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More South Asians Donating Politically! Is It Enough?

October 22, 2009

Two days ago, Roll Call (a publication that writes about the people, politics, process and policy on Capitol Hill) published a story entitled “Indian-Americans Priming the Pump,” about the deluge of Indian political candidates and the corresponding deluge of political contribution requests being made to the Indian/Indian-American communities across the country.   The article suggests that the Indian American community is rising to the challenge, and “Uncles and Aunties” are better and better understanding the need to “have one of their own at the table.”

I generally agree that South Asian Americans increasingly are willing to donate to political campaigns.  But the article makes it sound easy, and it’s still not.  My  husband (Sendhil) and I are supporting an Indian American candidate for Illinois Comptroller – Raja Krishnamoorthi.   In addition to committing our own financial resources and serving on Raja’s Asian American Advisory Committee, we have held informal friend-raisers and fundraisers and plan to hold more.    It may be easier than it was, but it still is very, very hard work to convince South Asian folks (even my friends) to give to political campaigns.  (By the way, it’s even more difficult to get South Asians to give philanthropically.) 

To be fair, it may be that it’s difficult to get anybody to give to political campaigns (especially in Illinois for reasons having to do with an ex-Governor) or that I’m not an effective fundraiser.   Even if true, this experience is shared by others I know who attempt to raise funds from the South Asian community.  I’m not saying we haven’t come far, but the lack of Indians successfully elected to public office suggests that we haven’t come far enough. 

There is a very lively conversation taking place at Sepia Mutiny about the Roll Call article.   The comments suggest some tension about giving as a general principle as well as between giving to political campaigns versus giving to charitable causes.    It’s good that we’re hashing this out.  We, as a minority community within the United States, need to talk more often and more openly about our giving, political or otherwise.

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