Illustration: Akila Weerasinghe / Himal Southasian
Illustration: Akila Weerasinghe / Himal Southasian

Do Black lives matter to Southasians?

An account of Black-Southasian relations in modern history.

Do Black lives matter to Southasians? Depressingly, the answer can seem like a resounding 'no'. African residents have faced horrific racism in India: in early 2017, African diplomats accredited to India issued a press release condemning attacks against African students as "xenophobic and racial in nature". Many Southasians blindly subscribe to some of the worst stereotypes of African Americans. In the United States and the United Kingdom, Southasian immigrants' support of Donald Trump and Brexit have had clear racial overtones, drawing a line between 'desirable' and 'undesirable' immigrants and minorities.

And yet, the Southasian faces at recent Black Lives Matter protests offer hope. They also point to a much longer and deeper history between Southasians, Africans, and members of the African diaspora (leave alone the centuries-long presence of African diasporic communities within Southasian countries). In fact, Black lives have mattered a great deal in the history of modern Southasia – especially through the Indian nationalist movement and the broader campaign against colonialism. There has been a shared struggle that goes well beyond what comes to mind for many Southasians: the influence of M K Gandhi's nonviolent thought on Martin Luther King Jr and Nelson Mandela, or B R Ambedkar's insights into similar predicaments of Dalits and African Americans. Indeed, in this shared struggle, Southasians have greatly relied upon and benefited from the support of Africans, West Indians, and African Americans.

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Himal Southasian