Last summer, forty Sikh men from Punjab were brought to an El Paso-based Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facility, a facility that Colorlines reports predominantly houses immigrants from India or Central America seeking political asylum in the United States. All forty of the Punjabi men — most aged 22 to 27 years old — were politically active in a Sikh minority party in Punjab, and all forty were targeted by opponents with violent retribution for their political activities.
Says Buta Singh, one of the detainees: “They will kill us if we go back, sir. That’s why we came here — to protect our lives.”
So, the forty men fled to America, and were brought to the El Paso facility immediately upon their arrival, hoping to receive political asylum in America.
Instead, these forty men have spent the last 11 months imprisoned in an ICE detention facility, while their cases languish in administrative limbo. And now, faced with a seeming indefinite detention, they have been forced by government inaction to launch a hunger strike in a final desperate plea to draw attention to their case.
According to their website, the US Department of Labour plans to honor the estimated 12,000 Chinese labourers who worked tirelessly to build the Western half of the Transcontinental Railroad, uniting for the first time by land the east and west coasts of this country; historically, the Chinese labourers who contributed to this American accomplishment have been edited out of the history of the Transcontinental Railroad.
Writing yesterday, the US Department of Labour announced that they would be inducting Chinese workers into their Hall of Honor:
I want to be excited, but frankly I find this to be a long overdue honour. That being said, props to the US Department of Labour for beginning the process of correcting the historic invisibility of Chinese labourers in the building of the Transcontinental Railroad.
It always surprises me how, even among anti-racist activists (let alone the general population), there is a general ignorance of what Orientalism is and how it contributes to contemporary examples of anti-Asian racism. Recently, I wrote a post about Air France’s new ad campaign “France is in the Air” – which contains images that are both mundane and textbook examples of modern Orientalism — and have since been inundated by many tweets and comments arguing that the campaign is “not racist”.
As evidenced by the repeated reference to the ads as “cliched” or the assertion that the ads are attempting to “honour” Asian culture, most of these comments seem to emerge out of a fundamental misunderstanding of what Orientalism is and how it operates.
And, perhaps that’s not entirely surprising. Although Orientalism has been asserted to be one of the three pillars of White supremacy by Andrea Smith in her seminal paper “Heteropatriarchy and the Three Pillars of White Supremacy” – with Orientalism as a separate and distinct logic alongside anti-Blackness and anti-Indigenous colonialism — Orientalism also appears to be among the least discussed and most poorly understood logic of White supremacy even within digital anti-racist spaces: a 30 second Google search on “Orientalism” pulls up only a handful of articles, and my recently published Air France article (which incidentally was written from the assumption that the reader already understands what Orientalism is) appears on the first page. While I have several ideas as to why Orientalism remains so minimally explored among anti-racist thinkers of the digital realm, the recent responses I’ve received to my Air France article suggests that a primer on what Orientalism is, and how it operates as an underlying motivation for anti-Asian racism, is perhaps long overdue.
So, without further ado: what is Orientalism?
(H/T: The Aerogram)
Vijay Seshadri, a Brooklyn-based poet and writer, has become the first Asian American to win a Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, awarded for his book of collected poems, 3 Sections. Seshadri, who was born in Bangalore, immigrated to Columbus, Ohio at the age of five with his family.
3 Sections is Seshadri’s third book; the first two are Wild Kingdom and The Long Meadow. In awarding Seshadri’s 3 Sections the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry this year, the Pulitzer committee wrote:
You can purchase 3 Sections from Amazon here.
Correction: An earlier version of this post neglected to note that Seshadri is the first to win a Pulitzer in Poetry; Asian Americans have previously won the Pulitzer in other categories.
Last month, I called for submissions for my “Faces of Asian America” blog series for next month’s Asian American Heritage Month: I’m looking to profile unique and awesome Asian Americans in daily blog posts.
I got a great response for my first call, but I’d still like to get a few more unique perspectives on the Asian American experience. To that end, I am looking for more submissions for “Faces of Asian America”, particularly if you are Asian American and…:
If you or someone you know might be of interest, please tweet me @Reappropriate or email me at jenn [at ]reappropriate [dot] co
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