I AM NOT YOUR DIASPORA: SOUTH ASIANS, DESIS, INDIAN TAMILS, EELAM TAMILS AND MY LACK OF HOME

There is a problem within the South Asian community of dismissing the likes of Tamil people as being dark, monkey-looking, and inept. It is quite the narrative of persecution, as it is also the reason for the genocide and discrimination that Tamil folks experience. This is especially true for Eelam Tamils. We are prudent and part of the South Asian narrative when it means you can claim our success. Aziz Ansari, Mindy Kaling, Padma Lakshmi, A.R. Rahman, Navi Pillay, Sundar Pichai, Siva Kaneswaran, M. Night Shyamalan, etc. leave the back of your throats as notable South Asian/Desi figures. But when it comes to Tamil people, you want nothing to do with our humanity. You mutter the names of Tamil folks and claim they’re South Asian when people talk about the cute Aziz Ansari bit they saw on YouTube. This is a problem. There have been numerous times when I hear, “Tamil people are so dark, but you all are so smart” or “Tamil people are the ugliest of South Asians.” There is an insinuation that being dark is a negative characteristic, and Tamil people are not worthy of being included in the South Asian landscape. Well, I don’t want anything to do with it.

There is a massive distinction between Eelam Tamils and Indian Tamils. For those new to everything and never opened a Wikipedia page, Eelam is the alternative state that Tamil people who were born in Sri Lanka take on because Sri Lanka never wanted us. Sri Lanka is a Sinhalese state that conducted our genocide for 26 years and remains discriminatory and violent towards Tamil bodies. There have been numerous instances of rape and other forms of brutal violence and genocide that the Sinhala state has initiated against Tamils. And you know what the South Asian community’s response is? Silence. Acquiescence. Not giving a shit. To you all, I say do better. Don’t conveniently claim us and our brilliance and beauty when it benefits you and sheds light on your South Asian identity. 

South Asian and Desi are generic terms that are intended to eliminate the nuanced oppressions and struggles that different groups experience from the Southern part of Asia. I must say, most South Asian groups in America did not experience the same struggles that Eelam Tamils experience. Many of us were smuggled; many of us orphans, many of us were a part of gangs as a form of protection and survival against other South Asian groups. We don’t have a home. Our homes are markings of memories embedded in our bodies, other bodies and truths up for grabs. Our mothers birthed stillborn thaalee kodis (wedding necklaces) and fathers lamented in pools of Johnnie Walker. We are refugees and will forever be refugees, with merely oral tradition to preserve our children and us. This is not you. Claim us or don’t, but only pick one.

Our disposability is a result of seeing as us too close to black to be good enough for you. It is anti-blackness. We are too dark, not Eurocentric enough. We are your indentured servants, your tea plantation workers, your cooks, your maids, your drivers because you made us be. I refuse to identify as South Asian or Desi from now on if that means you own me, I refuse to be "a part" of a diaspora that plagiarizes my work and lingers behind me to merely kick me in the end.