By Guest Contributor: Lakshmi Gandhi (@lakshmigandhi)
As with any recaps, please be wary of spoilers.
What would you do if you were an earnest civil servant who suddenly became President of the United States after a devastating terrorist attack?
If you’re Tom Kirkman — the Designated Survivor of the ABC show of the same name — you throw up. Repeatedly.
Raheel Siddiqui was just 20 years old when he first arrived at Parris Island, where the young Marine recruit faced his first days of training. The young Pakistani American Muslim had been recruited by the Marines while he was a student at the University of Michigan, where he had studied robotics and engineering and dreamed of one day working for the FBI.
On March 18, 2016, only eleven days into his training, Raheel Siddiqui was dead from injuries sustained following a 40 foot fall off of an outside stairwell balcony. Siddiqui’s death was ruled a suicide after a witness said that Siddiqui had became faint and then had thrown himself from the outdoor balcony ledge.
But, Siddiqui’s death has since sparked a major inquiry into a culture of hazing at Parris Island where ethnic and homophobic slurs are the norm and that likely contributed to Siddiqui’s death. An investigation has revealed that only one day after arriving at Parris Island, Siddiqui threatened to commit suicide. When evaluated by mental health professionals, Siddiqui reported that he felt his drill instructor was abusive. However, he withdrew his threat of suicide and was returned to training. Roughly a week later, Siddiqui complained of feeling ill and asked to be allowed to see a doctor. Instead, his drill instructor punished him with grueling on-the-spot physical training. When Siddiqui collapsed from fatigue saying that his throat hurt, his instructor slapped him several times (which is against Marine regulations) immediately before Siddiqui leapt to his death.
Siddiqui’s story is not the first to raise questions about the (mis)treatment of soldiers and cadets of colour in the US military.
Last week, actor Mark Wahlberg said in an interview at the Toronto Film Festival that he “regrets” filing a request in late 2014 to be pardoned for an assault conviction after he beat an elderly Vietnamese American man in 1988. I first reported about Wahlberg’s request in 2014, and that post quickly became one of the most shared posts in the blog’s history (crashing my server and necessitating a host migration; thanks Marky Mark!).
In that post, I described the details of the assault involving a teenaged Mark Wahlberg:
Initially charged with attempted murder, Wahlberg later plead guilty to assault and served forty-five days in jail stemming from the 1988 assault.
We’re less than ten days away from the season two premiere on Quantico, which means that star Priyanka Chopra is currently making the interview rounds. As soon as I logged into Facebook Thursday morning, I discovered that many of my friends were sharing Refinery29’s splashy new profile of the 34-year-old star.
Unfortunately for Chopra, people weren’t posting about her stunning photos or their excitement over the return of the show. Instead, there was plenty of side-eye towards her views on diversity in Hollywood.
After reading the piece, I immediately reached out to my friend Asha Sundararaman, so that we could have one of our epic Gchat conversations breaking the piece down. An edited version of that conversation is below.
Lakshmi: Asha, what was your first thought once I sent you the new Priyanka profile?
Asha: That I wish Quantico were a better show!
Lakshmi: Don’t we all.
Asha: No actually, it was about the headline. When you say something like “I don’t want a label” (and yes, that might just have been the headline writer), you’re usually missing something fundamental about today’s global culture and the way it operates.
Lakshmi: Yes, I’m instantly wary of any celeb who tries to play that ‘don’t put me in a box’ game.
Lakshmi: Also, there’s the actual structure of the piece itself. We begin right with a reference to Hindu goddesses. “For eons, women have been told how to be or think or dress,” the quote reads. “I come from a part of the world where this debate is so heated, especially because we’re a country that has goddesses. We pray to women. But at the same time, we prey on them.”
She could have taken a moment to talk about the Indian feminists who have been working to change this. Or mention the current movement to police the way Muslim women dress in Europe and the outrage about that. Instead, we don’t get much.
Editor’s Note: This post is an English-language translation of a Chinese-language essay that was widely circulated through predominantly Chinese-language social media outlets such as WeChat earlier this month. I had a chance to meet Steven at the inaugural U-C-A convention last week to discuss ways in which discourse may be improved across the political and generational divide within the Chinese American community. This essay reflects Steven’s thoughts on how Chinese Americans might shape our political future in America.
By Guest Contributor: Steven Chen
This article is dedicated to the first United Chinese Americans convention which was held at Washington, D.C. on September 8th, 2016. During the convention, Chinese Americans from all over the country gathered to lay out a road map for the future success of Chinese Americans. I wish for the success of the convention.
More than a hundred years ago, people from China came across the Pacific Ocean to America to escape from wars, famine, and poverty. For a very long time, Chinese Americans were discriminated against and treated unfairly. Yet, through the unremitting efforts of many generations, we have achieved remarkable success here in America.
We were hard laborers working in abandoned gold mines, now we are entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley;
We were coolies building the Transcontinental Railroad, now we are the engineers building information highways;
We were illiterates, now we are university professors and Nobel laureates;
We didn’t have the right to testify in courts, now we are lawyers and judges;
We didn’t have the right to vote; now we are Congress members, Presidential Cabinet members, and Governors;
We were stereotyped as degraded, exotic, dangerous, and perpetual foreigners; now we are highly educated, high-income model citizens.
The successes we have achieved today were due to the progress of American society and, more importantly, the hard work of all Chinese Americans in building up a good Chinese brand over the years.