“My kids call me racist, which I am not.”
By Prerna B., YLC-Texas (as seen in newsletter)
"A lot of Black people are bums. They sit on their ass and enjoy social security money, because they don’t want to work, and deal drugs for easy money." My mom had called me over to show me a discussion on the recent Black Lives Matter protests breaking out on a Whatsapp group with her friends. Some of the aunties shared that their families had been having tough conversations and their kids were calling them racists.
All of them denied being racist, and yet several made comments on the chat that grew increasingly intolerant and shocking. When my mom tried to push back saying that we have to acknowledge our own privilege, that Black people who were forcibly brought here 400 years ago – long before us Indians arrived – are still treated as second class citizens, one person replied back “Is it because they don’t see their mistakes and make adjustments?
At a Zoom conversation later that week with these aunties, at my mom’s invitation, I talked about the structural racism Black folks experience that we have not had to experience. And I emphasized that all of us have biases, stemming from familial and societal indoctrination, that we can work to undo. Acknowledging our own biases in these conversations invites others to also introspect. Some aunties related to this point and spoke about the casteist, colorist, and anti-Black media portrayals they grew up within India. They committed to doing better to understand the history and realities of systemic racism.
Change starts with tackling racism in our own homes, communities, and Whatsapp groups. How we intellectualize the world consciously – and just saying “I am not a racist” – does not automatically erase our unconscious biases. That takes education, unlearning, and self-reflection. It means understanding that just voting for Democrats – as most of these aunties do – is not enough if we can’t stand in solidarity with other marginalized communities.
Hopefully, conversations like these can lead to internal and external change, so that young South Asian Americans will have less reason to call their parents racists. And hopefully leading these conversations will prepare my generation to raise not just non-racist, but actively anti-racist children who will be part of a more equitable and just world.