The Karma of Brown Folk

Vijay Prashad, Author University of Minnesota Press $57 (248p) ISBN 978-0-8166-3438-5
Taking a cue from W.E.B. Du Bois's The Souls of Black Folk--which poses the question, ""How does it feel to be a problem?""--Prashad's book on race relations asks Asians, ""How does it feel to be a solution?"" An assistant professor of international relations, he shows how neoconservatives have used the success of South Asian immigrants (though most of the book deals with Indians) to argue that America now offers a level playing field and that if other minorities, particularly African-Americans, have not achieved as much success, it is due to their own lack of initiative. Yet Prashad demonstrates how the U.S.'s extremely selective immigration policy (from 1966 to 1977, for example, 83% of Indian immigrants to the U.S. were professionals) has led to the myth of the ""successful race."" In the same vein, Prashad also argues that ""sly Babas"" (or ""Godmen""), like Deepak Chopra, perpetuate the idea that Asians are a pliant, spiritual group and do a disservice by peddling ""opiates that comfort"" rather than challenging people to alter the causes of their distress. Throughout his book, Prashad repeatedly reproaches society for forgetting the poor--chastising Bobby McFerrin, for example, for releasing his song Don't Worry Be Happy at a time of great economic insecurity, and castigating the medical community for not doing enough to control preventable diseases common among the poor. Though Prashad includes many revealing insights about South Asians in America, at times his book seems more like a scattered collection of anecdotal lectures than a cogent analysis of race relations among minority groups in our nation. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 02/28/2000
Release date: 03/01/2000
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