There’s something missing…..

Neville BilimoriaBy Neville M. Bilimoria

All of the activity around last month’s storming of the U.S. Capitol and last year’s civil unrest over social justice and equality had me, and perhaps everyone else, taking a step back.  It made me wonder about our society in these difficult times.  You see, the Capitol siege and the civil unrest from last year, both had something in common: they both were examples of a society missing basic principles of respect for human beings, and the basic principles of human decency.

In America, when there is a difference of opinion, or a debate of issues or political sides, we do not traditionally see people violently erupting out of anger, attacking people’s families, or knocking down doors and windows to win the debate.  With intellectual discussion and debate, there exists a certain amount of decorum, through an academic pursuit, oft and times with spirited excitement on all sides that comes with a proper oratorical debate.  But the people that stormed the Capitol were filled with rage, armed with a false truth about the election and their way of life, and they took it upon themselves to somehow “save” the country by exerting violence instead of reasonable discourse. Continue reading “There’s something missing…..”

Women Shatter Barriers Again, This Time in Major League Baseball: But We Need to Recognize the Milestone

Neville Bilimoria By Neville M. Bilimoria

Over the summer I wrote about historic milestones in diversity and inclusion that occurred in 2020 that could not be ignored.[i]  Well, now, I think it is important to focus on yet another milestone in diversity that we need to cherish, and that needs to garner more attention despite the other, many distractions in 2020.  After all, it has been too easy for us to wallow in the bad news of 2020, focusing mostly on the pandemic, racial and social injustice, and or even the fervor over the U.S. presidential campaigns earlier this year.  Continue reading “Women Shatter Barriers Again, This Time in Major League Baseball: But We Need to Recognize the Milestone”

We Must Not Overlook Recent Historic Diversity Milestones

Neville BilimoriaBy Neville Bilimoria

During the pandemic, it is so hard for us to stay connected and focused, much less remember what day of the week it is. Some, like myself, seem like we are glued to our screens, working away, and have little time to look up and focus on what is happening outside of our isolated home offices. That’s why I feel we have to step back, take a breath, and really internalize and absorb some of the historic diversity milestones that have occurred just recently over the last month, and not let the coronavirus and our collective isolation divert our attention away from these history-making milestones: Continue reading “We Must Not Overlook Recent Historic Diversity Milestones”

What Being an Asian American Means To Me? It’s All About Family . . .

Neville BilimoriaBy Neville M. Bilimoria

As an individual born in the United States to parents who were born and raised in India, I take a lot of pride in the sacrifices and hard work of my parents who made my life possible here in the U.S.

My father was born in a small town north of Mumbai called, Bilimora, where I get my last name. It is more of what we call today, a village, with no paved roads and for a while, no running water. He lived in poverty in that town and grew up sometimes shoeless and hungry with his parents and brother and sisters. Early on, amidst the stench of squalor and almost hopelessness in that village, he had a hard work ethic and he studied very hard. His hard work paid off, earning him a rare Tata Scholarship that allowed him to exit India, travel abroad, and obtain a scholarship to study in the U.S. At that time, only 10 Tata scholarships were awarded in the entire country of India. My father worked and studied very hard to obtain that notable award, and gain freedom outside of his small village to encounter new and exciting opportunities in the United States.

My dad studied and worked very hard at Tennessee University and Roosevelt University, earning many advanced graduate engineering and managerial degrees, only to land a highly sought after job working for General Electric Company for 35 years as a manager of refrigeration and range in Chicago. At one point he oversaw a busy manufacturing plant in Cicero, Illinois, just outside Chicago, where he managed over 16,000 employees. He brought my mom over from Mumbai in 1965 and my brother and I were born here in the U.S. shortly thereafter.

As wonderful a story as it was, and one that I am thankful for every day, my dad did experience discrimination during his time here, especially in the late 1960s. My dad made it a point to keep his experiences private, perhaps to save us from the excruciating pain of discrimination, and to perhaps shield us as best he could from the darker side of the U.S. — our free country that he loved. Even when he died early in 2002 from a bout with prostate cancer, he never showed us or told us about his discrimination, though we knew he encountered it. He always tried to be brave for me and my brother, but we knew being brown skinned and in the U.S. most of his life that he did encounter discrimination.

For example, it was only recently that my mother told us of a story about my father when the movie Green Book came out. Travelling in Tennessee, my father entered a diner (nerdy and clueless) and waited for a long time to be served. Finally, seeing no one that would take his order, a patron walked up and said “we don’t serve your kind around here.” At that point my father, always embracing Gandhi’s anti-violence teachings, packed up and walked out of the diner.

Indeed, growing up in Chicago, I myself faced instances of hatred based on my ethnicity, often misplaced and mistaken. For example, as a young boy in Chicago, I experienced many folks in school (often older kids) telling me to go back to Iran, or calling me derogatory terms that didn’t even match my ethnicity. Many kids in school also called me “Dot head” or “Gandhi”. I didn’t think too much of it then, adopting my Dad’s philosophy of just focusing, studying hard, and choosing to turn the other cheek.
In this month of Asian Heritage, I now look back on those instances of discrimination, and posit to you that these horrible acts actually made me and my family stronger.

Looking back, I’m glad that kids made fun of me and called me Gandhi. In essence, they were honoring my father and his peaceful, hardworking way of life. And I just worked harder in school to honor my family.

In even these recent times of hate crimes, the one solace we all have is our family and each other. That sense of family will continue to drive Asian Americans through any tough times ahead.

*This series has been created to celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.