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Ramaswamy is tone deaf when talking about race

Aug 22, 2023

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Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy trails former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) in the polls. Ramaswamy’s platform, which includes tightening security along the southern border and endorsing conservative family values, seems to be resonating with GOP voters.

Straight Arrow News contributor Ruben Navarrette highlights what he sees as an Achilles’ heel, contending that Ramaswamy’s approach to discussing matters related to race and identity is clearly off-key.

Despite fancy degrees from Harvard and Yale Law School, it’s obvious from listening to his public remarks — for instance, bashing affirmative action or attacking identity politics or making fun of the quote “woke” — that Vivek doesn’t have a clue about what Blacks and Browns have endured, overcome and put up with over the last four centuries. 

He probably can’t imagine being told that he’s dumb, defective, dangerous or detrimental to society. He doesn’t know what it’s like to be treated like you’re unqualified, unworthy or unwelcome. You know what it’s like? I’ll tell you exactly. You never forget, because society will not let you forget that this country was built with someone else in mind. Not you. Not anyone who even remotely looks like you. Indian Americans have not faced systemic discrimination in the U.S., and their immigrant experience is totally different from that of poor, uneducated and undocumented migrants coming here from China or Honduras or Haiti. 

Indian immigrants arrived here on a magic carpet as legal immigrants, well-educated and warmly welcomed, ready to pursue the American dream. That being the case, Vivek should be humble, tread lightly and mind his manners when he talks brazenly about race, racism, reparations, affirmative action, identity politics or other issues that impact people of color. Put simply, he needs to stop, back up and defer whenever he finds himself well beyond his area of expertise, which it seems is quite often. 

Oh Vivek, you hardly know us. The Vegas political novice and first time candidate Vivek Ramaswamy. The 38 year old successful Indian American entrepreneur and multimillionaire, who was born to Indian immigrant parents in Cincinnati, Ohio, made his estimated $500 million personal fortune in biotech. He jumped in the race for the 2024 Republican nomination for president and pledged to spend $100 million of his own money. He’s now in third place in the polls, behind former President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. 

 

“Us” refers to Latinos who make up about 19% of the US population, and black Americans who make up almost 14%. That compares well to the 1.3% of the population that the nation’s 4.4 million Indian Americans represent. The list of things Ramaswamy doesn’t know anything about is endless. For instance, he certainly doesn’t know or seem to care much about what Latinos and African Americans have gone through in this country for more than 400 years. African slaves landed at Jamestown, Virginia in 1619. And Spanish explorers found in Santa Fe, New Mexico a decade earlier, in 1609. That’s about 360 years before Ramaswamy’s parents migrated from India to the United States in 1985. That was just a few months before Vivek was born, by the way. What a stroke of luck. 

 

Ramaswamy’s parents were typical run of the mill hard working immigrants dad, an engineer and patent attorney, mom, a psychiatrist. How many times have we heard that story resonates through the halls of Ellis Island. As a Mexican American, my dad was a cop and my grandparents were farmworkers. Despite fancy degrees from Harvard and Yale Law School, it’s obvious from listening to his public remarks — for instance, bashing affirmative action, or attacking identity politics, or making fun of the quote “woke” — that Vivek doesn’t have a clue about what blacks and browns have endured, overcome and put up with over the last four centuries. 

 

He probably can’t imagine being told that he’s dumb, defective, dangerous or detrimental to society. He doesn’t know what it’s like to be treated like you’re unqualified, unworthy or unwelcome. You know what it’s like? I’ll tell you exactly. You never forget, because society will not let you forget that this country was built with someone else in mind. Not you. Not anyone who even remotely looks like you. Indian Americans have not faced systemic discrimination in the US. And their immigrant experience is totally different from that of poor, uneducated and undocumented migrants coming here from China or Honduras or Haiti. 

 

Indian immigrants arrived here on a magic carpet as legal immigrants, well educated and warmly welcomed, ready to pursue the American dream. That being the case, Vivek should be humble, tread lightly and mind his manners when he talks brazenly about race, racism, reparations, affirmative action, identity politics, or other issues that impact people of color. Put simply, he needs to stop, back up and defer whenever he finds himself well beyond his area of expertise, which it seems is quite often. 

 

Mind you, I’m not singling him out. Everyone should do more deferring, including me. I try to defer every chance I get. As a straight male, I mind my P’s and Q’s when I’m tempted to sanctimoniously lecture the LGBTQ plus community about things like Pride Month. As a male that is part of a species that cannot get pregnant, I’m respectful when expressing my opinion on abortion, less I get schooled by my wife or my daughters or my women friends. As someone who was born in the US to parents who were born in the US, and grandparents, three of whom were also born in the US. I try to tread carefully when I talk about immigrants and immigration. 

 

After all, I’m not living the lives of all these people. I’m only living my life, just like Vivek Ramaswamy is only living his life. And for him, it’s been a mighty good life. But there’s also a lot that he hasn’t experienced, and it would be nice to see him acknowledge that every once in a while. From the looks of it, even when he’s wrong, which is often, he’s never in doubt — say he’s a natural born politician! And not a good way.

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