A new campaign, #VoteAgainstHate, a collaboration between a group of friends who brought together South Asian actors and artists—including writer Nisha Ganatra (of Transparent and Better Things), Sonal Shah (Scrubs), D'Lo (comedian and writer), and Utkarsh Ambudkar (The Mindy Project)—launched Thursday aiming to persuade their parents and elders to not vote for Donald Trump on Election Day.
Some 65% of Indian Americans are Democrats or lean toward voting Democrat according to the PEW Research Center and another recent poll found that 78% of Indian Americans either have an unfavorable view of Trump or didn't know anything about him. But Trump's recent appearance at an event hosted by the Republican Hindu Coalition, a Hindu nationalist group, and a Trump campaign ad released this week targeting Hindu Americans suggest he's still pursuing at least a small part of the Indian American community. The #VoteAgainstHate campaign calls on all Indian Americans to reject Trump, even if they don't support Hillary Clinton:
I spoke to executive producer Vijay Chattha, who called on family and friends to work on the project after having multiple conversations with older relatives who said they'd be voting for Trump because they'd always voted Republican.
Chattha, 39, is not a producer in his regular life–he's an entrepreneur, running a company that helps startups build their brands.
"This is just something that really motivated me and some other friends of mine, we kind of all came together to do this," he told me.
What specifically pushed you to create this campaign?
It came from having just a lot of shocking conversations with family members of the older generations, that were basically going to vote right down the Republican ticket because they had done that for the last three decades, and it just shocked me to the point where I had to pull up YouTube videos of things Trump had said. To kind of get into their mindset of why are they doing it and what the ramifications were. So instead of showing videos to people one on one we thought, 'Why not try to do something more scaleable?' I reached out to my sister in law Angie who’s in the film production world and her boyfriend Doug who’s a screenwriter and director and they were immediately on board.
And then this whole like Hindu event [The Republican Hindu Coalition, which hosted an event where Trump spoke] in New Jersey was appalling. And that somehow those are like the only stories that are out there about South Asians and how they feel about the election. That’s scary, so we also had to kind of like respond to that.
What reasons did your relatives have for voting for Trump?
I think it come down to two things: always voted Republican, not going to change now, and two—and this may be part of reason one—this sort of built-in negativity toward Hillary Clinton. When I would bring up things like what Trump is for, they never really said they believed anything he wanted to do. It always kind of went back to, ‘Look at how bad she is.’ So it’s very interesting that there’s very few people that I talked to who were supportive of any actual policy that Donald Trump is for.
What do you think South Asian Americans have to lose if Trump is elected?
I’m not sure what there is to gain. But the biggest concern I have is trickle down racism. That to me is the most scary part of the rhetoric and the type of people that he is emboldening through this campaign. I think it feels like there’s more and more of these racial divides that come up like whether it’s how kids are talking in school about people of other backgrounds, whether they’re Latino or Muslim. We just saw a school in Windsor California—northern California, Sonoma County, I think it’s a Spanish emerging school, there was graffiti put on it a few days ago that said, 'Build the wall higher' on the wall of their school. This to me is trickle down racism and I feel that if he gets elected and you look at the number of hate crimes reported in America I feel like we’re going to see a multiplier effect on that.
Have your conversations with family members changed anyone's minds yet?
One family member in particular, after many many conversations has come back and said Gary Johnson. But that was before his Aleppo comments. But still we felt like that was progress.
What would you want people to know about how South Asian Americans are feeling about the election, beyond that event where Trump spoke?
I think that certainly it is a diverse community, and certainly it’s getting more diverse with every generation. Personally I feel it’s important to note how many people of South Asian descent have risen to leadership positions within the last eight years of Obama’s term. That represents every aspect from information technology to agriculture to medicine to cultural liaisons. I think that’s pretty incredible. Just the fact that this community is becoming more vocal and is also becoming more integrated into specific aspects of U.S. culture, not just business, tech, law, and engineering, that’s something we hope continues with every cycle. That’s the other important point is that South Asian Americans are getting more politically active.
Aside from your own relatives, who are you hoping this campaign reaches?
I think the biggest thing is that really we want to make sure that if people believe in this message that they share this message across the swing states right now. I think it’s easy to be in San Francisco or New York and assume that everything is going to be the same across the country. I’m always surprised at how people feel in Florida and Ohio and really critical places. So what we want to make sure is that this message is spread across those non-coastal areas. And get the message out there.