I discuss the uptick in South Asian women’s political leadership in this piece by Laila Kazmi: “In Washington State, South Asian American Women Are Ushering in a New Era of Political Engagement” (November 2, 2017).
The article notes:
“Compared to previous elections, the tally of female South-Asian candidates is significant, according to Dr. Amy Bhatt, co-author of “Roots and Reflections: South Asians in the Pacific Northwest” and associate professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at University of Maryland.
“[South Asian Americans] have had such a low historic presence in elected offices at all levels across the United States,” Bhatt says.
But Jayapal’s election last November to U.S. Congress may represent a turning point. Her victory and the fact that Washington State is home to one of the oldest South Asian immigrant communities in the country — dating back to the beginning of the twentieth century, when Sikhs first arrived here to work in timber and farming — might explain why we’re seeing such an interest in running for office.
Early South-Asian immigrants came mostly as laborers and those who arrived in the mid-20th century generally came either for higher education opportunities or to join family members already here. They tended to not be very political, according to Bhatt.
“But, now we are seeing first- and second-generation immigrants [running for offices], in part because the community today is more complex and multigenerational,” says Bhatt, herself a second-generation Indian American. “There is also the awareness that with rising Islamophobia and rising xenophobia in the country, if we don’t start taking a stronger stance, politically, we are also going to be victimized.”