In the Matter of Race
Regarding Jaya Padmanabhan’s editorial on “race” (“It’s the Race Card, People,” India Currents, March 2016), I am Indian on my mother’s side, so for better and worse it doesn’t show in my name in our one-surname-only society.
Merle Oberon, the late movie star (Wuthering Heights, etc.), was also Indian on her mother’s side, but lived at a time when one had to hide our Indian heritage, else one would be subject to discrimination.
(I love Mahatma Gandhi’s response when he arrived in England and was asked what he thought of British civilization and he said, “That would be an excellent idea.”)
About “race” and the Oscars, it is a fact that blacks are well-represented statistically in movies, on TV, and in ads, whereas Hispanics, Indians, East Asians, etc., are very under-represented. It is WE who should speak up and insist on inclusion, and accurate inclusion. (When Jodie Foster was given an Indian husband in her film The Brave One, I believe he was made a Christian, which is not typical and gives movie-goers a false impression.)
Keep up the good work but avoid cross fanatics and don’t give in to incorrect ideas and terms about nationality and race. I am just as Caucasian as the next average person here and am very proud to be Indian, all of our major western languages began in India, and much culture besides (for instance, the word “ignite” comes from the fire god Agni).
Henry E. Collins, Los Angeles, CA
I am three-quarters Indian and read your editorial with interest.
First, I might encourage Indians—people from India or of Indian origin—to correct those who call Native Americans “Indians.” Columbus thought he’d landed in India. Had he thought he’d landed in China, most Americans would still be calling Native Americans “Chinese.” Or, ironically, red Chinese (as in red Indians, who are not red, but this culture likes to assign colors for easy, if inaccurate, reference).
Second, Indians are Caucasians. Yes, typically darker than European Americans, but/and still Caucasian. Color or shade is one thing, race is another. Feel free to educate average Americans, be they “white” or “black,” about the word Caucasian, which most don’t understand. Nor have most heard of the Indo-European family of languages, although they speak one (usually only one).
And using the word “Asian” to cover the by far biggest continent population-wise (also the biggest geographically) is lazy as well as inaccurate. It’s like always saying “European” and never saying French, German, Italian, etc. There are far more differences within Asia, culturally and racially, than there are in Europe. “Asian” reduces this complex continent which will, in time, be the world’s power center and ignores its fascinating and increasingly relevant differences and contributions.
Wilhelm Sanborn, Santa Monica, CA
In 1992, I got a call from a Human Resources representative because I had marked myself as Asian in one of the forms. I didn’t know any better at that time. My logic was that India is in Asia, therefore I’m an Asian (the choices on the form were very limited then, Caucasian, Hispanic, African American, Asian)
I remember the conversation vividly. He said that they were going to cross out Asian and mark me down as a Caucasian.
I was bewildered. I had never thought of myself as a Caucasian. Basically, I was informed that when you look at facial features and body type, Indians are closest to the Caucasian race.
If that is the case then Nikki Haley has a reason for identifying herself that way on the form (even though her motive might have been different). The forms have more options now and many times I have seen South Asian as an option.
Suchitra Bhandarkar, email
I am not sure that I agree with Jaya Padmanabhan entirely about it being confusing and hence OK to identify yourself as white (“It’s the Race Card, People,” India Currents, March 2016). Can you imagine the row it would have caused if she had said that she was Black, instead?
If you parse it carefully, the categories are supposed to represent ethnicity/race, but I do agree that the labels are very misleading when you say Black and White. Maybe it should be more like African descent or Caucasian etc.
Of course it is also interesting that many states do not require you to fill in that race category but South Carolina does! Maybe you should write an article along the lines of how archaic/misleading the choices are and use that to frame the larger racial argument.
Shyam Pillalamarri, email
Chuckles and Giggles
I loved the article by Usha Akella (“Pomegranates and Potatoes,” India Currents, February 2016). She perfectly describes the “pom” and “pot” (such apt abbreviations!).
The writer has a great imagination. The paragraph where the pom and pot are asking the mirror as to who stands taller is funny. I chuckled when the mirror said to the pot to take a good look at itself and lose some of its weight. It still brings a smile to my face as I write this.
And the way the author refers to God’s creations and how the potato was an afterthought was simply inspired!
She perfectly describes the pom: the peeling of which is a torture. And the pot, the poor pot, existing merely to gratify the belly. It isn’t torturous to eat, peel, cut, fry, or even microwave. It pleasurably satisfies the hunger of human beings.
An hour after reading, I was still thinking of the words and sentences Usha used so eloquently.
Meenakshi KP, San Diego, CA