In 1995, Dinesh D'Souza, an nri, published a controversial book, The End of Racism. This transplant from Mumbai argued that poverty among African Americans was a result not so much of racism but of their own failure. D'Souza was the first desi to make such an egregious argument in print, though many among the over one million desis in the US make similar comments in the privacy of the home. Ensconced within a conservative institution, D'Souza joined an onrush of authors who made a similar but untutored claim. Being an nri, D'Souza was able to take the argument further. "Why can't an African American," he asked, "be more like an Asian?"
Asians, we're told, succeed in the US by their own initiative, bolstered by family values and an urgency to learn new technologies. The exemplary nris seem almost always to be dotcom millionaires or technical functionaries at big firms. Bill Gates, Bill Clinton and, lest one forget, the Dollar Bill acclaim the brilliance of the nri. And we nris, keen to find a way to accommodate ourselves to the disdain we sometimes feel as immigrants, seize onto this and, in parody, applaud ourselves. We're the good immigrants, who work hard, are obedient and don't complain about racism. We're the model minority.