It's exactly four weeks until the U.S. Presidential election. But, it is also possibly three years before necessary fixes are made to Obamacare to control escalating health insurance premiums. And five years until policies to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions are put into place. And ten years before we see federal and state action to stop the school to prison pipeline that has ruined the lives of so many African American and Latino youth. Or we may never see these changes.
Growing up in the South Asian American community, I was never sure where my community stood politically. I knew my parents were liberal, but I didn't know if our family was in the minority. And I always heard THE LOUD UNCLE--not someone I was related to--but someone at dinner parties who would talk disparagingly about poor people, Black people, and sometimes other Asians and would speak in dismissive terms about affirmative action or welfare or other government programs. And no one would challenge him. And so I thought that he spoke for so many in my community.
But, he doesn't. Data from the National Asian American Survey, released last week by Karthick Ramakrishnan and his team, verifies what I have always believed. SOUTH ASIAN AMERICANS ARE PROGRESSIVE. [I can be loud too, UncleJi.] Here's what we now know about the Desi community based on a 2,238 telephone interviews of Asian Americans and specifically of 274 Asian Indians:
• 70% support Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act
• 80% support stricter emission limits on power plans in order to address climate change
• 80% support the government doing more to give blacks equal rights with whites
• 69% support major new spending by the federal government that would help undergraduates pay tuition at public colleges without needing loans, and
• 78% oppose banning people who are Muslim from entering the United States.
And, I should probably mention 67% of Asian Indians in the survey said that they would be inclined to vote for Hillary Clinton and only 7% for Donald Trump in the upcoming presidential election.
On every question asked in the survey, Asian Indians overwhelmingly chose the liberal or progressive option whether it was in terms of government benefits, climate change or national security. And they were--in what may surprise many of us--in the top three most progressive of all Asian American communities by every measure but one (increased college financial aid, where they were in the top four).
I'm thrilled to see that so many news outlets, including the LA Times and FiveThirtyEight have featured the survey data in recent articles. But, the survey data are important not just because of what they mean for November 8. They are critical for what they mean about November 9, 2016, November 9, 2026 and November 9, 2036.
It's time to unleash the power of South Asian progressives in the United States. We no longer have to sit in silence in our temples, mosques and gurudwaras, afraid that we're in the minority of our fellow Desis. We must no longer wait for every presidential cycle to assert our voice. It's time for every one of you who are reading this to do something to advance the progressive movement. Do just one of these right now:
• Join your fellow Desis by supporting amazing progressive local organizations like South Asian Network (SAN) in Southern California, national organizations like South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) in DC or one of the 50+ members of the National Coalition of South Asian Organizations.
• Endorse the platform of the Movement for Black Lives.
• Stand with undocumented members of the community in support of DACA and DAPA implementation and LGBTQ friends and colleagues to make marriage equality a reality across the country especially if you're a U.S. citizen or identify as heterosexual.
• Speak out against racist depictions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in news and entertainments outlets.
• Work toward implementation of long-term progressive policies with APIA Vote, 18 Million Rising, Race Forward and Mobilize the Immigrant Vote.
• If you're Hindu, Sikh, Jain or Christian, stop tolerating anti-Muslim comments from other South Asians as well as from White, African American, Latino and other Asian American communities and speak up against Islamophobic policies.
• And, of course, vote on November 8 . . . not only for U.S. President, but also for your member of Congress and the U.S. Senate (if applicable), your state and local policymakers and on every single ballot measure. And be sure to check out the SAALT Voter Guide to see where the presidential candidates stand.
UncleJi, you're out there somewhere. You and I have lost touch, but I don't doubt that you're still loud, perhaps you're still angry about your kids not getting into the Ivy Leagues when other people of color did, you're forever denying the existence of domestic violence in our community, and always disparaging gay, lesbian and transgender South Asians even when your nephews and nieces identify as queer. I want you to know that the Desis at the dinner party are no longer going to be silent. We know now that you're in the minority and that you speak for very, very few of us. We are finding our voices and pretty soon, you will hear us roar.