By Sahana Mehta
At this moment in the history of South Asians in the United States, we cannot afford to be complicit, and we must mobilize in solidarity with other marginalized communities. As the recent detainment of immigrant rights activist leader Ravi Ragbir demonstrates, those who stand up against injustice in our communities are the first to be targeted by this violent, xenophobic, racist administration. However, Ravi’s release reminds us of the power of our communities, and the ways in which we can resist fascist forces like this administration.
Until just a few years ago, there was no space on campus for South Asians to explore questions of identity and positionality in meaningful ways. The only space in which South Asians on campus could congregate was focused solely on socializing, and not invested in political struggle. Because of the tireless efforts of a South Asian AARC Intern and the fierce support of our Director, Dr. Kehaulani Vaughn, a one-person committee called Desi Table was created in 2015. Since then, a South Asian Mentorship Program for first-years and transfers has launched, and the Committee for South Asian Voices (formerly Desi Table) has put on a variety of events, now with 11 devoted members. Genealogies like this one inspire me to continue this pushing this work forward.
Despite what misleading data on Asian & Pacific Islanders in the United States suggest, South Asians are an incredibly diverse group of people with a multitude of positionalities. South Asians need not be homogenous to stand, work, and fight in solidarity with one another, but rather we must do the labor of listening and understanding each others’ unique experiences and histories in order to build a true community.
This year, the Committee for South Asian Voices has put on events to explore queer South Asian stories, the caste system and the Indian state, NGOization and gender in India, the Rohingya refugee crisis, Indo-Caribbean histories, and processing South Asians in media. Furthermore, we have formed a relationship of solidarity with South Asian Network, an LA based South Asian community organization. Inspired by the work of Jahajee Sisters, the Alliance of South Asians Taking Action, Desis Rising Up & Moving, Equality Labs, and so many others, we are following in deep traditions of South Asian activism in the United States. Whenever I feel lost or wonder why I do this work, histories of South Asian resistance remind me that I am right where I belong, within and alongside community. CSAV is the nurturing, powerful, radical space that I have been looking for, and I am honored to be part of its history.