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Check Your Brown Privilege
Are you a model minority? Let's find out.
vinoth kumar
Adventurer
Canada
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"I am against white privilege." The 21 year old YRDSB trustee, Hanica Mathan screamed, looking at a swath of South Asian Students in Rexdale.

"You guys have to understand white privilege is real and we don't have such advantages," she added."My dad came to this country with $200,000 in the 1980s and now runs a four-star multiplex hotel, he didn't have any privileges. He hustled."

"I ran on YRDSB elections with 200 of his staff as volunteers and was the first South Asian candidate." She echoed.

"That's true, just like my dad who finished his LLB in Scotland in the 1970s, who came to this country and started off as a lawyer," Blaise Gurunathan, a third generation lawyer from Erinker and Barringer asserted."In this country, you can be whatever you want to be," they both ended their speech.

Have you come across Blaise or Hanica Mathan? Maybe, maybe not. But let me talk about a popular myth in North America which positions South Asians as model minorities. I have a huge problem with this description. It’s used as a description to indirectly disparage Blacks and Hispanics and it’s largely inaccurate.

Now what’s a model minority? A model minority is a minority demographic (whether based on ethnicity, race or religion) whose members are perceived to achieve a higher degree of socioeconomic success than the population average, thus serving as a reference group to other minority groups.

Are South Asians who migrated to North America model minorities? Let's look into some South Asian communities that are seen as embodiments of model minority values.

Indian Tamils

I don’t want to come off as a Dravidian party trumpet as it can open a can of worms but these are some Indian Tamils we laud as model minorities in the U.S.

- Sundar Pitchai- Google CEO- Tamil Brahmin

- Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar- Indian American Astrophysicist- Tamil Brahmin

- Padmanaban Sri Srinivasan- Chief United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.- Tamil Brahmin

A large population of Tamil Nadu came from farming communities and did not get much education up until the 1980s. Meanwhile, Tamil Brahmins were ahead of most communities with colonial education, so much so, that the majority of the government sector jobs were filled with Tamil Brahmins. The Mandal commission bill played a huge role in changing this, creating an exodus of Tamil Brahmins to the United States. (https://theprint.in/pageturner/excerpt/tamil-brahmins-were-the-earliest-to-frame-merit-as-a-caste-claim-and-it-showed-in-iits/351539/)

So, is Sundar Pitchai a model minority or product of colonial/caste/ generational privilege? Is it fair to compare Sundar Pitchai with a young black man from Compton?

The community that got kicked out of Uganda

Narendra Modi might get pissed off and deny me my Indian visa but I kinda, sorta, agree with the King of Scotland on some things.

Travelling out of India in the 1900s as a businessman is a huge privilege in itself (Remember, we also had populations leaving India at the same time as indentured labourers who were left to fend for themselves in Caribbean countries.). What happens when you abuse your privilege and give interviews about how “dumb Ugandans” do not have business sense and are just workers? You get expelled and have to seek citizenship in England or Canada. Mercantilism is an art taught to few communities and kept as a secret for generations. Why do you think business castes tend to marry close to each other? So, is it fair to compare a community with hundreds of years of business skills to a community that was brought in as slaves to North America? Are you a model minority or a product of privilege?

The next community that we’re gonna look at is drum rolls…..

Mutton Rolls- No, almost close. Jaffna Tamils.

Jaffna Tamils (Not Sri Lankan Tamils), had the luxury of a colonial English education. Catholic missionaries played a huge role in implementing English systems to Tamil Communities in Jaffna, thus creating successful civil servants for the British Colonial Administration in Sri Lanka, Malaysia and even Burma.The term Ceylonese is still a proud moniker amongst Malaysian and Singaporean Tamils of Sri Lankan Identity.

What happens when the community moves to the west amidst a civil war in the late 70s and 80s as accountants, lawyers, doctors etc.? They bring their skills and education with them.

Is there hustle? Yes, there is. But is there a privilege? 100%. If there is one Tamil guy owning a $2 Million dollar condo on Bay Street, there’s also a Tamil barber who struggles to pay his $700 monthly rent for his basement apartment in Scarborough.

Both of them are minorities at different stages of life. There are other South Asian communities that I could draw comparisons to, but you get the point. Many South Asians migrated to North America and the West as privileged communities. Our “success” is  made up of inter-generational caste and cultural privileges. Are we model minorities? Definitely not. Should we pay for more taxes to uplift other communities without privilege. A 100% yes.

Now, go topple that racist statue with your black friend.

 

 

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vinoth kumar
Adventurer
Canada
Born in India, raised in Singapore and made Toronto home. Life is an adventure. I think...
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