eelam

Check Your Caste Privilege

By Sinthujan and Ram

The social, political, and economic arrangements of a society can place some people in a privileged position relative to others, particularly with respect to important goods, like institutional representation, economic resources, and even less tangible goods like “respect” and “welfare”. Since societal arrangements are not always brought into reflective awareness, it is unsurprising when even well meaning and well-intentioned members of privileged groups are unaware of how they may benefit from social arrangements relative to members of other groups. Many times have we experienced “upper-caste” Tamils unable and unwilling to recognize the privilege they hold vis-à-vis “lower-caste” Tamils in Sri Lanka and beyond. Sometimes they may well be aware of some of the difficulties faced by oppressed caste members. Sometimes they may even work for the betterment of other communities in the island, but this hardly ever translates into wider acknowledgment of the privilege centred around their “upper-caste” Tamil identity.

The denial of these privileges is widespread. Often we find “upper-caste” people relativising the inequalities felt by deprived caste Tamils, deflecting the undercurrent of casteism that produces systemic and sociocultural inequalities which continue to haunt the island and its diasporas.

This list attempts to highlight some of the privileges provided to “upper-caste” Tamils in Sri Lanka and beyond just because they are, yes, Tamils of “upper-caste” origin. Noting these privileges are not meant to antagonize or alienate people of privileged caste origin but rather raise awareness and self-consciousness about how caste identities indeed do play a role in the way they perceive, interact, and ultimately, politicize minorities on the island as well as its diasporas. It is also meant to show the extensive ways that caste identities can track inequalities in opportunity and welfare within a society and displacement. With this compilation we hope to ignite meaningful conversations and introspections into what it means to be a Tamil of “upper-caste” origin and ultimately what it means to not be of “upper-caste” origin in Sri Lanka and beyond.

Caste Privilege 

1) You don’t have to ever acknowledge your caste identity and its attendant privileges.

2) You can think that the invisibility of your caste identity speaks to the erasure of caste as a relevant social system of organisation and segregation.

3) You can think that not being aware of your caste stems from progressive education.

4) You think that not speaking about caste is an act against the caste system, and you do so without having to consider that silencing caste makes it more difficult to challenge the caste system and easier to recode, invisibilise and mainstream it.

5) You can talk about anti-casteism without ever having to name the social group that holds power and sway over every other caste group in the diasporas and homeland (here: Vellalar caste group).

6) You can think that to say that you are against caste already translates into social change.

7) You can claim that the caste system has become obliterate with time while simultaneously continuing to enjoy the fruits of century-old socially constructed inequalities and exclusion.

8) You are able to increasingly replace caste with class in your socio-economic analysis without acknowledging that the historic caste/class overlap, particularly in the homeland, continues through long-term structural effects to affect questions of access and opportunity even years, decades, and centuries later.

9) You can emphasise class over caste as a means to deflect from the importance of caste as a contemporary social marker.

10) You can deny the historic, contemporary, physical and social violence of casteism amongst island Tamils by pointing to the severity of the caste system in neighbouring India.

11) You can oversimplify by saying that “untouchability”, as understood in the Indian context, never existed in Sri Lanka, therefore caste injustices “can’t have been as bad as in India”(although “untouchability” still existed on the island).

12) You can reduce oppression, inequalities and injustices felt by the Tamil people to those committed by the Sri Lankan state. 

13) You can be progressive enough to talk about intersectionality with regards to race, ethnicity, gender, class and sexuality while erasing the question of caste from your analysis.

14) You can become an authority on caste without ever having to acknowledge your own privileged caste background and its resulting limits and subjectivities.

15) You can question the “objectivity” of oppressed caste members’ activism, research and work on caste issues based on their own membership in stigmatized caste groups.

Education and Employment

16) You can think of your parent’s aspiration for your (future) job to be completely isolated from the century old caste traditions and aspirations they grew up with.

17) You often have better support mechanisms to access and complete higher education based on the historic proximity of privileged caste members to educational institutions.

18) You can face little or less pressure to perform well or outperform others in education and employement based on your caste identity and history.

19) You can deny that caste discrimination in the employment sector continues to exist amongst Tamils, particularly amongst diasporic communities.

20) You can normalize the casteist organisation of society according to occupational practices.

Migration & Diaspora

20) You can denounce the importance of anti-caste activism in diaspora because apparently “caste doesn’t exist anymore”

21) You can overlook that migration meant for many (upper) caste-Tamils the loss of secular status by losing their inherital socioeconomic privileges on arrival in diaspora and ritual purity by having crossed the Indian Ocean.

22) You can overlook that migration meant for many deprived caste Tamils the relative liberation from caste stratified societies and socioeconomic as well as sociocultural diktats.

23) You can claim that patterns of migration from Sri Lanka had no caste linkage.

24) You can claim that the remittance economy that links diasporas and the homeland today does not reflect caste patterns and allegiances.

25) You can deny that the remittance economy further amplifies social divisions and inequalities between different caste groups in the homeland.

25) You can claim that all refugees experienced flight and integration the same without acknowledging how questions of caste and class altered or limited some people’s choices, opportunities, and adaptabilities.

26) You can deny that caste assumptions and prejudices are recreated and projected in the Tamil vernacular onto new diasporic geographies.

27) You can think of the question of “what’s your ‘ur’(home)?” as an uncritical and sentimental reflection of curiosity/nostalgia without having to consider the socioeconomically profiling/castefying as well as social violence that is hidden behind questions of geographic belonging in Sri Lanka.

Individual Histories & Memories

28) You don’t have to hide your personal biographies or rewrite your own personal history in order to circumvent the possibility of experiencing discrimination.

29) You don’t have to constantly fear for your web of lies and social buffers to be discovered and revealed.

30) You can challenge the reinvention and rewriting of identities and social histories of deprived caste members in diaspora as you consider your history as socially incontestable and free of social stigma.

31) You can proudly attest to your history without having to care about the social consequences.

32) You can publicly remember and mourn your social position back home without ever having to acknowledge how your privileged caste background entitled and made you inherit your place in society.

33) You can remember your socioeconomic background without having to acknowledge how you benefited from caste inequalities, and how you were inherently embedded and complicit in the exploitation of “lower caste groups”.

Society & Culture

34) You don’t have to fear discrimination amongst larger groups of Tamils based on your caste background.

35) You don’t have to acknowledge that caste is as deeply embedded in Tamil language as it is embodied within and by Tamil culture as a whole.

36) You can deny that negative caste assumptions and associations are made in regards to skin complexion.

37) You can deny that aesthetics, particularly regarding women, in the Tamil community are based on a history of casteification of body and mind.

38) You can disregard the ways caste shapes aesthetic ideals by pointing to European colonialism.

39) You have normalized the social violence that lies underneath everyday relations between different caste groups, including in the diasporas.

40) You can hide casteist mentalities by coding caste-based languages to hide caste attributions and judgements made in regards to social behaviourism.

40) You are quick to challenge any caste group that assumes to hold equal power to your own caste group (here: Vellalar caste group).

41) You can deny that your social surrounding is, with most likelihood, already caste gentrified.

Religion

42) Your religious identity isn’t challenged by Hinduism’s socially discriminatory practices.

43) You don’t have to question the extent of Brahmanism within Tamil Hindu culture and beliefs.

44) You can deflect from personal responsibilities in regards to caste-based inequalities by pointing to Brahmins as the gatekeeper of caste structures and hierarchies.

45) You can be quick to point to the lower secular status of Brahmins in regards to socioeconomic parameters in Sri Lanka (unlike India), without having to acknowledge that your secular superiority equals to greater responsibilities in regards to caste inequalities and violence.

46) You’re able to be religious without feeling the need to interrogate or critique Hinduism’s role in creating caste as a way organizing societies.

47) You can assume that anyone who converted to Christianity or another religion must be of deprived caste status.

48) You can say that discrimination in religious institutions have ceased to exist with the 1968 Temple Entry Movement. 

49) You can  locate discriminations in religious institution to Sri Lanka while being ignorant about the existence and importance of casteism in temples abroad. 

Marriage

50) You can say that caste doesn’t matter in diaspora while the majority of intra-communal marriages continue to be along caste-based lines.

51) You can say you don’t believe or care for caste but have no remorse over your family arranging marriage proposals according to caste-based lines.

52) You can claim that matrimonial sites and outlets’ insistence on caste doesn’t reflect the reality of marriages to be engineered according to caste ideology.

53) You can think the absence of the usage of the word “jaati/saathi” indicates to the erosion of the importance of caste as an ideology.

Intercaste Marriages 

54) You can arbitrarily judge or force someone from an inter-caste marriage to decide between caste identities

55) You can assume someone’s caste identity based on prejudicial viewpoints

56) You don’t have to deal with the consequences of being unaccepted amongst both privileged and oppressed castes.

57) You can challenge someone from an inter-caste marriage on their “authenticity” if they choose to identify with one identity over the other.

58) You can live a life without negotiating identities and histories based on caste fault lines.

Writing of History

59) You don’t have to question the writing of history of the people because your presence won’t be unsettled or threatened by the current and dominant upper-caste narrative.

60) You are more comfortable in remembering anti-Tamil violence that affected the centres of upper-caste, (upper) middle class, urban life than those of deprived caste, low class and rural background.

61) You can be sure to encounter narratives and other forms of expression that reflect a similar experience as yours/your family’s than one of caste-difference.

62) You can think the mainstream postcolonial history of Tamils in Sri Lanka vis-à-vis the Sinhalese’s national building project is reflective of the experience of all subgroups within the heterogenous Tamil community.

Politics

63) You can be certain that identity politics and politics of representation only matter in inter-ethnic relations, but not in intra-ethnic relations.

64) You can claim that we all suffered the same without acknowledging that deprived caste groups were disproportionally affected by war, violence, displacement and destitution.

65) You are quick to incorporate the injustices committed against Hill Tamils by the Sri Lankan state (i.e. 1949 Citizenship Act, Repatriation Act) into your narrative on oppression and genocide of Tamils of the island as a whole (yes, we concur IT IS a genocide), but fail to acknowledge the “upper-caste” “Ceylon Tamil’s” complicity in these legislations as well as forms of social ostracization and exclusion of Hill Tamils based on the social parameter of caste.

66) Some of you may acknowledge the preferential role and benefits enjoyed by the Tamil “upper-caste” society during British colonialism, but fail to acknowledge that not all Tamils were equally positioned during colonialism (and thereafter).

67) You can say that Tamil nationalism has successfully eradicated caste without ever attempting to enquire into the lived reality of deprived caste members today.

68) You can claim that the LTTE’s anti-caste politics were built upon a general social consensus instead of a socio-political and socio-economic diktat imposed upon society.

69) You can externalize the Hill Tamils on the national question (on the basis of caste) while failing to acknowledge their contribution to anti-Sri Lankan state resistance.

70) You can conveniently divorce the history of Tamil resistance from its origin in anti-caste resistance.

71) You can deny that caste politics continue to be part and parcel of electoral politics in the homeland.

72) You can blame deprived caste members for, at times, deviating from the popular Tamil vote without acknowledging the common disregard most Tamil political parties have for deprived castes and their concerns.

73) You can call the TNA the representatives of the Tamil people without ever having to acknowledge that the TNA represents the old boys club of highly educated “upper-caste”, (urban) men who have more often than not inherited their positions of power from an ancestry of privilege.

74) You can be suspicious of the formation of caste allegiances and parties based on caste identity as it challenges the status quo of power relations.

75) You can be sure to find representation of your caste group in almost every meaningful and powerful avenue within the community.

76) You can easily deny that diasporic Tamil political organisations are reflective of an “upper-caste” demographic majority in diaspora.

77) You can deny that the caste background of representatives’of Tamil political organisations has an impact on the political and social position these political institutions take.

78) You think school alumni groups and village groups in diaspora aren’t drawing back on caste identities.

79) You can conveniently deprioritise caste as a social issue that needs less attention than does the national question.

80) You can accuse anyone who raises the question of caste as being a Sri Lankan state or Indian state stooge, thereby making them social and political outcasts.

Follow Sinthujan on Twitter via @varathas 

15.12.2015
                 
Connecting the disconnected: when South Asians accuse East Africans of cultural appropriation 

On August 9th, Yasmin Yonis, a Somali-American writer, caused a Twitter storm when she started a conversation about accusations of cultural appropriation made by South Asian Twitter against Black Twitter. At the core of the debate were headpieces, henna paintings, clothing, ear chains and necklaces worn by women in East Africa and elsewhere that South Asians claimed as theirs.

Conversations about cultural appropriation have since few years been on the rise but have, for obvious reasons, mainly focused on how white cultures appropriate those of people of colour. Debates between people of colour have largely been sidelined to Twitter, Tumblr and other social media conversations. Yonis’s tweets struck a nerve and were shared by thousands, predominately Black Twitter. She argued that most accusations of cultural theft made by South Asians against Africans are expressions of widespread anti-black racism amongst South Asian communities. And she is right.

When South Asians accuse East Africans of cultural appropriation, it is less about cultural relations or power dynamics at play. It’s about brownness and blackness. It boils down to a question of race-relations and border demarcations. Such accusations stem from both widespread ignorance, but also plain old racism. A few months ago, I started my own tweet conversation on the topic, and here’s an elaboration.

The sight of a Somali woman wearing a multi-coloured dirac wrapped around her body, or that of an Ethiopian woman with henna painted on her hands irritates many South Asians because it challenges centuries-old myths about their place in this world and racial hierarchy. It’s a sharp reminder that there are understudied connections between these two parts of the world and many of its diverse communities. But, many South Asians would rather want to sweep those under the rug and pretend they didn’t exist.

Truth being told, most South Asians can’t fathom to be related or share anything in common with Africans.

If you today casually ask South Asians about historic relations and shared cultural heritages with Africans, you will most likely receive a baffled look followed by a prompt and outright negation. We’ve in fact silenced our shared histories to the extent that scholarship needs to be produced outside of South Asia to force us to look into our pasts and face the histories that were never granted its rightful places in our own history books. And when we seldolmy discover them, we treat them as if they were some anomaly, some exotic trope or even human zoo. There’s today little interest in uncovering African-South Asian relations, unless it serves neoliberal projects. This stands in stark contrast to how many South Asians remember and write about their relationships to Arabs, Persians, Turks and European colonisers, and, importantly, how many South Asians claim ancestry based on such long, complicated and often times violent histories. You’ll search in vain for any references that will connect you to the African continent. And you’ll have to search long for any South Asian to claim African heritage on their own (unless they are busy appropriating Black American culture, of course) and find some form of pride in it.

For South Asians, the Indian Ocean that connects us to East Africa is only relevant when talking about Arab traders or European Invaders. African-South Asian histories find no space within it.

Africa is of course not a country and neither is South Asia. The millions of people and communities have different relations and degrees of connections towards each other. Just as their cultures may vary, so do their histories, relationships and genetic heritages. What unites South Asia across the board however, is their embracement of whiteness. The aspiration towards fairer skin drives them towards an ‘Aryanized’ reading of their bodies and histories, which values fair skinned-bodies while equally erasing dark-skinned ones. This reflects in South Asia’s most widespread religion, Hinduism, which vilifies dark bodies by construing them as either symbols of death or demons. Fair-skinned bodies are, on the hand, seen as those of saints and saviours. Any embrace of whiteness/lightness is therefore equally also a rejection of blackness/darkness.

The community I come from, Eelam Tamils from northeastern Sri Lanka, has for centuries been construed as black within the South Asian context, including by other islanders. One of Hinduism’s holy books, the Ramayan, depicts us in its North Indian interpretation, the most dominant one, as barbaric monsters whose island is burnt to the ground by fair-skinned saviours. Diwali, the festival that follows Ram’s return from Lanka, is today still celebrated in the North as a mythical victory over darkness. Eelam Tamil (often also referenced as ‘Sri Lankan Tamil’) is today a codeword amongst South Asians for darkness/blackness, even for Indian Tamils. In light of it, calling someone a Tamil can be used as a slur by fair-skinned South Asians against dark-skinned South Asians.

Within South Asia and its diasporas, we’re next to Afro-South Asians, Andamanese and Nicobarese people one of the main recipients of anti-black racism. Being called anti-black racial epithets however, doesn’t stop us from equally producing and maintaining anti-black racism towards others. Quite the opposite: it makes us even more eager to demarcate our differences.

When I today ask my mother why our hair texture isn’t the same as to that of Indians, she provides me a dry reply that we are not Indian. When I dig a little deeper and talk to her about her hair politics and put them in juxtaposition to those of black women, she usually reacts outraged. When I say dosai tastes like injera, injera like dosai, tibs like meat curries, meat curries like tibs, my family refuses to hear it. When I tell them of the Eritrean waitress who mistook my Eelam Tamil friend and I for a compatriot and started taking orders in Tigrigna, they laughed it off. When a group of Eritrean youths at a refugee welcome party full of white Germans and other light-skinned refugees took their seat on our table to start bond with us as if we’re family, it remained an anecdote without consequences. When an Eritrean friend told me about the many times she has been mistaken for a ‘Sri Lankan Tamil’, they said that’s impossible. When my cousin was approached by four elderly Somali men playing chess in a McDonald’s in Norway in Somali, it was reduced to little more than banal entertainment. When a Somali friend wore a sari and my parents said in delight that she looked like a Tamil girl, they didn’t think about the meaning of their words twice. When white men then called us the ’n’ word, we said we’re not ‘African’. When fair-skinned South Asians addressed us as black, we called them racists. These are just few of the anecdotes we carry around but find no space to articulate or share because of how we’re positioned between fair-skinned South Asians and white people — at the expenses of possible linkages and solidarities outside of both.

When American-Indian-Tamil comedian Aziz Ansari mistook 14-year-old American-Sudanese Ahmed Mohamed, who was arrested in Texas for having built a clock, for a ‘brown kid’ he could project his own bodily experiences upon, it was more than just a simple negation and/or confusion of/over Mohamed’s Black Arab heritage. It didn’t just speak to Mohamed’s type of blackness which sits at the borderlines of erasure and irritation amongst dominant Black and Arab narratives. It also spoke volumes about Ansari’s type of brownness which similarly struggles with erasure and dislocation from dominant South Asian narratives. Ansari’s misidentification shows how colour lines are not static or linear. Neither are black and brown two absolute separates that never collide, historically or in the present day. They can be ambiguous, confusing and even messy because of how racial classifications do not respond to the complexity and diversity of human bodies, experiences and self-identifications.

From attire to jewellery to food cultures to skin colour, there are many things we share. We’ve rich histories that require explorations. Anti-black racism, however, raises us to believe that we monopolise our own cultures, that they are the result of isolation or mingling with fair-skinned others — but never with our dark-skinned brethrens. It tells us that black folks do ‘brown’ things when we’re actually also doing ‘black’ things. Anti-black racism functions as a form of self-hatred amongst many of us that we’re raised with since childhood, and our communities have been instilled with for centuries, much longer than the first presence of European colonisers in the region. It remains deeply intertwined with Hinduism and South Asia’s resulting caste apartheid. Anti-black racism under white supremacy and Brahmin supremacy pushes us to position us closer to lightness than darkness in the quest of surviving racial and caste hierarchies. It makes my family think about the many intersections of our experiences as coincidences rather than results of shared histories.

When in 2004 the tsunami embarked from Ace, Indonesia, to kill tens of thousands on India’s and Sri Lanka’s coastlines, the waves didn’t cease there but continued all the way until they reached Somalia and Kenya’s coastlines. Several hundreds were subsequently killed hours after the first earthquake erupted thousands of km further east, on the Asian side of the ocean. Yet the 2004 tsunami remains to be remembered as an Asian catastrophe and not an Indian Ocean one. Most have in fact never heard about African victims of this catastrophe. It is reflective of our how mental borders, connections and knowledges are drawn, limited and reproduced by colonial mappings; how they erase connections that challenge their very raison d’être and hinder us from thinking beyond the spatialities colonialism has left us with.

But if we’d be able stop identifying by land but, say, the ocean, we’d not be people of two continents but one ocean. If we’d be able to think of the ocean as something that connects us rather than divides us, we could begin to reflect about the relationships, cultures and histories that bind us. We’d be pushed to move away from conceptions of Asia and Africa being two separate entities, but could see them as the fluid, interconnected spaces they are. It would enable us to build meaningful solidarities and embrace our darkness while remaining cognizant of how white supremacy and caste apartheid intersect and organise us to weaken us and see us as strangers, when we are in fact anything but. Our anti-black racism can erase many of our shared histories, even lead us to cry cultural appropriation when seeing Somali women wearing diracs, but it can’t erase the waters that connect us. 

By:  S. Varatharajah

PhD student @UCLgeography |Founder @rootsofdiaspora | Rsr @europapress_Islamrace|diaspora|migration|memory|geography|urbanity|
postcoloniality -  Roots of Diaspora 
medium.com/@varathas/connecting-the-disconnected-when-south-asians-accuse-east-africans-of-cultural-appropriation-76527a872484#.qhjhjpf3b


Dear Sinhala Buddhist Neighbor

We have lived side by side for so long but never thought to sit down and chat honestly and openly.  Let me 1st acknowledge and get this out of the way. You belong to a proud and ancient nation. You deserve an incredible amount of credit for holding out on your own in this tiny island. Doing a great job of preserving and maintaining your heritage as you should.  And you have every right to maintain a Sinhala Buddhist state if you so choose.  I genuinely mean that.

With that out of the way, I do have a very big problem when you continue to urge your state to violently occupy my Tamil nation that lies to the north and east of yours.

I am sure both of our ancestors were savages.  They lived in a constantly feudalistic society.  They had kings ruling over them.  And at the whim and fancy of these kings they made wars.   They stole each other’s daughters.  And at other times, they married ones daughters to others sons to prevent wars.    

Then the colonialists came.  Not surprisingly they also had kings and queens.  They were not interested in stealing our ancestors daughters: our great great grandmothers.   Instead they decided to stay and steal everything else our lands had to offer. Your kings fought back and so did mine. But to no avail. So both of our ancestors grudgingly tolerated the colonialists: one after the other.

At the 1st sign that the last colonialist was going to leave, and there was no other waiting on the shores to replace that one, our ancestors saw each other as the “other”.  And decided to revert to same old savage ways. It first started out in subtle and subdued ways.  They kept the daughters out of it this time. The colonialist  handed the whole island to your ancestors, instead of giving both of our ancestors their own rule as it was when they 1st took over.  

My ancestors were forced to trade a colonialist to a colonist.  

This time there were no kings. But we did have kingly, educated folks, behaving as if they were the kings.  Unlike both of our neighbor, India, our ancestors did not pay a heavier price for their independence.  We rode India’s coattails to freedom.  There was little appreciation for the responsibility that came with governing.  While Indians understood their diversity made them Indians, your ancestors were busy trying to define everyone as future Sri lankans.  Even the Burmese understood diversity and signed the Panglong agreement.  Under various pretenses, your ancestors kept usurping and centralizing the state power.  And then, started dispensing that state power in such a way to make the mono ethnic hold permanent:  To work in your favor.  All through this, many of you remained silent.  This new state had no regard for such niceties as consent of all people to be governed.  No desire for an accommodative and shared political space that recognized our distinctiveness.  It is not that it did not include the diversity in its character, it purposefully excluded it.  When my recent ancestors opposed it, the state violently asserted and defined itself as Sinhala Buddhist.  We were back to the old savage ways in full throttle. This brings us to the inherently violent nature of your state:  Your state because it only represents you as it claims and behaves so.

Ever since coming into existence, the state has consistently and overwhelmingly relied on violence. Even your people were not spared its wrath.  You kept coming up with excuses about “besieged” people acting out irrationally. My people kept saying your people are a majority with a minority complex.  But nothing actually changed.  There were not even signs of change.  80’s came. 90’s came. New century came. Violence escalated.  Then 2009 came.  In an ultimate display of its propensity for violence, your state committed untold atrocities on my people.  I know you refuse to believe this. You want to believe there is a conspiracy.   As usual, we are back to scoring points over who started it and who killed more. Your side or my side.  My people did commit abhorrently great violence.   For that I apologize.  

With the recent UN resolution, besieged irrationality theories will make the rounds again.  You will justify not doing what is right by point out what you perceive to be wrong. You will avoid talking about restructuring the violent state. You won’t insist that State be accountable to every people. Not just your people.  We will hear that the problem lies with the Tamils, the Muslims, the “others”. Your continued silence gives consent to this perpetually violent state.

My people ran out of nonviolence in the face of state violence.  My people lost out to greater violence when resisted violently.  We now are in a new phase.  Many of my people are outside the reach of your violent state.  Your state’s reliance in violence is no use against them.  Your state need to learn a new skill and need to learn it soon.  But, this time break your silence and ask it to learn the skill of genuine dialoging. 

My dear neighbour,

Don’t you think it would be a great idea for my daughter to marry your son?

anonymous asked:

I'm a Tamil person whose name and overall appearance isn't particularly "Tamil". This semester, my math professor (who I had for a summer semester with a smaller class size) is a very nice and caring Singhalese person who is roughly 50-60 years old, based on estimates comparing him to my dad. Should I be concerned that he might find out that I'm Tamil and that would lead to him potentially getting racist towards me?

hello ! i’m not SL/eelam tamil so it’s not in my place to tell you how to handle this bc i personally haven’t had the same experiences ;___; i have noticed tho that some sinhalese ppl in the west get a lil frowny when i mention that im tamil so do be careful!! but in the meantime i hope my SL/eelam Tamil followers can help u out bc like i said, i don’t know the extent of your experience! 

Mod Applications are open again!

I’m looking for South Asian wlw to help me run the blog. Seeing how I am a Hindu Eelam Tamil, I’m going to be prioritizing people who are… not that.

Since this blog was started as a rebuttal to a desi blog that was transmisogynistic, I would really like to include trans women above anyone else.

Shoot me a message or submission telling me a bit about myself and I’ll respond! I will be asking some questions about a few viewpoints to make sure I don’t accidentally add someone who could disrupt the blog.

Thanks for applying!

- Mod Pooja

2

MATHUSHA
Toronto, Canada

I am a Tamil first and a Canadian second.

As a Tamil Canadian feminist I am disappointed with the disconnect diaspora feminists have to women in Eelam.  Working for equal pay, ending the double standards with the sexualisation of women and fighting shadeism is important, however they are as urgent as the issues that Tamil women in Eelam face - the daily threat of being raped by the Sri Lankan military, girls being harassed or kidnapped when they walk to school and the community’s stigmatization of war widows and rape victims. This idea that if you are talking about Tamil women issues back home you are a terrorist, is insulting.  

When you call yourself a Sri Lankan feminist you are connecting yourself to a nation and an identity that doesn’t even take ownership of you as a Tamil and actually goes out of its way to discriminate, murder and rape Tamil women.

I grew up with strong female role models.  Amma and ammamma (grandmother) are feminists. I have aunts and cousins who are feminists.  Feminism was a natural choice for them because of the cards they were dealt - persecution from the Sinhala state, a civil war, displacement, the loss of family and life as political refugees in foreign countries.  They had to do what was necessary to survive and this didn’t fit into the Tamil community’s conservative stereotypes of how girls and women should be.  So they also had to resist against their own people’s norms. Along their journey they helped other women become independent, resilient and as skilful as men. 

They weren’t sitting around talking about being feminists, it just happened.

When ammamma (grandma) tells me I have to learn how to cook, she is not an anti-feminist.  She is talking about survival. She wants me to be independent and not have to rely on a man.  She taught me that women don’t have to be timid, quiet or fragile and I am grateful for it.  Amma is the same. She defends me against old-fashioned relatives who tell her I should be married, by saying that I will do so when I want to and that she has confidence in me.  She has always encouraged me to travel, follow my dreams, study, have a successful career and speak my mind.  

Amma came to Canada after fleeing the Indian Army occupation with only the clothes she was wearing.  She had to fend for herself in a foreign environment, work three jobs, raise two children and cook for us. People may say that being a housewife is anti-feminist. I disagree. Raising a family requires strength. Being the head of a household is a powerful position to be in.

As Eelam Tamils our recent history is full of powerful women from those who joined the resistance, to maveerars (those who died fighting), to those that fed the fighters and sheltered them in their homes, to the mothers that lost children to the war.