This is a long blog so I divided it up into two parts. I am posting Part I here and will post Part II shortly. I hope you enjoy the thoughts of someone who maybe does have too much time to think.
Mohandas K. Gandhi (before he was the “Mahatma”) rode on a train in South Africa, only to be thrown from it with his luggage out of the first class compartment because as a minority, he belonged in second class compartment. Gandhi refused to move at the request of the white British guard. He was moved. In fact, he was so moved by what happened in South Africa and subsequently in India, he decided enough was enough – how long would tyrannical rule and discrimination against minorities like South Indians continue? The discrimination he fought was at the hands of the British but here in America, some twenty years later, following in Gandhi’s footsteps of peaceful nonresistance and nonviolence another movement began to free Blacks from discrimination in America. Separate but Equal was alive and well in Alabama schools until very recently (1990s) – hard to believe? Segregation of women is a reality in Islamic society especially at religious sites but segregation based on the color of skin seems far-fetched to those of us raised in the 80s. The truth is while we do not openly condone segregation or discrimination, it is still alive and well in America and the victims of past discrimination, in my opinion, tend to be the worst in discriminating against those who are different from themselves. Before I go into my theory of why minorities discriminate against other minorities, I think a little background is essential of how I got the privilege of becoming a first generation American.
Lyndon Johnson did a lot to open the gates of immigration for South Asia, enabling my dad and others like him to immigrate to the United States and pursue an education. The gates opened in 1965 for Asians, and or better or for worse, immigration is a phenomenon that has defined America’s history and has in many ways, shaped the role America plays in the global economy. I think immigration to America is a good thing, bringing so much to this country that others cannot claim. Despite 9-11, Americans need to realize that not all immigration is BAD immigration – in fact, most immigration in the U.S. has revitalized and had a positive impact on the economy, on schools and education, and on the political system. Even granting asylum to those in need is a positive thing. After all, America is a country founded on immigrants.
Focusing on my dad’s generation, I could not help but wonder how the immigrants who came over here after 1965 were voting in this election especially since this is the first chance they have had to vote for a minority Presidential candidate. So far the results are mixed and like this election, quite close. Out of the people I have surveyed or talked with, most are Obama supporters – not just because they want to see a minority in office but because of his liberal views too. Then there are those who are McCain supporters. I wonder why? These Baby Boomers who left their native country in the 60s and early 70s are of retirement age or already retired and some relying on Medicare. Most are making a modest amount of money because of one bread winner in the household and are considered lower to middle income. Most went through and saw a dark period in American history – not just Vietnam and the post-Vietnam fall out (mistreatment of Veterans) but also the struggle for Civil Rights in our nation – something those of us born in the mid 70s and early 80s did not get to witness or experience. As I discussed previously, these immigrants if they came from the Subcontinent of India saw the end of British rule in India and grew up in a new India, free of British rule and tyrannical actions. But they also grew up in a divided India where Hindu-Muslim riots and violence was a daily or hourly event. They may have seen bombings and segregation in Northern India as well as Punjab and the region of Kashmir which is still highly disputed. These same people came to the U.S. at a time when they saw Gandhi’s principles echoed by Martin Luther King, Jr., Who sought to end segregation and tyranny against blacks in America. They came to America at a time when Vietnam divided the nation and worse, they came at a time in America when there was not much knowledge about who they were except “foreigners” – were they Iranian? Iraqi? What is the Indian culture after all in the 60s and 70s in America? It was new… it was unchartered territory but they endured and perservered because they wanted a better life for their children and their children’s children. (To be continued … in Part II)