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.
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 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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.”