Brown & Cruella À La Suella
What do Britain’s Braverman and America’s Vivek Ramaswamy say about brown leaders in the West? They can be as majoritarian as a white. And tickbox diversity can be pretty shallow
Rashmee Roshan Lall
Call it the Rishi Sunak, Suella Braverman and Vivek Ramaswamy effect but it’s pretty hard right now to take pride in some of the more prominent politicians of Indian ethnicity who’re in the news on either side of the Atlantic.
Sunak, Britain’s first prime minister of Indian ethnicity, is seen as the most right-wing Conservative prime minister since Margaret Thatcher, instinctively hewing away from the political centre on testy issues such as asylum-seekers, devolution, climate change, Brexit and the currently piteous plight of Gaza’s people.
Until this week, when Sunak sacked Braverman as home secretary, she was the second woman of Indian heritage to serve in one of Britain’s highest offices of state. In her scant year in office, she distinguished herself chiefly in the role of “the most hated woman in British politics”, inciting communal division and disdaining all lament at the deaths of innocent Palestinians.
And Vivek Ramaswamy, the US-born biotech billionaire son of Malayali white-collar immigrants, is running to be the Republican Party’s nominee for president. He is considered to have rabid and extreme positions on almost every issue that keeps the guardrails of American domestic and foreign policy on track.
All three check the box for the sort of “tickbox diversity” that Sunak’s spokespeople claimed on November 13 to disavow. As brown-skinned children of immigrants, the trio might be seen as emblems of racial and cultural acceptance, aspiration and achievement under the chilly skies of the northern hemisphere countries in which their parents or grandparents made their home.
But all are the sort who seem to want, nay exult in the spectacle of “tofu-eating, wokerati” spluttering into their chickpea curry in the UK, US and further afield. Those were Braverman’s words, seemingly channelling Cruella de Vil sans the white mink cloak, 13 months ago in parliament as she argued to legally curtail eco-activists’ right to protest. Ramaswamy, who wrote a book titled Woke Inc, flashes his pearly whites on televised debates as he compares the “woke left” to “psychological slavery”. And Sunak has been equally derisory about “woke nonsense”, even appointing a new minister for common sense in his latest cabinet reshuffle reportedly to lead the anti-woke agenda. Sunak has also slammed “lefty lawyer(s)” who impede his government’s controversial policy to fly migrants to Rwanda for the crime of daring to seek asylum in the UK.
Originally published in The Times of India