As Trump attempts to win votes from Hindu Americans, a group of young people have launched an ad campaign of their own, appealing to immigrant family members who might be considering voting for him
Speaking Hindi with a thick Indian American accent, Donald Trump filled the screen of a video advertisement. Condemning the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks and promising the Hindu and Indian community would have “a true friend in the White House” were he elected, the on-screen translation reads: “This time Trump government”. The 30-second video was carefully timed to coincide with Diwali celebrations unfolding up and down the country.
Some four million Indian Americans live in the US, according to 2015 census figures, forming one of the US’s most affluent ethnic groups. Parts of the community have expressed fears about extremist terrorism, something Trump has seized upon in trying to win their votes. And seeing some Indian Americans waving ‘Hindus for Trump’ signs at an anti-terrorism charity concert in New Jersey, his attempt to resonate with the community seemed to be working.
But Trump’s attempt to woo Hindu Americans was also answered by another ad campaign. Young Hindu Indian Americans launched the grassroots, independent #VoteAgainstHate campaign, urging older family members to reconsider casting their vote for the Republican nominee. Some think that Trump spreads a message of hate and have baulked against the suggestion that their community is aligned with his politics.
Our generation is growing up connected to the rest of the world, which affords us this amazing privilege of perspective
The video, which features some of Trump’s most controversial campaign trail soundbites as well as appearances by US actors Arjun Gupta, Sheetal Sheth and Utkarsh Ambudkar, suggests Trump may not be as sensible a candidate for presidency as he claims. The cast argue that Trump’s anti-Muslim stance, nativist tendencies and sometimes-erratic actions make him ill-suited to represent their relatives’ cross-cultural backgrounds.
“Please, please don’t be on the wrong side of history,” say the actors in the video as they address their family members directly, urging them to realise the significance of their votes.
“Like many people, me and the other creators of the video were getting really sick of all the negativity surrounding this election,” video director Doug Patterson told Positive News. “At the same time, we were realising that we all have people in our lives – good hearted people – who are actually going to vote for Donald Trump, simply because they identify as Republican.
“We were seeing really positive responses to some public service announcements while also reading statistics that said something like 20 per cent of Indian American voters were either undecided or leaning towards Republican. Trump had given us a lot to work with in making a case for why people shouldn’t vote for him, and at the same time, we wanted to do something that could empower the south Asian community.”
Those behind the #VoteAgainstHate campaign hope to highlight what they see as the hypocrisy at the heart of Trump’s attempts to woo Indian Americans: acknowledging on one hand that “generations of Hindu and Indian Americans have strengthened our country” while also urging strict immigration controls. While Trump has targeted Muslims specifically in his anti-extremism rhetoric, the mindset that comes with Islamophobia will negatively impact everyone in the south Asian community, believes Patterson.
We’ve had a lot of people reach out to tell us that the video affected them which is an amazing feeling
“The biggest concern is that many people in our country don’t have the drive or the means to step outside of what they know. They adopt their parents’ political views and don’t consider that maybe their parents were wrong about some things. We have to change the way people think,” he said.
“Our generation is growing up connected to the rest of the world, which affords us this amazing privilege of perspective. I can understand why our parents might be xenophobic, but if you were born in the 90s and you think we should build a wall around our country, then you’ve missed something along the way.”
So how is the video being received by family members?
“My parents are proud of me and admit that it’s powerful,” said Patterson, “but when I suggested posting it directly on a Trump-supporting second cousin’s Facebook wall, my mother bristled – she thinks it’s too confrontational. I hope that it’s worked on some. We’ve had a lot of people reach out to tell us that the video affected them which is an amazing feeling. I’ll tell you if I think it worked on 8 November – election day.”
Image: Vote Against Hate