The Indian Politician

By Bhavana Ravala (Adolescent Activist)

“Hi. I’m Bhavana. I’m 16 years old. I’m a junior in Normal Community High School in Illinois. I love Harry Potter, and my dog, and Parks & Rec. My favorite class is AP Government, and I want to work in government one day.”

Everything but that last sentence sounds pretty typical out of the mouth of an Indian at my school. My town has a sizeable Indian-American population, so people at my high school have reason to believe in Indian stereotypes because most of the Indian kids they’ve seen act in a pretty similar manner.

Indians are good at math and science. Indians aren’t allowed to date in high school. Indians study all the time because an Asian F is an A-. Indians are going to be doctors or computer programmers or chemists, but never anything outside of the STEM field.

Ironically, Indians themselves are more likely to be shocked by the genuine interest I have in government and history. They raise their eyebrows in disbelief, wondering why someone like me, who takes AP Chemistry and Honors Precalc and gets straight As, would possibly waste her time on something as trivial as the government.

But with the number of Indians in the United States and the attitude towards immigrants coming from President Trump, it is amazing that we do not have more Indian politicians. Indians are the second largest group of immigrants in the United States, and they are the fastest growing group. Many of them have been putting down roots, so the number of American citizens of Indian descent -- people like me -- has been steadily increasing as well. Indians have been immigrating to the United States for decades, but show a disinterest in getting involved in the government of the country they live in.

However, recently we have been seeing more people of Indian descent deciding to run for office and become involved with government on both sides of the political aisle. Under the Trump administration, Nikki Haley serves as the ambassador to the U.N. and Seema Varma is the administrator of the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Both of these women are the first Indian-American woman to hold their respective positions. In the Democratic party, Reshma Saujani was the first Indian woman to run for Congress in 2010, and today Kamala Harris the first Indian-American female in the U.S Senate and Raja Krishnamoorthi is a U.S. representative. Clearly, Indians and Indian women in particular, have decided that if we are going to live in this country we need to have a say in it.

So what does this mean for teenagers like me? Well, for me it means I actually could be President, even if I have to be the first Indian president. It means that regardless of what my peers think, Indians aren’t just here to do math and science for the U.S. It means that we are allowed to have diverse interests, to pursue whatever field of study we choose, not just STEM. The Indian politician could have easily become some kind of stereotype as well, but the people I listed are all very different.

Indians are not the only group of people who have been underrepresented in politics, but as someone of Indian heritage I naturally chose to focus on them. If you are a minority looking to get more of your people into Congress or the cabinet, more power to you. We have been making progress, and we have a bright future.

Here's one way author Bhavana Ravala suggests you can get involved: South Asian Americans Leading Together

Take Action Now: Asian American