fight alongside you, to actively be out there making a change, making a difference. You would not feel that it’s okay in any regard for them to sit there in silent acceptance, agreeing with your cause only in name. This is what it feels like to be in my shoes. This situation I face and the stance I see so many resided to. That neutral reaction is what in this day and age it means to be “non-racist” instead of being “anti-racist”, and that is not good enough.

You need to be active against the oppression and police brutality that black people have been facing, against racism that still is prevalent in the lives of so many black people both in the United States and further afield in the Black Lives Matter movement.

A few weeks ago before George Floyd was brutally murdered, I was watching the black comedian Michael Che’s stand-up special on Netflix where he addresses the phrase“Black Lives Matter” itself. He points to how the phrase to some still seems controversial. “Matters.” I repeat “matters.” That it is not an understood aspect of our society that the life of a black person is equal, that we should be treated the same as others, that Black Lives matter and have always mattered. This is where we are at and people seemingly still struggle to openly get behind it, but that is where we as black people are left: marching, protesting and calling for our voices to be heard, and we will continue to do so until the actions and world we see around us reflect that Black Lives do indeed MATTER. As we continue in this movement, please realize non-black people that there is no middle ground. Non-racism is not good enough. People must take action and be actively anti-racist.

Taking Action Against Racial Injustice

By Values No Comments

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
– Martin Luther King Jr.

It has taken some time to think about what to say publicly about George Floyd. Hearts have been heavy, eyes full of tears, minds on fire with anger, but we have been learning and listening – having conversations with friends, colleagues, and our student members at Scholars of Finance.

Martin Luther King Jr. has been someone we’ve looked to for inspiration and guidance as we build Scholars of Finance, and his teachings have provided much-needed clarity. Dr. King famously said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

At Scholars of Finance, we stand against the fatal brutality that George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and so many more black and brown people, not only in the last week, but for more than 400 years, have been victims of in our country. We stand against the racism and inequity that have permeated our country for so long.

We stand in support of peaceful protests. We stand for a world where all people can be safe and have equal opportunity. Our stated mission is to develop the next generation of finance leaders who lead with character, integrity, and stewardship. We stand for leaders of all races and backgrounds who consider inclusion, respect, and compassion central to that mission.

Dr. King also told us, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

His call was clear. We must lead with love.

His life was clear. We must lead with action.

Our first step was to examine how we lead with our values during this time and take action in accordance with them.

Curiosity– The anger and sadness that black communities around the country are expressing is justified and understandable, and it is incumbent upon those of us with comparative privilege to first seek to understand. In the last week, we’ve heard many painful stories from our black students about the racism they’ve endured growing up, at school, at their finance internships. We must listen. We will seek diverse perspectives as we work to examine how racism has survived in the systems and institutions–the justice department, economic structures, and political machinery–that have yet to solve these problems.

Courage– We embrace change and help others do the same. We stand up for what we believe in. Those of us with privilege must confront the role we play in a system that perpetuates the socioeconomic marginalization of our neighbors. We must learn to use our privilege for good and learn to employ our social capital to shepherd change – intervening when we encounter injustice and racism, talking to friends and family, donating, calling our elected officials, confronting the issue head-on.

Integrity– We foster partnerships through respect and compassion. We will respect all people, regardless of their background, and compassionately honor our fundamental human equality. We speak the truth at all times and will foster honest dialogue among our communities to catalyze durable change and unity. We will not stand by and watch injustice occur. We will be principled stewards, proactive allies, and change agents.

Humility– We serve others above ourselves and we seek to know the truth about ourselves and those around us. Those of us with privilege acknowledge and dissolve our conscious biases – and treat feedback as a gift as we understand our unconscious ones. We must recognize that systemic change and dismantling institutional racism will take not only a city, or a nation, but the entire world.

Impact– We examine our decisions through a long term lens. Systemic racism has existed for all of recorded human history, but through thoughtful and concerted effort, perhaps we can end it in our lifetimes. While we develop durable solutions, we take action now. Multiple efforts are currently underway across our organization, including:

  • Fundraising for the cause to support black, brown, and indigenous communities
  • Calling representatives and signing petitions to demand justice and change
  • Compiling and sharing lists of resources that other students can use to support the cause

Our National Diversity & Inclusion Taskforce has been working to make Scholars of Finance increasingly welcoming and supportive of people of all backgrounds – and to help foster that same progress in the finance industry as a whole. We aimed for at least 50% ethnic and gender diversity among our student leaders this year. We reached 69% diversity and will continue to make this a priority. In the coming weeks, months, and years, we will continue to take more action.

It is integral to Scholars of Finance that these barriers presented by institutional, systemic racism are broken down as part of our commitment to ethics and integrity, not only in finance, but in the world at large. Together, we can make progress. In unity – leading with love and taking action – we can create the change we want to see, and in the words of Dr. King, “help men rise… to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.”