Is there Anti- Blackness in the South Asian Community?
Our title is very much explanatory but we thought we’d get the opinion of someone who is in an interracial relationship. Jonah Batambuze created the ‘blindian project’ to highlight couples mainly from the black and south asian community and has a number of following on instagram.
Today we spoke with Jonah Batambuze of Blindian Project, to tell us a little more about their social media campaign.
Hi Jonah, thank you for joining us, so what is the Blindian Project? When did you create this platform? Is there a team behind this?
The #BlindianProject is a globally crowdsourced, art-based project and community. The project initially launched in July 2017 with encouragement from my wife, Swetha Maddula-Batambuze.
Today, the team consists of several volunteers and content creators, such as Arion Lawrence, Nimal Jude, and others based around the world.
Why did you think you needed to create this platform? What is the aim of your platform?
I met my wife, Swetha, in 2001. It wasn’t until 2017 that either one of us communicated with a person in a Blindian relationship. Neither one of us necessarily was looking for another Blindian couple. But, it did stick out that we’d never met individuals in a similar relationship.
In 2017, before boarding a plane on our first family trip to India, an Al-Jazeera article entitled “African Victims of Racism Share Their Stories” appeared on my iPhone. Enraged street mobs in Noida, New Delhi, were beating up anyone resembling an African.
I returned from that trip with an urge to connect with other people in Blindian relationships and explore Anti-Blackness within the community. I put out a call to action across social and crowd-sourced ten compelling stories from around the world. I felt our stories needed to be heard.
The #BlindianProject aim is three-fold:
- Unite Black x South Asian communities
- Create safe spaces for Black x South Asian communities to interact and learn about one another through culture.
- Dismantle Anti-Blackness in both Black x South Asian communities
What do you think of the anti-blackness in the Indian community? How do you think we can tackle this?
Shortly before the George Floyd event, we recorded a podcast entitled “Unlearing Anti-Blackness in The South Asian Community.” I felt as if discussing Anti-Blackness within the community was the foundation of understanding the challenges we experience in our relationships. I learned a lot through self-reflection, research, and discussion with my co-hosts and our special guest Dhruva Balram. AntiBlackness is deep-rooted within the culture. It has many parallels with Anti-Blackness / racism in the United States while also being different.
The George Floyd event has been the catalyst for positive conversations against Anti-Blackness around the world. It has caused many people to reflect and ask themselves how they can be part of the solution. Firstly, I believe the only way we can defeat AntiBlackness is by having difficult conversations with those closest to us. Secondly, I think more cross-community spaces where Black x South Asian communities can interact over shared interests are required to break stereotypes in both of our communities.
What is your Blindian story?
In 2001, after playing basketball for the last 12-years of my life, I pursued an opportunity to study abroad. Little did I know, but God planned for me to cross paths with someone who would change my life forever. Not to be cliche, but this woman was different. She was the first Indian woman I’d dated and would later become my wife.
I attended University College Dublin for a semester and lived in a seaside suburb called Blackrock. One night while eating dinner, an Indian princess caught my attention. She lived in Ireland when she was younger, following her family’s move from Andhra Pradesh. She studied medicine in Scotland and was visiting a childhood friend who conveniently lived in my dormitory. A spark was lit.
At the end of the semester, I headed back to the States. We decided to stay in touch. This started a cross-cultural, long-distance love story that lasted for several years. When we brought our parents into the relationship, we were fortunate not to experience any major opposition to our relationship that other couples face.
In 2007, I moved to England and we were married. We now live 1-hour outside of London, with our two children, aged 6/4.
What is Rum&Roti?
Rum And Roti is a platform celebrating the intersection between Black x Brown culture. A few months ago, I connected with DJ Doni Brasco online. We both discussed ideas we had centered around, bringing our communities together and landed on this concept, along with a friend of Doni’s named Preya Nair. Due to COVID-19, we’re restricted to online events, but for now we curate a diverse group of DJ’s who play South Asian songs and Black music.
What is your advice for interracial couples?
My advice for interracial couples is to have faith in our relationships and not to get bogged with what society tells us is right or wrong. Often, people let their families or the community dictate how they live their lives. However, living a life to please others usually leaves you feeling unhappy.
Do you think there are differences between American and British Indians views on interracial couples?
Honestly, I feel as if the complexities of our relationships are so unique that they all differ on a case by case basis. I’ve talked to couples in both the U.S. and U.K. who’ve married interracially with no issues. But, have also spoken to people in both locations who have been disowned for their decisions. So, t’s difficult to say whether attitudes are more relaxed in one place vs. the other.
Do you think the mixing of cultures/religion will then create confused children?
I think that the mixing of cultures/religions is a benefit for children and allows you to the best of both worlds. As parents, we have a significant role in exposing our children to both cultures/religions. But, I feel that our young children’s lives are so much richer coming from my Ugandan-American and wifes Indian backgrounds.