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Category: Writing & Media

Courts were unfair to Ahmed

Courts were unfair to Ahmed

Dear WTSA Family,

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.”

For more, please see: https://www.cnn.com/…/ahmed-mohamed-discriminati…/index.html

An Indian immigrant’s fight for US citizenship in 1923 holds lessons in Trump’s America

An Indian immigrant’s fight for US citizenship in 1923 holds lessons in Trump’s America

Dear WTSA Family,

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.”

I was inspired to write it by my dear friend, Bupen Ram, who is and will always be a bright, bright light. The essay includes shout-outs to Thenmozhi SoundararajanBangladeshi American Women’s Development Initiative – BAWDIRavi Ragbir, and others who are ensuring that we don’t pit ourselves against each other in today’s immigration struggle.

To read the full article, please visit: https://scroll.in/article/869304/bhagat-singh-thinds-fight-for-citizenship-in-1923-holds-lessons-for-immigrants-in-trumps-america

Listen to Solidarity: Our Community is Our Campaign

Listen to Solidarity: Our Community is Our Campaign

Dear We Too Sing America Community:

Please listen to the November 2017 episode of Solidarity is This, which features a conversation with M. Adams and Kabzuag Vaj, the co-directors of Freedom, Inc, a non-profit organization in Madison, Wisconsin that organizes Black and Hmong communities.

Be sure to check out the accompanying syllabus for the newest episode.

For more, please visit: https://www.solidarityis.org/podcasts

Listen to the Solidarity Is This Podcast

Listen to the Solidarity Is This Podcast

Dear We Too Sing America community: I’m so excited to share with you my new monthly podcast called Solidarity Is This. On each episode, my guests and I tackle questions about how to build multiracial solidarity in this particular moment in the American story.

Solidarity. It’s become a buzzword. But what does solidarity mean in reality? What are solidarity values and how do we center them? And how do we go about practicing solidarity, as activists, as organizations, as people who care deeply about building inclusive schools, campuses, workplaces and neighborhoods?

Listen to the first episode, Bystander, Upstander and then head over to the Solidarity Is This website to listen to them all.

For more, please visit: https://www.solidarityis.org/podcasts

Reckoning with Trauma 16 Years After

Reckoning with Trauma 16 Years After

Dear WTSA Community: Each of us have our own experiences, insights and stories about 9/11. Many of you know that I’ve spent the bulk of my time in movement work focused on issues affecting South Asian, Muslim, Arab and Sikh communities in post 9/11 America. On the 16th anniversary of 9/11, I wrote a personal essay on the toll of trauma on activists and organizations. I’d love your feedback or thoughts if you have a moment.

Here’s an excerpt:

“I probably haven’t dealt adequately with the impact of September 11th on my own life. In the days that followed 9/11, I had sprung into action, and I’m not sure that I ever stopped. Over the following decade and a half, I have borne witness to a litany of crises targeting our communities. I am not the only one.”

For more, please visit: https://medium.com/@dviyer/https-medium-com-dviyer-reckoning-with-trauma-16-years-after-sept11-98e063b6197e

Thank you in advance for reading and sharing.

Standing Up to Islamophobia in our Public Libraries

Standing Up to Islamophobia in our Public Libraries

Public libraries have always played an important role in my life (and now in my seven year old’s!) and I’ve appreciated being able to bring We Too Sing America to public libraries. That’s why I was excited to write this article for the School Library Journal about how public libraries can create safe and brave spaces to stand up to Islamophobia and xenophobia, especially in today’s climate. Every public institution in America must be prepared to address the changing racial landscape and the racial realities that come with them.

There’s also a wonderful profile of the important work at Oakland Public Library accompanying the piece. I hope you’ll read and share.

For more, please see: http://www.slj.com/2017/10/industry-news/standing-up-to-islamophobia/#_

Letter to The Revolution

Letter to The Revolution

I am sharing my Letter to The Revolution, with a focus on my younger South Asian sisters – and some thoughts on making choices, lifting each other up, and sparkling in this moment.

“To my younger South Asian sister-activist-warriors:

I see you. You’re outraged and determined. You are ready to build this resistance, to be on the frontlines, to give voice to the struggle. Because this is personal. It is about our people, our families, our communities, ourselves.”

Please read and share if it moves you!
http://letterstotherevolution.com/deepa-iyer
And write your own letter – more at Letters to the Revolution.

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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