Going Viral on Ethnic Twitter

After five years of nonstop tweeting my innermost thoughts and feelings, I finally went viral on Twitter. But not just any old Twitter that you and I scroll through every day: Brown Twitter. A deep, populous corner of the POCTwitterverse comprised of all the South Asian countries and cultures. My tweet was also posted on Subtle Curry Traits (the South Asian take on the world famous Subtle Asian Traits), one of the biggest honors a brown person can receive.

(Daal is a spicy lentil "curry" eaten all over South Asia)

Unfortunately, my tweet was a little controversial—I was meaning to call out a lot of my privileged peers (including myself) in the Desi diaspora who benefit off of the “Model Minority” stereotype, live in large million-dollar homes, and help gentrify their neighborhoods, but still want to reap the “advantages” that come from the emotional labor and intergenerational trauma that POC face. Aka, I was calling out stupid people. People like these two boys from New Jersey who called their black classmate a racial slur and urinated on her. Desis who act like allies to other marginalized people of color only when it benefits them (for college. Because when else are you going to need to craft a sob story about the oppression you faced as a child to appeal to a board of rich white people?).

While a lot of people agreed with what I had to say, that people “build careers” off these shallow sob stories, a lot of people disagreed. They pointed out that trauma is trauma, and there’s not such thing as the Oppression Olympics. People face different obstacles and those experiences can affect them to varying degrees. And of course, they have a point.

I was also called out by a specific person for invalidating their own experience at lunches – years of teasing by their Caucasian Classmates, this Twitter user explained, lead them to develop an eating disorder and a great dislike for their culture. Once again, their experience is 100% valid. I can completely see how teasing from people you spend time with can lead you to feel like your culture doesn’t matter. Maybe that’s my own bias kicking in: I grew up in suburbs that were generally quite brown. I always saw people that looked like me. And maybe that’s why I never took white children’s comments seriously.

But that wasn’t the point of my tweet. I was trying to call out the emerging class issues that upper middle class South Asian families are starting to see. Indian and Indian-American families have the highest household income of all other ethnicities in America and that’s only growing.

I guess, the bottom line is, yes—there is no such thing as the Oppression Olympics. Everyone processes bullying, trauma, and inadvertent racism in different ways. But it isn’t right to frame your trauma in a way that’ll help advance your career, especially when you don’t acknowledge the sheer lack of privilege that gets you to where you are today. It’s important to appreciate our beautiful cultures and homelands, our hardworking families that created a foundation for us, and to pay attention to the deep-rooted issues in our communities.

It’s hard gaining exposure on a tweet that can easily rub people the wrong way – people either really agree with you or really disagree with you. And that’s okay, that's human nature. Just remember to stand for what you believe in, apologize when you’re wrong, and be polite on the internet. All tweets are going to blow over in a few weeks, and you’ll be back to getting two likes on your 3AM shit-posts in no time.