I Was Called Pagan, Greasy Indian: CA Assembly Candidate Darshana Patel
SAN DIEGO, CA (IANS) – As an Indian growing up in America, Darshana Patel who recently announced her bid to run for the California State Assembly District 76, was called a “pagan, greasy Indian”, and was asked to “go back home”.
The 48-year-old research scientist, who is the board president of California’s Poway Unified School District, said that microaggressions were common, and the term ABCD — American-Born Confused Desi — haunted her as a child.
“The term ABCD haunted me as a child… As a young girl in second grade, I was called a pagan, greasy Indian (because my mother put oil in my hair), asked what tribe I was from, and often teased when I wore more traditional attire to school,” Patel, who hails from Vadodara, said.
In an America, where one in five incidents involve language scapegoating of Asians, according to a recent AAPI study, Patel said post 9/11, a group of men in a pickup truck followed her, shouting “go back home and n-word” and “you are not welcome here”.
“While conditions have improved in some ways for Indian immigrants (there are grocery stores, temples, and community organizations now), they have got worse in other ways as Indian American are integrating more into the American fabric,” Patel, who is part of the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs, said.
Running for the state Assembly in 2024, Patel said that she wants to dispel ignorant and harmful stereotypes of Indian Americans and promote more cross-cultural and inter-sectional experiences and education, like ethnic studies in public schools.
California’s Assembly District 76, which includes the cities of Escondido and San Marcos, portions of San Diego, and numerous unincorporated communities in San Diego County, has an active and diverse Indian community that makes up about two per cent of the voters and many more green card and visa holders.
“As the daughter of Indian immigrants who struggled to realize the American Dream, I understand that representation matters… Our main challenge is using our collective voice to affect policy that will help our community tackle pressing issues such as affordability, education and youth mental health, immigration reform, public safety, and high-quality comprehensive healthcare,” she said.
The San Diego resident’s campaign has earned early endorsements from Congressman Ro Khanna.
The election will be an open-seat contest, as incumbent Assembly member Brian Maienschein will be terming out.
Along with Patel, lawyer Joseph Rocha, also a Democrat, has announced his candidacy for the same seat.
With fellow Indian Americans Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramakrishnan throwing their hats in the ring for the 2024 presidential elections, Patel said that she feels proud that they are taking the risk to represent the diverse Indian American community via the primary electoral process.