A millennial-favorite poet will not attend a Diwali celebration hosted at the White House because of the Biden administration’s stance on the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Rupi Kaur, whose work gained attention on Instagram, announced on X that she had been invited to the Nov. 8 event by Vice President Kamala Harris.
“I decline any invitation from an institution that supports the collective punishment of a trapped civilian population—50% of whom are children,” said Kaur.
“I’m surprised this administration finds it acceptable to celebrate Diwali, when their support for current atrocities against Palestinians represents the exact opposite of what this holiday means to many of us,” the Milk & Honey author continued.
The poet added that the five-day celebration, observed by Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains, is a “celebration of righteousness over falsehood and knowledge over ignorance.”
“I have always used this day to reflect on what it means to fight for freedom against oppression,” wrote Kaur. “Today, the American government is not only funding the bombardment of Gaza, they continue to justify this genocide against Palestinians – regardless of how many refugee camps, health facilities, and places of worship are blown to bits. They reject the call for a humanitarian ceasefire – a baseline action being demanded by the United Nations, organizations like Doctors Without Borders, Red Cross, and a majority of countries.”
Kaur said Israel has used “white phosphorus bombs, which Amnesty International says must be investigated as a war crime” and that CNN has broadcasted footage of “Israeli settlers kicking out and occupying homes of Palestinians in the West Bank.”
The 31-year-old was born in Canada to Indian parents. She said South Asian people “must not be tokenized” or used as a photo-op on behalf of the government.
The vice president is also of South Asian descent. Harris’s mother is from India and moved to the U.S. to attend a doctoral program at the University of California-Berkeley.
“Like Barack Obama, a mixed-race heritage has allowed Harris to connect across identities and reach multiple audiences and voting blocs,” reported CNN in 2020.
Harris hosted a large-scale Diwali celebration at the White House and a smaller reception at her residence in 2022. In addition to President Joe Biden and his wife, the event was attended by “several prominent Indian Americans, including Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, Reps. Ro Khanna and Raja Krishnamoorthi, bestselling author Jay Shetty and actor and former White House staffer Kal Penn,” per ABC News.
For Kaur, the Israel-Hamas conflict takes precedence over shared cultural heritage. She encouraged her supporters to lobby the Biden administration to intervene in Gaza.
“When a government’s actions dehumanize people anywhere in the world, it is our moral imperative to call for justice,” said Kaur. “Do not be afraid. Stand with the world and demand a humanitarian ceasefire.”