Searching for anti-racism agendas in South Asian Canadian communities

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As recent South Asian immigrants to Toronto, we write this article in response to personal contentious conversations about the Black Lives Matter movements and recent Wet’suwet’en protests with our South Asian families and community. Our arguments in support of these movements are often met with disdain. Even worse, we have encountered erroneous attitudes towards Black and Indigenous Peoples.

As South Asians, we are racialized but are also settlers on this land. Indigenous studies scholars Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang explain: “Settlers are diverse, not just of white European descent, and include people of colour, even from other colonial contexts … Settlers are not immigrants … Settlers become the law.” Immigrants adopt the law of the land they move to, but if the land itself is stolen, then whose laws do we adopt?

As feminists and critical researchers of race, space and capital, we consider immigration to Canada to be part of the state’s capitalist and imperialist strategy to recruit new settlers. It is a way to keep Indigenous Peoples dispossessed and to render their and Black people’s labour undesirable.

In this way, racism can sometimes be treated by racialized immigrants as a white settler-Indigenous-Black triad. But critical race scholarship warns that we must not perpetuate Indigenous and settlers as a binary or opposite. Hence, any discussion of the precarious settlement of immigrants must also include an analysis of dispossession of Black and Indigenous Peoples. We need to identify settler colonialism as a structure and phenomena that simultaneously claws into everything: the cultural, political, social and economic.

South Asians first arrived in Canada in the early 1900s from former British colonies including the Indian subcontinent, Africa and the Caribbean. They are currently one of the largest and fastest growing populations in Canada with growing socio-economic, political and cultural influence. Hence, it is imperative that we reflect on the presence of South Asians — as a body politic Canada — and their historic and current relationship to a racial capitalist agenda.