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One Voice: Conservative and Liberal Hindu Americans Find Common Ground in Denouncing UPenn Law Prof. Amy Wax’s Racist Rant

One Voice: Conservative and Liberal Hindu Americans Find Common Ground in Denouncing UPenn Law Prof. Amy Wax’s Racist Rant

  • While some compared her “shithole” reference to the xenophobia of former President Donald Trump, others said they were privileged to practice medicine in the United States.

In a rare moment of unity, Hindu American nationalists, as well as secular and progressive Hindu Americans came together to denounce comments made by University of Pennsylvania law professor Amy Wax. In a recent racist rant on a Fox News prime time show, Wax spoke against non-Western immigrants, singling out Asian and South Asians. She picked on Brahmin women, who, according to her, despite immigrating from a “shit hole country” and enjoying success here, “dump on America. Wax made disparaging comments during a discussion on ‘Tucker Carlson Today’ about her views on diversity initiatives in academia.

“Take the Brahmin women who come from India and they climb the ladder, they get the best education,” she said. “We give them every opportunity and they turn around and lead the charge on we’re racist, we’re an awful country, we need reform, our medical system needs reform. Well, here’s the problem. They’re taught that they are better than everybody else because they are Brahmin elites. And yet, on some level, their country is a shit hole, excuse my language.”

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) compared Wax’s “shithole” reference to former President Donald Trump. “After President Trump left office, I thought the days of calling others ‘shithole’ countries were over,” he tweeted “As an Indian-American immigrant, I’m disgusted to hear this UPenn Professor define Indian-American immigrants, and all non-white Americans, in such insulting terms,” he said in another tweet. “Comments like these are borne of hatred and fear, and they lead to real harm for my constituents and our minority communities. They fuel hate crimes against minorities, and they make it much harder to accomplish common-sense immigration reform.”

In a statement emailed to American Kahani, Sunita Viswanath, executive director of Hindus for Human Rights, noted that “while advocacy against caste and caste discrimination in India and the Indian diaspora are important, Amy Wax’s comments are racist and offensive.” According to her, “calling India a ‘shithole’ directly echoes the racism and xenophobia of Donald Trump and his supporters.” Noting that her nonprofit welcomes “any principled critique of caste,” she said “Wax’s comments are the opposite. They weaponize this issue to advance blatant racism against Indian Americans, and only give ammunition to those who falsely claim that we should refrain from discussing caste in the diaspora.”

The professor’s comments outraged several Hindu American organizations across the country as well.

Suhag Shukla, executive director of the Hindu American Foundation noted that the “University of Pennsylvania has an anti-Indian and anti-Hindu problem that spans the political spectrum.” Last year, the HAF filed a Title VI complaint with the U.S. Department of Education “for the targeted hate coming from UPenn’s far-left South Asian studies professors,” Shukla said. HAF now finds itself “apprising the DOE about the hatred emanating from far-right professor, Amy Wax,” she added. Noting that “the students, faculty, and staff need to hear from the highest levels of Penn’s administration that there will be a zero-tolerance for such hateful targeting,” Shukla said Wax “needs to do her homework — the achievements of contributions of the West are outsized because of the efforts and sacrifices of many non-Western immigrants.”

In an earlier tweet, Shukla told her followers to “listen to every word” as Wax “enunciates ‘Brahmin women” & ‘caste.’” Noting the Rutgers professor Audrey Truschke “dismissed Hindu American voices as ‘upper caste’ just last week,” Shukla added that “left & right white women in academia find common ground on smearing Hindus & Indians on caste.”

“Amy Wax is a racist. Period,” tweeted Hindu On Campus, an organization that claims to fight anti-Hindu bigotry in U.S. universities.

HinduPact, Hindu Policy Research and Advocacy Collective USA, called Wax a racist and a Hinduphobe. “Looks like the #Racist in Amy Wax is fighting hard to beat the #Hinduphobe in Amy Wax, in the “which prejudice of mine is more obnoxious” game,” tweeted Hindu Pact. “We cannot blame a @pennlaw faculty for being Ignorant and Generic. So have to go with Hateful and Malicious.”

Dilip Mandal, founder of the Center For Brahmin Studies tweeted that “the best revenge by the ‘Brown Brahmins’ would be to leave the U.S. and return to Indian Agraharam. Please come back, fight racism here and make Aryavarta great. Talented brains should not go in the drain.”

Aseem Shukla, co-founder of the HAF and a pediatric urologist professor at UPenn tweeted: “Hey Amy Wax @pennlaw, some of us Indian American docs @PennMedicine do our part to make America the great healthcare system you describe. So, yeah, we have the right to criticize it too.”

Similarly, Chicago-based Munish Raizada also took to Twitter to condemn Wax’s comments. “Dear Ms. Amy Wax, It is a privilege to practice medicine in the USA and for that matter anywhere on the planet and be of any help in alleviating sufferings and pain in any way possible.”

Professors like Neil Makjija, executive director of IMPACT, and an election law lecturer at UPenn’s law school, and Sangay Mishra, Associate Professor of Political Science at Drew University, also weighed in. 

“It’s irresponsible to use your position to lend credibility to these overtly racist sentiments that don’t recognize Indian Americans for who we are,” Makhija told Axios. The issue will also be discussed at a summit hosted by IMPACT in Washington, D.C., next month, he said, adding that he’s planning to adjust programming to discuss the incident and create solutions against anti-Asian and South Asian hate in educational settings. “The most unfortunate thing is that we have a lot of brilliant and incredible students at the law school,” he told NBC News. “It makes you question whether she can fairly grade or educate.”

In a tweet, he wrote: “In which Prof Amy Wax resents that she sees all the ‘brown faces’ at Penn Medicine and wants to ask them ‘why did you come here?’ Meanwhile, most were born in the U.S. and (are) Americans all their lives. And are probably going to be the ones to treat her if she’s in the hospital.”

Mishra noted that “Wax’s attack on South Asian/ Indian American /Brown women in leadership positions in medicine is quite brazen: attacking them for talking about racism & need for change – this is a possible indicator of what anti-immigrant conversation might look like.”

Journalist Aditya Raj Kaul wondered “when these disgusting illiterate racists stop exposing themselves?”

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Some like journalist Sadanand Dhume and Canada-based Jayant Bhandari seemed to agree with Wax. Dhume noted that while some Indian immigrants do fit Wax’s description, most are grateful for the opportunities America has given them.

Bhandari wrote that “Indians have no gratitude. And, yes, without the West they would still be living in caves.”

Dhume’s comment faced some backlash. “Rather than objecting to the racist words of Amy Wax, Dhume is defending the concept that people who migrate to the US must be so grateful that they shouldn’t criticize the US for fear of upsetting other Americans,” tweeted user named Abhijit Rao in a now-deleted tweet.

Some accused Wax of not considering non-white people as western. “Amy Wax’s comments on Tucker about “non-western” peoples is also revealing in how people like her truly don’t think of non-white people as western lol even when we’ve lived here for centuries, and of course, indigenous cultures have existed in N. America prior to Europeans.

Others noted how America is a country of immigrants. “So, no we were not the first ones to come to your country (and if America is your country at all, given the real residents are living in the reservations you created for them), ”tweeted a user named Shailaja Singh. “We have been driven to this state by your predatory culture. Yes, our people were taken off guard by what happened to them and we have paid the price. But we will fight back and rise again. We do not want more than our right to live with dignity and peacefully as a part of Mother Nature, not over and above her.”

Some like Rani Batra wondered how Wax can be trusted to treat her students equitably. “With caste narratives being created in colleges and corporations how can we ensure such hateful people are not in charge of creating these narratives?”

Meanwhile, Indian writer and director Radha Bhardwaj tweeted: “Ah, but it’s nothing compared to the wrath felt by some in the ‘1st World’ when they see people from the ‘Third World’ accomplishing & succeeding. #AmyWax thinks the role of ‘Third World”’ immigrants is to validate her notions of superiority.”

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