All Skin Folk Ain’t Kinfolk

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Vivek Ramaswamy

By Aminta Kilawan Narine, Esq.

The race for president of the United States is picking up steam with South Asian Americans emerging as candidates in a crowded field of contenders. There are several who have thrown their hat in the ring left, right, and center. Among Brown folks who have gained the most traction are two members of the GOP, Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy. Haley is the former governor of South Carolina and Ramaswamy is a multimillionaire. According to some of the latest polls, Haley and Ramaswamy both occupy third place after former president Donald Trump and Florida governor Ron DeSantis. Haley is a known face in U.S. politics, while Ramaswamy has no political experience. In spite of this lack of experience and dare I say overflowing annoyingness, Ramaswamy is rising in the polls.

After the first GOP debate, Google registered over one million searches for “Vivek Ramaswamy” in just 24 hours. Donald Trump, noticeably missing from that debate stage, deemed Ramaswamy the winner. The love appears to be mutual, with Ramaswamy having called Trump “the best president of the 21st century.” Some have surmised that Ramaswamy is gunning for vice president in a prospective Trump Administration.

I too am guilty of Googling Ramaswamy way more than I should, but definitely not because I’m a fan. I consider so many of his statements absolutely ludicrous yet brilliant when it comes to convincing the average American conservative’s psyche that he’s the one for the job. I find myself glued to the screen looking to arm myself with arguments for why we need to ensure he doesn’t succeed. Seeing positive affirmations of Ramaswamy on social media has me shook.

Sure, he’s under 40 years old, the son of immigrants, Hindu, an ivy-league law school graduate, a married father of two young sons. Those are all optically great things. But as a people, we cannot fall victim to identity politics and support candidates merely because they look like us and speak well. “All my skinfolk ain’t my kinfolk,” writer Zora Neale Hurston once said. While Ramaswamy presents himself as a youthful, quick-witted, son of immigrants, his policies, like many of those who ascribe to the GOP, forget exactly where they’ve come from. If elected, Ramaswamy has said he’d shut down the Education Department. He also supports raising the voting age to 25 unless younger Americans serve in the military or as first responders, or if they pass a citizenship test. Ramswamy tauts his parents immigration story. “My parents came to this country with no money 40 years ago,” said Ramaswamy during his opening at the first GOP debate. He continued, “I have gone on to found multibillion-dollar companies.”

Like many Asian American GOP candidates, Ramaswamy paints a “good immigrant” vs. “bad immigrant” narrative steeped in the model minority myth. The rise of the Republican Party among Asian Americans across the country can arguably be attributed to this holier-than-thou mentality. Sadly, this mindset is working to draw people of color to the GOP. It’s also attractive to the primarily white Republican stronghold.

The idea of a model minority is a myth. While it is true that many Asian Americans achieve great economic success, they are also impacted by some of the largest income inequalities as compared to any other ethnic group in this country. It’s a misnomer to paint Asian Americans as being intrinsically successful and politically obedient. The model minority myth perpetuates these notions and in fact stymies potential Asian political power. It is worth underscoring that Asian Americans have experienced alarming instances of racial violence in recent years. Asian American young people are also the only racial group whose leading cause of death is suicide. Not all Asian Americans are well educated and earn high salaries. Not all Asian Americans migrated to this country the “right” way, and yet those who are undocumented fuel so many sectors in the U.S. Not all Asian Americans, including South Asians and Indo-Caribbeans, are living the American Dream. The reality is that many struggle. Sugarcoating our realities does not change that systems continue to be set up against us. We should not mask the realities of so many of our people for the sake of being accepted.

To top it off, Vivek Ramaswamy is using the same type of platform that Donald Trump did on the campaign trail. Spinning his lack of political experience as an asset, his tone is more oft-than-not annoying. Ramaswamy’s own words, as taken from his 2021 book, Woke, Inc., demonstrate he’s not for the people, but instead for himself. “As a society we should allow and even embrace the corporate pursuit of financial self-interest above all.” He thinks that climate change is a hoax, considers Juneteenth “useless,” and wants to rid the government of all social welfare. Not Presidential, in my view. I would not be surprised if he ends up hugely increasing his financial bottom line after the campaign is over, but I sure hope voters don’t fall for that cringeworthy Colgate smile. Imagine both the U.S. and the U.K. being led by right wing Hindu heads of state! A frightening prospect indeed.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the position or policy of the THE WEST INDIAN.