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Shivi Chauhan

South Asian Allyship in the Age of BLM

By Courage, Curiosity No Comments

South Asian Allyship in the Age of BLM

 

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

Finding The Leader Within

By Curiosity, Humility No Comments

Finding the Leader Within

 

“Um… I-” I stuttered as my interviewer raised his eyebrow at me. I felt the heat rising to my face slowly until words clumsily stumbled out of my mouth, barely coherent. It was transparent to the four upperclassmen in the room grilling me that I was grossly underprepared. The next hour crept by, each question stinging me harder than the latter. My lack of knowledge was apparent. Finally, the hour was up, my torture was over. I gathered my resume and stumbled out of the room, frustrated. It was the first month of business school and I was already struggling.

As the elevator lurched down to the lobby of Stern’s Tisch Hall and screeched to a halt, I held back my tears. How was it that I was so unprepared? Why did they expect me to know all these advanced questions for a club interview? What are technicals?These questions continually circled through my head, especially when listening to my friends detail their positive interview experiences later that day in the dining hall. They laughed, sharing the inside jokes and connections they had already made with their interviewers while I dejectedly slurped up my Jamba Juice smoothie through a drenched paper straw. It was clear to me that I had no idea what breaking into business, tech, or finance entailed. Going to Stern, I thought the next four years were going to be a piece of cake. I was going to learn everything I needed to in class, and magically secure my dream job, touting my business school’s name at every major firm. In an hour, my mindset shifted from overconfidence to anxiety. How was I going to get a job if I couldn’t even get into a club at Stern? What do I need to learn and by when? How does everyone already know everything?

The anxiety persisted throughout my first month of college. I had only applied to and got rejected from one club, and had no direction with how I should be developing myself professionally. I turned to LinkedIn, scouring upperclassmen profiles, figuring out how to get involved, remain proactive, and abate my consternation. One day, when I thought all hope was lost, I received a message from Trent Madill, Chief of Staff Intern, reaching out to me about an organization called Scholars of Finance and the opportunity to co-found an NYU chapter. Thinking it to be a spam message, I checked the link attached to see the legitimacy of the website. Shocked by its extensiveness, I messaged Trent back, indicating my interest. My interview was lined up within the week, and this time, I was determined to be overprepared. Reading through the key tenets of Scholars of Finance, I was instantly drawn to the mentorship aspect. I needed guidance on how to navigate the complex world of finance and all it had to offer.

As I sped through the interview and onboarding process, it became evident that Scholars of Finance was an organization that would prioritize my professional needs and growth. The open conversations I had with our CEO, Ross, and our National Management Interns, Jake, Trent, and Mason, all gave me a platform to pitch myself confidently to the organization while being candid about my struggles and lack of knowledge. As elections for the NYU chapter rolled around, I knew I wanted to become as involved as possible, so I ran for President and had the privilege of being elected. Unfortunately, I was under the impression that becoming elected would be the hardest part when in reality, the arduous challenges were yet to come.

Having had extensive leadership experience in high school, I anticipated I already knew everything there was to know about leading and managing people. However, my first month as President was a complete disaster. My inability to properly delegate work and empower others to complete it became painfully obvious. My Slack Direct Messages were filled with feedback from my fellow leadership team members explaining how they felt out of the loop and unable to actually complete any work, and as I took over major initiatives, I left little room for collaboration. As this continued, I quickly became bottlenecked by all the work I needed to complete, resulting in the poor organization and execution of our programs. It was only when I spoke candidly to Ross that he identified the underlying issue. “Leadership is not about doing everything yourself. It’s not about controlling or forcing others to do it either. The best leaders empower others to reach their full potential and don’t have to lift a finger themselves.” I cried as Ross continued (I wish I could say that was the first and last time), because, deep down, I knew he was right. I needed to grow and make a significant change for the sake of my chapter and co-leaders. And so, I consistently sought his feedback and implemented SoF’s philosophy of being slow to speak and quick to listen. Consequently, it did not become hard for the NYU chapter to grow and become one of the highest functioning and engaged chapters in the organization. All it took was a little guidance.

And so, Scholars of Finance made me realize true leadership and mentorship is not just about learning technical knowledge or professional development. It’s about investing in someone’s growth to make them the best possible version of themselves. Looking back on this year, I can confidently say that Scholars of Finance has made me a much better leader and manager while equipping me with the skills to continue my growth in the future.

 

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Shivi Chauhan is the President and one of the original Co-Founders of the New York University chapter. She is currently a freshman at NYU Stern majoring in Finance and Data Science with a minor in Public Policy and Management. Along with Scholars of Finance, Shivi is a Copy Editor and Staff Writer for the Stern Gould Standard, a Research Assistant in the Management and Organizations department through the Stern Program for Undergraduate Research, and she will be joining NYU’s premier raas team, NYU Raas Malai, this coming fall. In her free time, Shivi likes to learn new languages and cook with her family.