Your Skin Folks Ain’t Your Kinfolks

Recall Election – Indian Americans Running for CA Governor

Indian Americans figured in the list of 46 candidates seeking to replace Newsom on the recall ballot: Kevin K. Kaul, Major Singh and Vivek Mohan made a campaign bid to be the next governor of California. 

Ethnic voters played a decisive role in California’s gubernatorial election keeping Governor Gavin Newsom in office. Low propensity voters were pulled to the polls by their community organizers. “It is imperative to vote if you want a seat at the decision table.” 

Essential workers (workers in agricultural fields, meatpacking plants, grocery stores, construction, restaurants, taxi cabs, trucks and numerous other frontline jobs) have no time for civic engagement, they are thinking of survival. Community workers played an important role in engaging them. They rallied a troupe of volunteers, folklórico dancers and mariachi bands to serenade would-be voters. About 30% of California’s registered voters are Latino. Luis Sánchez and his group, PowerCA Action reached more than a quarter-million voters ahead of election day, encouraging young Latino Californians to head to the polls.

“They were reminded of what was at threat if a recall was successful: the gains we had so far: tenant protections, worker wages for our base voters, state’s response to the pandemic,” said Sonja Diaz,  the founding director of the Latino Policy & Politics Initiative (LPPI), speaking at an Ethnic Media Services briefing. LPPI is a comprehensive think tank that focuses on political, social and economic issues that impact Latinos and communities of color. 

“Be a critical voter as opposed to a skin color voter,” said Janette Robinson Flint, Executive Director Black Women for Wellness, at the briefing. “ Look at the history of the candidates and see if it matches your needs as a community. Make sure their agenda is not counter to your needs as a community with regards to healthcare and Covid. Just because Larry Elder is black it does not mean he delivers your agenda. Your skin folks ain’t your kinfolks, ”said Flint of Black Women for Wellness 

“Black women were salty with Governor Newsom for not finding a black woman to take Kamala Harris’ place but we are not going to cut off our noses to spite our face,” said Flint. “We knew we couldn’t sit this election out. The recall would have an effect on politics at the national level. Besides we have some very important policy bills on the governor’s desk so we made a big push to get the voters out to support Newsom,” said Flint.

Her team put out posters in beauty salons and barber shops. “We pasted posters on fences, at bus shelters, on the back of buses in the Bay Area and San Francisco. We watched over as a sentinel, spoke on black radio talk shows….the whole range of the ground game so the voters knew it is important to our community that they go out and vote,” said Flint. 

At approximately 4 million, Indian Americans are the second-largest Asian American subgroup in the U.S.,trailing only Chinese Americans. California has the largest Indian American population in the U.S. Indian Americans now constitute 22.6% of the population in Cupertino 18.08% in Fremont, 15.52% in Sunnyvale,13.75% in Yuba City, 13.64% in Santa Clara, 11.46% in Union City and 11.34% in San Ramon, as per the 2020 Census

It is extremely important that we utilize the powerful tool of voting to raise our South Asian voices. India Currents went Live urging its readership to vote. Impact of the growing majority of ethnic voters in an election hinges on its turnout.

Rajiv Bhateja, founder of Silicon Valley Courageous Resistance and co-founder of They See Blue, a Silicon Valley-based national organization to mobilize South Asians in America, did outreach at places Indian Americans visit. “We have made phone calls, emailed, and delivered flyers to voters.To create awareness They ran advertisements and stood at street corners and farmer’s markets,” Bhateja said.

”The 2022 general election is going to be challenging with the Census 2021 and the resultant gerrymandering. There are already so many voter suppression bills. We have our work cut out for us,” said Bhateja. 

This election was a step towards ensuring that they would participate in upcoming elections when results will really matter and the political landscape can be shifted.

“We must get voters to cast a vote in an election that is not as important in order to get them to cast the vote when it really matters later,” Sonja Diaz said. 

“We understood the importance of participating in this election.”


Ritu Marwah is a 2020 California reporting and engagement fellow at USC Annenberg’s Center for Health Journalism.


 

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