I grew up in a pretty traditional South Asian household. I’ve tried talking about the Black Lives Matter movement numerous times before, but my family just didn’t seem too invested in it. Most of the time, I would just give up. Because it was just too frustrating.
But that’s the problem, right? These are just events that we hear about or see in the news, just optional conversations that we can opt in or out of. But for black people in America, this is reality. It’s not just another life lost; it is yet another manifestation of the unhinged, systemic racism that we all allow to continue and continue to allow.
Black people in America don’t get to choose to live in constant fear. They don’t get to choose that law enforcement dehumanizes them. So it feels inherently wrong that my community gets to choose whether or not we care.
Last week at dinner, I was startled when my dad himself brought up the killing of George Floyd. He said it was cruel and inhumane. I used it as an opportunity to, once again, open up conversation about the broader issue of police brutality. The dialogue ended with everyone in surprise: my parents at the severity of police violence, and me at the fact that they had actually listened and begun to understand.
My dad said, “I wonder what they [white Americans] think of us [Indians].” I countered by explaining how we have the privilege of being viewed as highly educated and (generally) of higher SES. He nodded. After a pensive pause, he said “that’s true.” My mom had been silently listening to all of this, and she eventually said, “imagine how many incidents like this don’t get recorded on video.” I couldn’t help but tear up.
This might seem trivial to some, but in my family, where we rarely talk about things like this, it meant a lot to me. It meant that I can help my parents engage with such social issues. It meant that “being conservative” or “being indifferent” is no excuse. I know I still have a long ways to go, in talking to them about racism, about the model minority myth, about all the other societal issues that plague us. But this was a step in the right direction. Albeit, a small baby step, but it symbolized growth nonetheless.
Why am I sharing this? Because if my family can see a breakthrough, then I think yours can, too. I know it’s uncomfortable and frustrating to have these conversations, but we all share the onus to examine our anti-blackness and do something about it. If our black friends don’t get to choose to live, we don’t get to elect out of this conversation.
We often see “but she could be your sister/mother/wife/daughter” as a trope when addressing gender-based violence. My problem with this phrase is that it bases the woman’s worth off of the audience’s relationship to her. It overlooks the truth that the woman has innate value as a human being, irrespective of anyone’s relation to her. In the same way, I refuse to say “he could have been your brother/father/husband/son” when talking about violence against black men.
Because as far as I’m concerned, he was my brother. There is a Hindu saying, “Vasudevam Kutumbakam.” It translates to “the whole world is my family.” So as long as this deep racism persists, I’ll continue to speak up against it (and you should, too). Because injustice upon any of us is an injustice upon all of us.
Roma Gujarathi is a rising second-year student at BC Law. She loves to hear from readers: email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.