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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

November 9, 2006

Written by C.N.

Indian Community in the U.S.

Among all Asian American ethnic groups, Indians consistently stand out as the most socioeconomically successful and one of the fastest-growing. As a reflection of those characteristics, Salon.com has an article that outlines the burgeoning Indian American community in the U.S.:

Not only is the Indian community burgeoning, it’s maturing. Increasingly, after decades of quietly establishing themselves, Indians are becoming more vocal in the American conversation — about politics, ethnicity and many other topics. “I’ve been studying the community for 20 years and in the last four or five years something different has been happening,” said Madhulika Khandelwal, president of the Asian American Center at Queens College in New York. “Indian-Americans are finally out there speaking for themselves.” . . .

Many Indian immigrants arrived in the U.S. focused almost entirely on individual success — getting a top-notch job, making good money and pushing their children to do the same. But things are changing. After the Sept. 11 attacks, many Indian Sikhs, who wear turbans as part of their faith, were mistaken for Muslims — and terrorists. Hundreds were harassed or worse: In Mesa, Ariz., a Sikh gas station owner was shot and killed on Sept. 15, 2001, by a man who told police “all Arabs had to be shot.”

Few knew their rights because few had been engaged politically, said Amardeep Singh, executive director of The Sikh Coalition in New York. “We were caught with our pants down,” he said. “Sept. 11 created a confrontation. We realized we now need to actively involve ourselves in the policy-making process. Otherwise policies will be made that exclude us.”

As this article illustrates, Indian Americans embody a very interesting and, I believe, ultimately good trend among Asian Americans — namely, seizing the opportunity to both assert their American identities and rights to act like, and be treated as, an American just like anybody else on the one hand, and on the other, to also maintain and celebrate elements of their traditional Indian culture.

This phenomenon is probably best embodied in the banghra music mentioned in the article — traditional Indian melodies and chanting mixed with a contemporary hip hop beat. In the process of synthesizing these two sets of cultural elements, Indian American show us all how it is possible to expand the definition of what it means to be an American. In the past, only Whites were entitled to that status. But now, Americans inevitably come from many cultures and have many skin colors, but are still Americans nonetheless.


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Copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le. Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Indian Community in the U.S." Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2006/11/indian-community-in-the-us/> ().

Short URL: http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/?p=317