In early February, I joined several South Asian American women as we stood in silent protest during Neomi Jehangir Rao’s hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. We represented the 70-plus South Asian women lawyers, law professors and survivor advocates who asked senators to reject Rao’s appointment to fill Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s old seat on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Some people found it surprising that we would oppose Rao, especially since she could be the first South Asian American woman to become a federal appellate judge. The Trump administration understands those optics. President Trump even chose to announce Rao’s nomination at last year’s White House Diwali function, flanked by Indian American appointees and the traditional diya lamp. But the values and principles of public servants, and their commitment to fundamental principles of equality and justice, should matter more than fake diversity and superficial representation. Rao might check off a diversity box on the surface, but her writings in college, her academic scholarship and her policy decisions as the current chief of the federal government’s regulatory office show that she will not be an open-minded, fair and impartial arbiter of justice.
Faith matters. That’s the subject matter of my June podcast on solidarity practice. Listen to Reverend Tuhina Rasche share her thoughts on the weaponization of the Bible to separate families, and to Bayadir Mohamed’s spoken word poetry that sheds light on the Muslim ban and anti-Black racism.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Victory Holds Lessons for Organizing in Communities of Color
Like many people around the country, I have been elated by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s stunning victory over ten-term Democratic incumbent, Joseph Crowley. Clearly, her win is a wake-up call to the Democratic Party and aspiring politicians about the power of Black and Brown candidates and voters. But, Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign is also a reminder to communities of color that we should be explicit in centering our own racial identities and articulating the ways in which systemic and generational racism affects us — whether we are running for elected office or calling for policy change in our neighborhoods.
I thought you might be an interested in an essay I wrote at CNN Opinion about Ahmed Mohamed, the Muslim boy who brought a home-made clock to school and was arrested. Last week, a federal court in Texas dismissed his case with prejudice. I write about how the legal system failed him and how we need to take concrete steps to address racism, Islamophobia and xenophobia.
“In short, immigrant students and students of color are experiencing bias and bigotry in their classrooms, playgrounds and neighborhoods. School administrators and educators must be cognizant of the racial realities that young people encounter daily. And the legal system must take seriously the complaints of young people of color who face police brutality, stop and frisk, deportations and the school-to-prison pipeline. Otherwise, young people will confront challenges ranging from achievement and wage gaps to isolation to a sense that they just don’t belong in America.”
I had a wonderful visit to the University of Pittsburgh this week where I had the opportunity to meet with students, high school teachers, and administrators. Many thanks to the Alliance of South Asians in Pittsburgh and the programs within Pitt that invited me to campus.
We talked about how the themes in #WeTooSingAmerica foreshadowed today’s political environment, and how we can disrupt and build bridges in our communities to meet the “urgency of now”, in the words of MLK Jr.
I wanted to share an essay I wrote for Scroll about how 95 year old narratives about immigrants continue to threaten us today. The essay starts with the Supreme Court’s decision (delivered 95 years ago this month) that Bhagat Singh Thind (who argued he was a free white person) and other Indian immigrants were racially ineligible for citizenship.
“A nuanced historic understanding of the desperate political circumstances that Thind and other Asian immigrants faced in the 1920s may provide some balance to the legitimate critiques we can make today about his reliance on caste and color arguments, his choice to identify as white rather than black or African, and his decision not to question the racial premise behind naturalization laws. Thind made these choices at a time when there was no immigrant rights movement, no thoughtful analyses around racial dynamics, and no positive representations of immigrants in popular culture or media. However, today, we are in a different place. Yes, inhumane immigration laws and xenophobic narratives persist in this country. And yes, Indian immigrants of all immigration statuses face devastating barriers to work, live, and be united with family members because of the broken immigration system. Despite these conditions, we must come together to unify our stories and experiences and to build solidarity with immigrants of all backgrounds and statuses.”
As we begin another year of resistance, what can 2017’s movements teach us about solidarity practices? I wrote this essay on Medium, which might be useful for organizers, activists, and those supporting resistance movements. Please provide feedback about what I’ve missed here, and what your experiences have been around solidarity and resistance movements.
Here’s an excerpt:
The changing racial demographics of the United States and the pushback on the rights of communities of color demand that we transition from organizational silos to community-based solidarity. As we assess our resistance in 2017 and prepare for another year of fighting back inhumane policies, we should rely upon solidarity practice as an important strategy in the activist toolbox. But, we must also sharpen our solidarity work: we must move beyond race as the single and sole organizing force to bring communities together; we must work within our own communities to lovingly challenge biases as we proclaim unity with other movements; and we must ensure that we are not caught in a cycle of rapid response and emergency postures that end up harming our own people and organizations.