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Sangam Unites South Asian Students to Defeat Stereotypes

First, let's talk about the notion of a group.

Some 40,000 years ago, our wonderful hunter-gatherer ancestors found it far more beneficial to group together than to exist alone. "Two minds are better than one," as the cliche goes.

Community and cooperation have always been the keys to human progress.

And the truth is, not too much has changed about human nature in that respect since back in the day.

In fact, we have further extended the idea of community to reach above and beyond into the larger society.

And most of us can agree that this group mentality has worked tremendously to our benefit time and time again.

Heck, the American Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, the Civil Rights movement, women's suffrage ... the list is endless.

And so our inquisitive journey pauses for a moment so that we can affirm the intrinsic value of community and the group.

So then we take one step further and define a more specific group to examine "the minority" (cultural, ethnic and religious).

What exactly is it about "minorities" that let them work so perfectly within the group mentality framework?

Well, in particular, we see that all the necessary components are present: several individuals faced with common goals (i.e. resisting oppression, securing civil rights, political and artistic expression, etc.) and the prospect of achieving those goals more efficiently should a collective effort be undertaken.

Thus, it seems logical that minorities could and should act with group mentality to achieve progress.

But finally we look at the South Asian minority in America (that includes those individuals from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Bhutan and India).

This last stop on our journey drops us in the midst of a baffling puzzle.

It seems that the South Asian minority (and possibly many other relatively new minorities) has eluded this "group" framework altogether.

Despite the fact that more than two decades have passed since South Asians emerged in the U. S. as a significant percent of the population, they still are far from being represented in the public arena.

There are relatively few South Asians in government, humanities, education, public service, etc. (I would be surprised if there were a South Asian student out there who didn't recognize the tendency for most college-bound South Asian high schoolers to immediately declare pre-medicine as their course of study, a.k.a. "pre-med syndrome.")

When is the last time you saw an Indian or Sri Lankan or a Pakistani actress play a major role in a movie?

And why is it that three hate crimes directed toward South Asians can happen in the U.S. and yet not a whisper is heard about them?

Why is it that so many South Asians can't even get past internal lines of separation?

Self-discrimination is as prevalent a problem for South Asians as it is with any other minority (Sri Lanka vs. India, Pakistan vs. India, Bangladesh vs. Pakistan ... )

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When should we draw the line?

And perhaps most puzzlingly of all, why has all of this evaded dialogue for so many years?

There is a clear problem (lack of communication) and a clear solution (communication) and still we have refrained from putting the two together. Is this a reason for concern?

Why is there a seemingly ubiquitous lack of true unity within this particular minority? We see minority groups all over the place come together to support and protect one another in the face of political, economic and social oppression of all sorts.

I applaud African Americans for their unity in the face of oppression on many fronts.

Though equality is still far from being a reality, I would like to think that the African-American minority group has done a fantastic job in striving for that and other causes. And it makes sense, right?

If a minority group doesn't stick up for its own interests, chances are (historically) that nobody else is going to either. And since the individual usually cannot be effective in facing a large majority, the "group" framework must come into play.

And so it is logical that ethnic, racial and cultural minorities often come together to face common issues. At 7 p.m. tonight in the Union Cabaret, Sangam (UNC's South Asian Awareness Organization) will host a discussion forum focusing on the questions "Can South Asian Unity Make a Difference? And If So, Then How?"

Before South Asians can take any steps forward, they first must voice their concerns and frustrations.

We have to communicate in order to change the things that need to be changed in the world around us.

Come give your input tonight and at the very least listen to what your colleagues have to say.

Sachin Patel is a junior from Cary who can be reached for more

information about this event at

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