A Journey In Black and Indian Love

A Peek inside the marriage of an African American woman and her East Indian spouse

Indians and “They” April 20, 2010

I’ve noticed something lately and I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about it. It’s Indians and the word “they.”  I’ve noticed that this is used quite often when they are referring to other Indians.  From what I have noticed, it’s usually used to talk condescendingly or negatively about fellow Indians. It’s as if the person who is speaking isn’t included in the group they are referring to.

 M does it, my Hindi teacher does it, and several of my Indian friends do it. For some reason, this has been blatantly obvious to me as of late. However, I’ve also noticed that by contrast, the people saying “they” don’t use it when referring to the positive things about the same group of people. That’s when they say “we.”  For example, I had this conversation with M the other day where he was talking about how he felt Indians were obsessed with money. During the conversation he would routinely say things like “they will do anything to save a dollar.”  A little while later he was saying what hard workers Asians are. During this conversation he would consitently say “we” and he ended it by saying “we will put in 16 hour days, without thinking twice.” 

Am I the only person who has noticed this? I have my own thoughts about why “they” and “we” are used but I am interested in other opinions. I understand the desire to distance one’s self from things that are perceived as negative and embracing the things that are seen as positive but I’ve not seen this behavior on this level before or at least it’s never been so bad that I’ve noticed it before. I’m looking forward to hearing your opinions. Until the next blog…


19 Responses to “Indians and “They””

  1. Charie Daviston Says:

    Thanks for blogging. I think that every group does that. When Obama won the election it was like “yes we did.” For Black folks. But when it comes to some of the unsavory aspects like the rap artists and professional athletes it is they do such and such. Human nature is to embrace the positive and distance oneself from the negatives. I think this is particularly true of minority groups. When you’re in the majority it does not matter because they control everything.

    • blindianlove Says:

      As always you make a very good point and another perspective for me to think about. You are awesome girlie!

  2. Empress Samantha Says:

    I agree Charie. I notice it with other blacks. I have a friend who is Hispanic and my roommate is Filipino and they both do it. It’s definitely human nature, applicable to all races/nationalities.

  3. BrownDeutschGirl Says:

    Hi Blindian,

    I came across your site while looking for information on travel to India. I am an African American woman married to a white (German) man – it was so refreshing to find your blog. I read the whole thing (going to back to your first post) this afternoon. I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed the blog and it will now be one of my main blogs to check.

    As part of an IR couple, I find that mostly it is all good with the occassional problem (such as being called a sellout by a lovely Afro-Carribean male the other day). My husband and I have been married for 14 years and from day one we both decided that we were just going to live and love and not worry about all the reactions. We are lucky that we both very strong-willed people who can just roll along with the tidal waves of life. I always say that we are united by our mututal love of travel and need to explore all kinds of different foods – this summer we are off to southeast asia (Vietnam, South Korea, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore) with our children to delve into our truest love – asian foods!

    Anyway, keep up the blogging, it’s great and I really feel that the more people share, the more eyes get opened.

    • blindianlove Says:

      Welcome to the blog! I’m glad you enjoy it. How awesome it is that you and your husband have been married for 14 years. That’s such an accomplishment these days especially being in an IR relationship. I think you two have a wonderful attitude about how to deal with people who are against seeing your type of relationship. Have a good time on your trip this summer. Please let us know about your experiences.

  4. BrownDeutschGirl Says:

    And very true all the comments above. I noticed that in Germany anytime you refer to Holocaust, it’s ‘they’; a good thing like the German people allowing asylum to people, it’s ‘we’. It’s only natural to want to distance yourself from the less pleasant things. But like I tell all my German comrades over here, I am just here for the sausage and sauerkraut (smile).

  5. Diverse Says:

    Some of my African friends and other non American friends have done this,but I do not think that they meant to do it to belittle anyone. I’ve seen some of my Asian friends referred to some Indians as ” they”, Ethiopians refer to Eritreans as the same. In their case, they were saying that in general, but not to be ugly or anything like that.

  6. Anonymissy Says:

    Hello back A!
    I hadn’t visited your blog in a little while, and reading the last posts,I can see that you’re not easily broken. Good for you!

    This post is a good case in point illustration to something that happened to me last week while visiting Trinidad.
    On the second day, I set out to find to traditional Indian shops to stock up on herbal powders and such.
    Alas, I soon found out that Trinidad (outside of the more remote areas that were fuuuurther down south) was not the ”smaller India” I envisioned.( well maybe outside of the major festivals seasons too, to be fair)
    Even a taxi ride to a another ”Indian town” didn’t help.Strip mall after strip mall ,after many a ” turn right then turn left and go west on main st”, I was met with blank stares, and ”Henna…. what’s thaaaat??? from the indo- trinidadian vendors.LOL
    One lady gave me directions to a little shop that would fit what I was looking for.
    So, I much satisfied with my purchases, and then went back a second time to spend some leftover money. This time around, the owner was there alone,and I confessed how happy I was to have found his store after my earlier misfortune.
    Oh…. THEY’RE Ignorant he responds, rolling his eyes.See I’m from India and I import my merchandise blah blah…I don’t even sell bollywood DVDs anymore because THEY sell them 4/$20 on the sidewalk, I just sell the religious ones,THEY don’t even understand those.
    Yeah,not the type of close-knit kinship I expected from dude toward his Indo-trini brothers and sisters.
    I wonder what he’d think of other ethnic groups, SE categories, cultural beliefs and god forbid romantic pairings between Indian and Indo-Trinidadian…..
    Likewise does he say WE orTHEY produce our/their own oil, when speaking to other Indians ?
    Since oil production in Trinidad is a particularly positive attribute in the regional context….Mmmh
    This was long,thanks for letting me vent.

    • blindianlove Says:

      I enjoyed reading about your experience. It seems this is going on world wide. After reading about what happened to you in Trinidad, I’m curious.. did you get the impression that the people who acted as though they didn’t know what henna was were denying the Indian part of their heritage? Thanks again for sharing.

    • Indiangirl Says:

      I’ve come to realize that Indo-Trinidadians (& other Indo-Caribbean people) may have their own unique culture that is influenced by whatever region their ancestors originally came from, but not necessarily the same.
      In addition, somebody who may appear to be completely “Indian” in the Caribbean, may actually have some mixed ancestry. For example, my husband is Afro-Caribbean. He, does, however, have quite a bit of East Indian background mixed in. Therefore, he has family members that look like they might be Indian. I’ve met other people outside of his family w/ similar backgrounds. Many people might make an assumption on what their cultural background based on their appearance that is entirely wrong.
      A comparision might be if an African-American person was assumed to share the same culture as a West African based on appearance. Any perspectives on this from any Indo-Caribbean people?

  7. Anonimissy Says:

    No, I think some of those practices got lost along the way in some families, as everybody seemed rather mainstream.
    I got some I used to use that a long time ago/Those are more available around Diwali time etc…..
    Everyone was curteous, and did their best to direct me to the right place though.

  8. Toni Says:

    I see this also and I agree with your rationale. I have heard “they”, “those people”, and “them” used to refer to people of the same race whose behavior is percieved to be negative. I have also see Whites, the majority, do this too when referring to those who aren’t as well off or cultured as themselves.

  9. It helps to externalize the negative and shun any accountability on the other hand internalizing the positive helps substantiate the personal claims on the same. I usually claim both positive and negatives as my favorite is- “Oh, we desis worship women and then we just kill them when we want to, be it dowry murders, sex selective abortions or honor killings on and on…” My friends from other ethnicities and nationalities have a blast at my claiming both in the same sentence. May be because I refuse to be boxed in any stereotype.

    Even within the desi communities they and we is widely used let alone the “othering” of the different nationalities or ethnicities. May be it helps in claiming identity and establishing superiority over others…

  10. FaithfulGirl Says:

    I am new to your blog and I am very relieved that I came across it while doing research on IR couples. It is quite refreshing to actually be able to read experiences from an AA and Indian couple..especially a couple that is married! I have been in a relationship with an Indian guy for nearly a year and we are madly in love..yes we are battling issues right now because his family does not accept it but hopefully we will make it through this and he will choose to marry for love and because he is in love with me. But anywho! I have noticed that when me and him converse he refers to other Indians as “they” and “them” because he says “they” are not like him and the Indians within his culture. It is obvious to me that each Indian culture holds their culture as superior to the other cultures regardless of their financial status and whatever else it may be. It seems to be somewhat of a prejudice I guess you could say that Indians have not only in regards to those of their culture dating outside of their culture to any other cultures outside of their culture. But that is just a way of life…which is sad…its not only Indian cultures that hold their culture as superior to other cultures but its all. I look forward to hearing more about your story and your life! May God bless you and the life that you have with your children and husband! Hopefully in a few years I will be able to share a story that will be influential to other IR couples.

  11. Abhiwin Says:

    Wow! … This is refreshing … Never thought it could happen 🙂 … okay kidding but still … an IR relationship between an AA and an Indian … I bet he’s a hoot at the ‘sasuraal’ 😀

    But seriously .. I am an Indian guy (who unfortunately lives in India) and believe me I call everyone ‘They’ … The thing is India really cannot be called a single country … You can travel 500 kilometres from one place and be introduced to a completely new culture (and i mean COMPLETELY NEW… as in different food …. different clothing… different language )and lots of blindly patriotic Indians think this is a good thing which it OBVIOUSLY isn’t coz we end up being so different …. Ask M what the southern Indians are called … ‘Madrasis’ … thats one HUGE stereotype … thats like calling every American a redneck (including the black people) … and in southern india the northerners are called Northies …Everyone stereotypes EVERYONE else here … thats why you here the they’s and we’s …. We end up diversifying ourselves when it comes to the negative observations and unifying ourselves when we’re talking about something positive …

  12. msha Says:

    I notice that all races use the we to reference positive, and they for negative. But what truly bugged me a few month ago was when a white american friend used the words ” you people” while talking to me. I was truly appalled and felt like every hair on my body was standing up. I wish she had a mirror on her face to see my expression..lol Because something in my expression prompted her to immediately apologize. Not sure if I am being fair to her…but since that day we have grown distance. Not sure what it was but the words “you people” left a sour taste for me. Not sure if it was the words themselves. Maybe if she wasn’t a friend I would have felt differently. But i’m not sure because it was the first time I experienced the words.

  13. Kyra Says:

    Honey this is normal. Or even, I know in my VERY multicultural group of friends and family we use it jokingly to refer to those who confirm negative stereotypes about our different races- the joke is that at least one of us or the speaker is usually included! We say, “you people” or “your cousin” in order to “take back” racism. It’s a way of acknowledging that stereotypes come from somewhere, but that indeed all of us in racialized groups know that the problem is only that people use stereotypes IN PLACE OF building or recognizing a COMPLETE person/identity. “In Living Color”, “Chappelle Show” (for those who actually understood it), and Mel Brooks’ movies are great examples of this type of humor.

    Not that there is never in-group prejudice, but the above use is also taking that into account and making something of a meta- joke about it, meaning that when somebody says “I hate THOSE people” the hearer generally understands that the speaker is not *really* excluding himself and therein lies the humor. People who are excluding themselves are a different story. Read Michael Eric Dyson’s “Has the Black Middle Class Lost Its Mind” for that one.

  14. Erica Williams Says:

    Can someone please help me out with this?
    This is my only chance and idk what else to do

    I really liked this kid and he liked me but no one said anything because a) we barely saw each other b)I gave mixed signals because how he made me feel freaked me out(scared) c)his Indian mom scares the CRAP outta me
    This has been going on for a year in a half this feeling of regret and never saying anything when the feeling was sooooo strong.it was so intense.idk where he is
    Idk how I can find him
    Idk what I’ll say if I find him I had an experience after that were I was in some predicament like the one I’m talking about and I was comfortable talking to another guy who I liked but not as much.I still have some feeljngs for him.. Who am I kidding I feel something so strong for him.we kinda cross paths at his work place where his mom works also but she never talks to me and she knows I like him but she doesn’t like it I can feel it.I just don’t know what to do no one has made me feel like this before and I have to do something about I just don’t understand.can you help?

  15. kart Says:


    First time reader… I have believed this for sometime now… and this is a fact which most Indians would find it hard to deny… we are far more racist than ur average redneck american… there are various division such as north vs. south, tamilians vs malayalis, hindi speaking vs non-hindi speaking, marathis vs bhiaris & UPs, delhi-ites vs biharis, delhi-ites vs north eastern indians, delhi-ites vs southern indians (specifically tamilians), delhi-tes vs mumbai-kars, tamilians vs kannadigas etc… and each one is waiting for the other to screw up in some manner so that we can show them up…

    we probably won’t lynch ppl or be unpleasant openly… but we will most certainly talk ill of them (privately or anonymously via the internet)… and undermine them in various ways… We are obsessed with the idea of fairer skin and ridicule everything that is even remotely dusky (something that is considered ‘sexy’ in the west)… and the above is irrespective of the level of education, social status, wealth etc… even the way we view white ppl and black ppl (Prez Obama changed that perception a bit… but still there is a lot that requires change)… we really are obnoxious at times..

    in the recent past, there has been some change… bcos of the level of exposure we are getting from foreign media and tv… but i have no hope for some radical transformation… some of the differences are too ingrained to change overnight…

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