Finding South Asian Identity in America

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The seemingly interminable challenge for South Asians to establish themselves in a nation that incessantly attempts to redefine them as something they're not has plagued the American Desi since they first arrived in the late 1800s.  The term South Asian generally denotes the peoples of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, and Pakistan.  Yet, given the ambiguity of the term, it is often mistaken as being interchangeable with 'Indian'.  South Asians have been marginalized by racism, classism, misrepresentation, and a lack of cohesiveness between subgroups for many years.  Today, they continue to deal with the same impediments to an identity they faced upon their first arrival. 

While in past years, American Desi has been confused with blacks and Latinos, they are often confused as Middle Easterners today, thus subjected to further discrimination.  As Desi families are often conservative, adapting to an increasingly secular nation can require laborious effort.  For students in college, balancing social and family lives can be even more arduous.  Further, stereotypes such as South Asians being either tech virtuosos, gas station clerks, or cab drivers, are oft accentuated by familial expectations. 

Often times when the child of an ambitious South Asian American parent desires something other than being swiftly married off and just as swiftly finishing college, tensions tend to rise.   Regardless of these and other obstacles, the ability of the American Desi to unite and establish identity is becoming increasingly easier thanks to the internet and improved representation.  Ultimately, identity is not only wrapped in race, but it also operates on both cultural and individual levels and ergo is a much more complex, and much more fascinating issue that will continue to be sought and explored for many years to come.