One step forward, two steps back

With only two days left before the results of the 2016 election, I am desperately hoping that all the Asian Americans realize who would truly make a good representative for the United States and keep minority interests in mind. In particular, the South Asian community saw representation in the presidential election from major Indian politicians. Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana, and Nikki Haley, governor of South Carolina, remain prominent minority figures in the Republican party. With a Black president and Asian Americans in powerful offices in the country, the political scene appears to be progressing to be more accepting and open to minority voices. And yet, the harsh racist and misogynistic discourse of the present presidential election have only polarized Asian american vote to be against Republican candidates. How do Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley fit in all of this? This sharp contrast in representation and vocalization show how the rise of neoliberalism and whitewashing of Indian Americans in conservative politics have helped center white heteronormativity in the US.

Until the 1990s, the majority of Asian American had held vastly conservative views and voted Republican, a fact that I never realized. As Chou had discussed, the application of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965  only allows select women and skilled workers to enter the country continues to this day producing an Asian American sub-sect that is visibly wealthy, but a poor representation of the true demographic of all Asian Americans (Chou, Ch3, ). For these Indian Americans, conservative cultural ideals used to align with fiscal policy of the Republican party, but they struggle to accept the more racialized and religiously exclusive mentality of the recent Republican platform. (Karthick, 2016) Since Bill Clinton’s campaign in 1992, the Asian American vote has become increasingly left leaning, with 73% of Asian Americans’ votes supporting President Obamas re-election in 2012 (Karthick, 2016) . We can attribute this rise of Asian American Democratic vote to the rise of Neoliberalism.  Politically, neoliberalism equates citizenship to consumerism where agency can be seen as purchase power (Lecture, 10/24/16). Despite being an ethnic community that has long been traditionally conservative, there are few Indian Americans who could be swayed by “equal rights” rhetoric which caters towards white ideals. And yet asian american’s have had very little representation and participation in politics in US history, very little voice in achieving those “equal rights.” Neoliberalism advocates power, but only grants citizenship to white heterosexual males making it challenging for Asia Americans to advocate on behalf of their ethnic community. As such, the only Indian Americans advancing in the political sphere are those who abandon all cultural ties to don white faces perpetuating a “model minority.”


Under the ideals of neoliberalism, South Asian Americans like Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley, have assimilated with rich, white conservative republicans under the guise of Indian American voices they represented. Acculturation and whitewashing of republican South Asian american political candidates only reinforces the heterosexual binaries and centers around white hegemony. Nikki Haley’s evolution as she ascended through the political hierarchy mirrors the Vietnamese women’s acculturation in beauty pageants. Nikki Haley was originally born as Nimrata “Nikki” Narandhawa, a Sikh to Indian immigrant. Lieu’s discussions of the acculturation and neo-liberalization of Asian American beauty pageants only serves to reaffirm white power structures and heterosexual norms. Though her decision to marry a white american and identify as Christian and Sikh are presumed to be her own, they are in truth part of larger neo-liberal movements that surrenders agency to white authority. Bobby Jindal’s whitewashing further silences the South Asian voice. He also converted to Christianity and had his name changed from Piyush. Both individuals are married with children the epitome of a heteronormative white American family. Jindal and Haley’s actions in many ways betray their Indian nationality and racial community in the similar to Asian American women who are at conflict with their cultural and sexual identity (Bow,).  Jindal is anything but a representative of Indian Americans in his 2016 Presidential bid as the Republican party nominee. Governor Haley may seem supported in her decisions to adopt Christianity and assumes a white female’s image, but she alienates her own Indian community. Her biggest betrayal being the endorsement to Donald Trump, Republican presidential candidate who encourages misogynistic and racist discourse. The acculturation of leading Indian American politician in response to neoliberal ideals does not represent a growing minority voice in politics.

As an Indian American, I admire and take pride in Indian Americans who have conquered politics despite their more obvious ethnic and racial disadvantages. However, it has become increasingly clear that the so-called progressive and liberal values of conservative politics has only worked to silence South Asian voices. While it baffles me, the only Indian americans who have yet to attain positions of great power are those who discard their very indian identity. The persistence of such ideals culminates in a Trump Ad in which his half assed attempt to copy the President of India’s running slogan to play off the radical, elitist Indian Americans who do not see their voices being silenced. How else can we explain the existence of such ridiculous presentation?

Tuesday will be an auspicious day.

How Asian Americans Became Democrats


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