How do you make succinct judgments about a region with nearly 2 billion people — let alone the millions who left that region over hundreds of years and built lives in new lands?
Short answer: It’s impossible, but that hasn’t stopped racists from trying it all the same. In fact, I wouldn’t be able to write this article about South Asian immigrants and their US-born children — myself included — if Great Britain and other imperial powers hadn’t already subjected over 100 ethnolinguistic communities, often sharing little more than maybe a religion and some hint of “brown” skin, to a colonial system that wrought trillions of dollars from their labor and lands before hastily departing as their “divide and conquer” tactics festered into unprecedented mass migration and violence.
This history and cultural diversity aren’t readily apparent to people whose main interactions with the South Asian diaspora — the term I’ll use here, while acknowledging that it’s as incomplete and divisive as other terms I could’ve used — are limited to the workplace or pop culture. But they’re especially crucial to the tech sector, where South Asian workers (especially those with roots in India, the largest and wealthiest South Asian country) have been a constant presence for at least two decades.
Our diaspora’s impact on the US tech economy cannot be overstated, even if it’s hard to measure. But figures like these offer some illustration:
- People from India make up a quarter of all tech workers with at least a bachelor’s degree in two Silicon Valley counties — more than any other individual country of origin
- Asians, including South Asians, hold 40.5% of technical roles at Silicon Valley’s top 20 companies
- Indian men lead some of the country’s top tech giants, with prominent examples including CEOs Parag Agrawal of Twitter, Satya Nadella of Microsoft, Sundar Pichai of Alphabet/Google and Arvind Krishna of IBM