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Join We Too Sing America Conversations in March 2016!

Join We Too Sing America Conversations in March 2016!

Already in 2016, We Too Sing America community conversations have occurred on campuses like the University of Berkeley and the University of Texas, at bookstores like Booksmith in San Francisco, and at community centers like the Asian American Resource Center (Austin), the Nashville Public Library, and the Sri Ganesha Temple (Nashville).

Here’s a list of upcoming conversations in March. Please spread the word and join us! If you’d like to convene a conversation at your place of worship, with your youth group, on campus, or at your community center or local library, please email

We Too Sing America Book Tour (March 2016)

(please click on links for more information or contact

*March 2 at Towson University (in conversation with Shani Banks and Yves Gomes)

*March 7 at Brennan Center for Justice 

*March 18 at Asian American/Asian Research Institute of the City University of New York (in conversation with Zohra Saed)

*March 24th at Asian Americans for Equality’s Equality Fund Book Club (NYC)

*March 28th in Louisville, Kentucky at the Ursuline Arts Center




Booklist Includes We Too Sing America in Top 10 List of Multicultural Books

Booklist Includes We Too Sing America in Top 10 List of Multicultural Books

Pledge Postcards


Thank you, Booklist, the magazine of the American Librarians Association, for including We Too Sing America to the Top 10 Multicultural Non-Fiction Books of the Year! It’s simultaneously surreal and gratifying to share any ink space with writers such as Ta-Nehisi Coates and Sandra Cisneros. Please check out the full list – and read all these books at your local library! 



Five Steps Forward Towards Addressing Islamophobia and Xenophobia

Five Steps Forward Towards Addressing Islamophobia and Xenophobia

When my book, We Too Sing America: South Asian, Arab, Muslim, and Sikh Immigrants Shape Our Multiracial Future, was released in early November, I did not expect that the themes it addresses – the devastating impact of the national security policies, the daily phenomenon of anti-Muslim sentiment, and the growth of xenophobic narratives on communities in post 9/11 America – would come into such sharp focus as they have over the past month and a half.

In the wake of the heinous attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, we have witnessed the drumbeat of dangerous political rhetoric and a spate of attacks targeting Muslim, Arab and South Asian community members on streets and campuses, and at stores and places of worship. As we digest news about horrific hate crimes on a daily basis, as we begin to understand the impact of today’s climate on young Muslim, Arab, and South Asians, and as we read about the divisive rhetoric from those seeking political office, it is natural to feel discouraged.

At #WeTooSingAmerica community conversations from New York to Washington, DC to Chicago to Atlanta to Seattle, people have shared that they are experiencing a range of emotions these days, from frustration to hopelessness to outrage to sadness. That is exactly why what we do now matters: to come together, to speak up, to show up, and to do so in ways that center the experiences of Muslim communities in the United States.

Thankfully, there is no shortage of people ready and willing to do so, to explicitly say that “we are better than this.”  I’ve seen this firsthand at #WeTooSingAmerica community conversations, where people of all racial and faith backgrounds have been making pledges to talk about, take action on the issues and narratives facing Muslim, Arab and South Asian communities in post 9/11 America, and to influence others to do the same.

Culled from the responses from people around the country, and from the examples of positive actions already happening, below are five ways to take action now to demonstrate that it is vital – and possible – to point our country in an alternative direction: one based on a shared vision of respect, justice, equity, and solidarity.

[Want to add to this list and provide additional examples and best practices? Email or post up on the We Too Sing America facebook page].

  1. Statements Matter “I will ask my organization, my elected official, my place of worship to make statements of support and solidarity”

At this moment, strong statements that directly center and address xenophobia and Islamophobia are important in setting a different tone for our country. Here are some solid examples that you can use to make an ask of your local newspaper to write an editorial, your campus administrators for an official message from the President, your own organization or network, or your local elected official or City Council.

  • From City Agencies and City Councils

Nashville Metro Human Relations Commission

Seattle City Council Resolution

  •  From Campus Administration/Student Voices

Best practice tip: Ask university officials to consider sending a message to the entire campus community about the impact of today’s climate on Muslim, Arab and South Asian students, and to reiterate the campus’ anti-discrimination policies and commitment to inclusion. Ask student groups to stand in solidarity with Muslim Student Associations on campuses and centralize Islamophobia and xenophobia as key aspects of conferences, meetings, and programs in 2016. Examples:

Cal Poly Pomona

Eastern Coachella Valley Youth Speak Out Against Islamophobia after a nearby mosque reported being firebombed

  • From Allies and Organizations

National Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander organizations speak out against bigotry at the Japanese American Memorial

Statement from Asian and Pacific Islander organizations in Washington State

  • From Editorial Boards

Detroit Free Press Editorial Board’s We Stand Together. We are better than Bigotry.

2. Prevention Matters: “As a parent, I am going to ask my school counselor and principal how they are planning to address bullying and bias against Muslim, Arab, Sikh and South Asian students.”

We can attempt to stem the tide of hate violence and bias incidents in schools, communities and workplaces with three R’s in mind: ensuring that communities being targeted are aware of their rights; that government agencies and public stakeholders publicly articulate and vigorously enforce their responsibilities under anti-discrimination laws; and that resources are made available to assist communities in need.


  • Ask your local civil and human rights commission to release in-language factsheets about the legal protections that exist on the basis of national origin and faith.
  • Ask your City Council to hold a hearing on the impact of today’s climate on Muslim, Arab and South Asian communities that reflects the voices and experiences of local community members and leaders.
  • If you are a parent, ask your school principal and counselors about their plans to ensure that policies and resources are in place to address bullying. Free resources from the National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments here

3. Conversations Matter: “I will have a conversation about race and Islamophobia with my colleagues at work”; “I will challenge my relatives who make anti-Muslim statements.”

The messiest and most difficult conversations are often the ones we have with the people in our closest circles of colleagues, family members and friends to raise awareness and shift viewpoints. Here are some resources to help shape those conversations that include questions and remarks such as “Aren’t all terrorists Muslims?” or “The Syrian refugees could be dangerous.”


4. Supporting Organizations and Grassroots Efforts Matters:

Crisis response has been a daily phenomenon for groups working with Muslim, Arab, South Asian and Sikh communities, including local community-based organizations and places of worship in your area. This is an ideal time, as we close out the year, to make a donation to support their work.  While there are many amazing organizations to support (many are linked in the sections on this post or here), I’m highlighting two local ones that are particularly invested in organizing and base building.

5. Showing Up Matters:

Coming together with Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities for a press conference, a civic action, a march on campus or a solidarity event at a mosque sends a powerful message at this moment. Check out the links above for examples of events.

Prepare for or follow up on solidarity events with an awareness and strategy session with the membership of your own organizations and representatives of Muslim, Arab and South Asian groups.  Best Practice Tip: At all times, it is important to connect with and take the lead from groups working directly with MASA communities to reflect their voices and expertise on messaging.

[Want to add to this list and provide additional examples and best practices? Email or post up on the We Too Sing America facebook page].


What was really on trial in the Sureshbhai Patel case?

What was really on trial in the Sureshbhai Patel case?

In early September, a jury in Huntsville, Alabama, began to hear testimony in the case of Eric Parker, a white police officer who faced federal charges for violating the civil rights of Sureshbhai Patel, a 57-year-old Indian immigrant and grandfather. On September 11th, the jury of ten white men and two Black women reached a stalemate in their deliberations for the third time, leading the judge to declare a mistrial. What happened during the trial should concern all Asian Americans and anyone working on police brutality cases.

The facts in the case against former Officer Eric Parker of the Madison, Alabama police department seemed fairly straightforward at first glance. In February of this year, Parker and another cop were in Mr. Patel’s suburban neighborhood to follow up on a 9-11 call from someone who claimed that a suspicious “skinny Black guy” was walking around. Officer Parker and his partner approached Mr. Patel. Their exchange, captured on dashcam video, shows that Mr. Patel could only utter a few words in English. Video footage also shows what happened next. Officer Parker performed what is known as a front leg sweep, throwing Mr. Patel onto the ground. Mr. Patel was hospitalized for months, and became partially paralyzed as a result.

Read more at Race Files.


Ahmed Mohamed’s Clock

Ahmed Mohamed’s Clock

The experience of Ahmed Mohamed — a Sudanese Muslim high school freshman who was suspended and arrested in Irving, Texas, after his teachers and administrators believed that a clock he made was a bomb — has caught America’s attention. Even President Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg weighed in, inviting Mohamed to the White House and Facebook, respectively. But these gestures, as sincere as they are, cannot by themselves counteract the reasons the incident happened in the first place: the pervasiveness of anti-Muslim bias in our country and the discriminatory application of school discipline policies against brown, Muslim and immigrant students.

Read more here at Al-Jazeera.


The Untold Narratives in Post 9/11 America

The Untold Narratives in Post 9/11 America

On the fourteenth anniversary of September 11th, I wrote a piece in The Guardian about the invisible and untold narratives that continue to exist.

“Most of the undergraduates in my courses on Asian- and South Asian American communities, were in kindergarten when the attacks of 11 September 2001 occurred, so they have lived in the reality of post-9/11 America for most of their lives.

But their ability to critically analyze our government’s policies and practices in the post-9/11 environment is limited, because the narrative about the day and its aftermath – lives lost; War on Terror triggered – excludes the stories of South Asian, Arab, Muslim and Sikh communities in America and their ongoing experiences with hate violence, discrimination, government surveillance and profiling.”

Read more here.



Thanks for visiting my website! If you’d like to receive an occasional email about the issues dear to my heart – racial justice and South Asian and Asian American communities – please complete the form below.

About Me:

I’m a South Asian American woman, who was born in India and who immigrated to Kentucky when I was 12 . I’m an activist and advocate who has supported racial and immigrant justice movements for 15 years, most recently as the executive director of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) and now as Senior Fellow at the Center for Social Inclusion (CSI). Please visit the “About Deepa” link to learn more and to connect with me.

About this Website:

This website is a contribution to the body of practices, ideas, and resources that can help us shape and navigate inclusive and multiracial communities in America’s quickly transforming racial landscape. Much of the website’s information for the time being will be devoted to my new book, We Too Sing America: South Asian, Muslim, Arab and Sikh Immigrants Shape Our Multiracial Future, forthcoming from The New Press in November 2015.

Please look around the site to learn about how you can join the We Too Sing America book tour, get involved with race talks in schools, communities and campuses, and if you are interested, please peruse the archives for many of my reflections and musings on everything from Bobby Jindal to the National Spelling Bee.

Thank you for visiting! I hope to see you on the We Too Sing America book tour and to be in dialogue about how we can lift up experiences, voices, stories, and best practices for building more inclusive and multiracial communities in America. To receive an occasional email about the issues featured on this blog, please complete the form below!


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Gov Jindal Might Be Tanned and Rested, but He’s Not Ready to Court Communities of Color

Gov Jindal Might Be Tanned and Rested, but He’s Not Ready to Court Communities of Color

Following Governor Jindal’s announcement that he’s running for President, Indian Americans have had a gamut of responses. Here’s my take on his readiness from a policy standpoint:

Governor Bobby Jindal’s announcement last week that he is running for President prompted a string of critical responses from progressive South Asians and Asian Americans who are skeptical and even ashamed of him for many reasons, not the least of which are his apparent denials of his culture, heritage, and racial identity. Given our recent national conversations on the fluidity of racial identity sparked by Rachel Dolezal, the questions around whether Governor Jindal is Indian enough or whether he has assimilated into Whiteness are timely ones that merit further discussion (and some well-intentioned humor, thanks to #BobbyJindalisSoWhite and #Jindian, the comedic creations of Hari Kondabolu and Aasif Mandvi). Governor Jindal’s racial identity is not the best litmus test or standard to assess his candidacy for President. Instead, we should take a look at his viewpoints, policies and rhetoric, which have been harmful and divisive, especially with respect to immigrants and communities of color.

Please read the rest over at The Huffington Post.

Dear Governor Haley: #TakeItDown

Dear Governor Haley: #TakeItDown

Images and symbols matter. Remants and reminders of racism, Jim Crow segregation, and slavery matter. That is why it is hard to fathom why the state of South Carolina would continue to tolerate, defend and proudly display the Confederate flag. It continues to fly despite the fact that nine Black community members were murdered in an act of domestic terrorism by Dylann Roof on June 17th at a historic Charleston church. It continues to fly despite the fact that Roof’s hateful actions were premised on his own words which reflect the hundreds of years of White supremacist thought that have plagued our nation: “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have got to go.” As Ta-Nehisi Coates writes, “Roof’s crime cannot be divorced from the ideology of white supremacy which long animated his state nor from its potent symbol—the Confederate flag.”

Still, the Confederate flag continues to fly above the Confederate Soldiers Monument on the grounds of the Capitol building in Columbia, South Carolina. And one of its staunch defenders has been South Carolina’s governor, Nikki Haley. Governor Haley has even used her own ethnicity (she is Indian American) to try and dispel any doubts that racial problems continue to exist in South Carolina. In an October 2014 debate, she stated: “But we really kind of fixed all that when you elected the first Indian-American female governor.” (Video clip here; Governor Haley’s comments begin around the 1:15 mark).

Really, Governor Haley? Clearly, the hate violence in Charleston this past week demonstrates that racism in the most violent of forms exists in South Carolina. It also shows up in other ways, including the cycles of multigenerational poverty that lead to disparate educational and economic outcomes for Black children and youth in the state – and that are not being adequately addressed by state policies.

South Asians in particular must send Governor Haley a message. Our ethnicity should not be trotted out to justify racist symbols or actions. Governor Haley also misses the point about being elected to office as an Indian American. Just because Indian Americans are elected to political office, just because the halls of political power look more diverse, does not mean that racial injustice simply disappears. It doesn’t work that way. Instead, when Indian Americans and South Asians are elected into office, they have a responsibility and duty to understand the role of structural racism, to call it out, and to “fix” it through equitable policies and practices.

Send a message to Governor Haley. Tell her: “I’m an Indian American/South Asian and I am saddened and outraged by the shootings in Charleston. I understand that you have defended the display of the Confederate flag on the grounds of the statehouse in Columbia. Please take down the flag which is a symbol of racist ideology and actions targeting Black communities. As an Indian American/South Asian, I stand against racism and inequity. I hope you will too.”

What Does Race Have to Do with the Spelling Bee?

What Does Race Have to Do with the Spelling Bee?

It’s #NationalSpellingBee time! Tonight, two winners prevailed over the 285 contestants who sought to become national speller-in-chief. Congratulations to Vanya Shivashankar, 13, of Olathe, Kansas, and Gokul Venkatachalam, 14, of Chesterfield, Missouri, who are dual champions in the 88th annual National Scripps Spelling Bee.

So what does race have to do with the National Spelling Bee?

Inevitably, everytime the Spelling Bee comes around, there are two misleading and damaging race-based narratives that swirl around it. I explore them – the myth of cultural exceptionalism, and the reality of xenophobic responses to winners – over at Colorlines. Below is an excerpt, with the full piece here:

The Scripps spelling bee shouldn’t be a justification for cultural or racial superiority. But it is most definitely an apt benchmark to assess our national appetite for diversity and inclusion. In recent years, for example, the public response to Indian-American national spelling bee champions has been nothing short of racist and xenophobic. An article in The Times of India recounts the various reactions:

Another reader said, “How is it that foreigners who are new to America are able to win the spelling bee like this?” while another reader posted, “First they took our beauty queen title then they take our bee. Whats [sic] next they take away our jobs…”

Another said, “The kids in the spelling bee should only be AMERICAN”.

Another tweet said “Shocking that neither of the Spelling bee champs have names that sound American #Sriram #Ansun.”

These remarks give us a sense of the racial anxiety that is pervasive in America, a trend that is becoming more visible and pernicious as the country’s demographics dramatically change. With a population of nearly 4 million, South Asians are the fastest-growing race group in the United States. As South Asians become more visible in sectors perceived as “American”—the Scripps National Spelling Bee or the Miss America pageant (won by Nina Davuluri in 2014)—the backlash rears its head, with portrayals of South Asians as un-American, as undesirable immigrants who seek to corrupt the nation.  These perceptions are not new. The notions that South Asians are forever foreigners, worthy of suspicion, or job-stealers are ones that community members have contended with for over 100 years in the United States. Even today, despite accepting South Asian success in some arenas—cab drivers, domestic workers, computer programmers, and even CEOs of startups—there are others that are reserved for “real” Americans (read: white, Christian, citizen).  Being a hardworking child of immigrants, even with the title of spelling bee champion, does not automatically mean that one belongs to this country.  For South Asians in particular, the struggle for racial justice must include the dismantlement of the cultural exceptionalism myth.

Read the rest of the piece over at Colorlines, and leave your feedback in the comments!

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