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December 17, 1999
Marshall Scholar Wants To Study Racial Issues
A P Kamath
Given his credentials as the co-editor-in-chief of Harvard International Review and coxswain for the 1999 Harvard crew that won the National Championship, Sujit Mundayat Raman, could have easily sailed into Oxford University.
But he had University of Bristol on his mind even before he was named among 40 Marshall Scholars last week.
"I have been deeply interested in studying race relations, and Bristol has some of the finest academics in the field," says Raman who will study under Tarik Modood, the author of Ethnic Communities in Britain.
"The Indian and Caribbean immigrant communities in Britain have acquired a strong voice," he says. And their success suggests to him what the Indian American community could be some two decades from now, Raman says.
Son of a physician in Houston, Raman says race relations and interaction between ethnic groups has interested him from his school days. And now, with the help of Marshall scholarship, he says, he will have an opportunity to meet with leading ethnicity academics in another country.
They provide an opportunity for American students, who have demonstrated academic excellence and leadership potential, to continue their studies for two or three years at a British university.
Raman, a sociology major at Harvard University, wants to go into public life, maybe as a journalist.
"I would love to be a commentator and contribute towards constructing the good and just society," he says. "I firmly believe in grassroots journalism."
At the Harvard International Review, which is run entirely by students, Raman has had many opportunities to connect with "progressive" thinkers.
"One of my best experiences was contacting Amartya Sen to write an article on human rights for us," he says. "He was very busy indeed, but he made time to write the article."
Two months after the Review article was published, Dr Sen won the Nobel Prize.
"Our issue was still out when the announcement was made, and it sold many more copies because of the new profile Sen had received," Raman says. The quarterly publication has over 25,000 readers.
HIR, which has completed two decades, has featured scholars and policy-makers from around the world, including Nelson Mandela, Samuel P Huntington, Aung San Suu Kyi, Jeffrey Sachs, Shimon Peres, John Kenneth Galbraith, Jimmy Carter, and Zbigniew Brzezinski.
Raman recently organized a recent panel discussion on race and affirmative action at Harvard.
"Race relations are becoming far more complex -- and interesting across America," he says.
"A decade or so ago, you thought about racism in the context of whites and African Americans," he continues. "But today we see racial conflict between people of color too. Take for instance the situation about African Americans and Indian Americans... Look at the taxi scene in New York where south Asian drivers in particular are accused of not picking up African Americans."
His interest in race and community relations is not confined to North America and England.
He recently spent several months in Bombay working with social activists who are fighting communalism and are trying to forge unity between Hindus and Muslims.
"I returned to America with new insights about working with people of different religions and cultures," he says, adding that he also plans to work in India time to time.
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