|HOME | NEWS | BOOKS|
|March 31, 2000|
Professor Attacks Model Minority Myth
R S Shankar
Religion is not meant to make people comfortable, Vijay Prashad loves to say. On the other hand, religion should make one ask questions about the inequities, injustices and inhumanity in the world and galvanize us into acting, he believes.
Prashad, a professor at a Connecticut university, is a familiar face to South Asian viewers who recently watched the PBS documentary, Desi: a phenomenal success. He was one of the two narrators in the documentary that was aired three times at a stretch.
Now, his book The Karma of Brown Folk will further stimulate controversies and debates. Prashad's book is published by the University of Minnesota Press. In May, he will have a book on Dalits published by Oxford University Press.
'How does it feel to be a problem?' asked W E B Du Bois of black Americans in his classic The Souls of Black Folk.
Nearly a hundred years later, Prashad asks South Asians in America: 'How does it feel to be a solution?'
He brings up such issues as the South Asian, particularly Indian Americans, of being a model minority and succeeding in areas where other minorities, particularly African Americans, have lagged.
Even as he questions the rate of success for Indians, as popularly perceived in the media, he is convinced -- like many other critics before him -- that the myth of model minority was invented to berate the African Americans for failing in education and business.
Many social activists and academics have argued: Instead of taking the blame for the failure of African Americans, the white establishment wants to make them the perpetrators of their own poverty and destitute -- and use the myth of South Asian success to demean African Americans.
The myth of model minority, Prashad argues is consistently deployed as "a weapon in the war against black America." He challenges conservative writer Dinesh D'Souza ( Illiberal Education) who has heralded South Asian success in the US. Prashad also seeks to question "the quiet accommodation to racism" made by many South Asians.
Prashad says he has sought to reclaim in his book the long history of black and South Asian solidarity by discussing joint struggles in the US, the Caribbean, South Africa, and elsewhere.
Now, he wants to expose how these "powerful moments of alliance faded from historical memory" and are being replaced by Indian support for anti-black racism.
Untouchable Freedom: A Social History of a Dalit Community is the second book by Prashad that will be released this year.
Delhi's citizens revile the sanitation workers who clean their city, he notes but they also rely on them. For a pittance, and without much technological support, these workers keep the city as clean as possible. Using the Delhi Dalits as the background, he seeks to look at the larger picture.
Prashad will address members of the South Asian Journalists Association on April 24 in New York (www.saja.org).
SINGLES | NEWSLINKS | BOOK SHOP | MUSIC SHOP | GIFT SHOP | HOTEL BOOKINGS
AIR/RAIL | WEATHER | MILLENNIUM | BROADBAND | E-CARDS | EDUCATION
HOMEPAGES | FREE EMAIL | CONTESTS | FEEDBACK