Building Power at the Intersection of Race and Electoral Politics

Representative Ayanna Pressley speaks at a podium during a press conference as Representatives Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Rashida Tlaib look on.

By Guest Contributor: Sudip Bhattacharya

After Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s upset primary win against the establishment Democrat in New York’s 14th Congressional District, I contacted my Democratic Socialists of America chapter to see how I could help. Prior to Ocasio-Cortez’s victory, I had hesitated in officially joining the DSA. I believed it offered little for black and brown communities like mine. However, watching clips of Ocasio-Cortez speaking on issues important to working-class black and brown people while knowing that she was endorsed by the DSA, forced me to rethink my previous assumptions.

Ocasio-Cortez, and others like Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib also forced my colleagues and students at Rutgers University to reassess what they may have thought about politics. More students are now receptive to discussions of socialism and feel emboldened in positively changing the U.S. political system. My own family members and friends have become obsessed with Ocasio-Cortez and those like her — they read whatever they can about them and share clips of them on social media.

However, as I’ve continued to help organize around issues like housing with our Central Jersey DSA chapter, I also recognize the limits of electoral politics in significantly improving peoples’ lives, especially for black and brown communities. After all, in New Jersey, we have Democrats dominating the State Assembly and a Democrat as Governor — and yet, living and working conditions for many black and brown residents continue to deteriorate. Therefore, it is necessary to reevaluate the role of electoral politics in building socialism. I argue that when examining electoral politics, we must center our analysis on black and brown people in the U.S. Doing so reveals that electoral politics shouldn’t be summarily dismissed, but ultimately, our goal must be to build constituencies among people of color that remain independent of either political party. Only with this strategy can we apply pressure to policymakers — regardless of their partisan affiliation and campaign promises – to better the lives of black and brown people.

Continue reading “Building Power at the Intersection of Race and Electoral Politics”

“The Farewell” and the Duality of Language: Finding Depth in What Can and Cannot Be Said

Scene from "The Farewell", directed by Lulu Wang and starring Awkwafina.

By Guest Contributor: Claudia Vaughan

Editor’s Note: Please note that this post may contain minor spoilers for the film, “The Farewell”.

The Farewell, A24’s latest film from Chinese-American director Lulu Wang, hit theaters earlier this month, packing a soft but powerful punch. At its core, the film examines what it means to be a caring, accountable family member – AND whether that can ever include being untruthful with your loved ones. The opening scene cheekily notes that the story is “based on an actual lie,” borrowing from real events in Wang’s own life centered around her family’s decision to hide news of her grandmother Nai Nai’s terminal cancer from her. (The story originally ran as an episode of This American Life before Wang began developing it as a feature).

The choice not to inform an elderly relative of his/her illness is commonplace in some Asian cultures, as relatives receive the diagnosis from the doctor first and then choose whether that information is actually shared with the patient. Oftentimes it is not, as is the case in The Farewell. Because of the family’s decision to keep Nai Nai’s diagnosis a secret from her, The Farewell quickly becomes a story of what can and cannot be said – both literally, due to language barriers, and figuratively, in terms of what information can be divulged to whom.

One might even say that language becomes a character in its own right, proving to be a source of power – the more of it you have, the more information you accumulate, but, on the other hand, the more responsibility you must then personally bear.

Continue reading ““The Farewell” and the Duality of Language: Finding Depth in What Can and Cannot Be Said”

Trump’s Asian American Judges Are No Friends to AAPI Community

Trump judicial nominee Neomi Rao testifies before the Senate at her confirmation hearing last month. (Photo credit: Zach Gibson / Getty)

By Guest Contributors: Sung Yeon Choimorrow (NAPAWF), Quyen Dinh (SEARAC), and Alvina Yeh (APALA)

Last month, the Senate voted to confirm D.C. Circuit Court nominee Neomi Rao, who will now be the first Indian American woman to sit on a federal appeals court.

Critics have repeatedly shed light on the dearth of people of color among Trump’s judicial nominees, especially when compared to those of President Obama. Trump has nominated not a single African American or Latino to federal appeals courts amongst a sea of white men. Despite this, two other conservative Asian American federal appeals court nominees in addition to Rao face imminent confirmations–and lifetime appointments–to the U.S. judiciary: Michael Park and Kenneth Lee, to the Second and Ninth Circuits, respectively, have also received hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Don’t be fooled: these appeals court nominees are a danger to civil rights and justice for the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community; they are pawns in Trump’s larger scheme to uphold white supremacy under the guise of promoting racial diversity in the top ranks of government.

Continue reading “Trump’s Asian American Judges Are No Friends to AAPI Community”

Oakland Unified School District Votes to Cut Program Serving Asian American and Pacific Islander Students

Hundreds of community members attend an Oakland Unified School District meeting to support the APISA program as well as Restorative Justice and Foster Care counselors. (Photo credit: Twitter/@jeanquan)

With reporting from Reappropriate intern V. Huynh.

“Today is a historic day in the city of Oakland where teachers, educators are united with parents, students, and we are demanding that we have schools that our students deserve here in the city of Oakland,” said Keith Brown, President of the Oakland Education Association last month at a gathering of over 3,000 educators, students, and parents at Frank Ogawa Plaza in Oakland. The activists represented over 87 schools in the Oakland United School District (OUSD), and later marched to OUSD headquarters chanting phrases like “Education Not Incorporation” and “Invest in Equity”.

The educators were marching to demand better wages, better support for students, and the better allocation of educational resources to schools who share histories of disproportionate funding and attention. Pithily put: This one’s about the kids.

In a larger fight between OUSD and the local community over a new OUSD budget that would slash several items focused on underserved students, one of the many issues angering local activists was a proposal last month by OUSD to cut the school district’s APISA program – the only program in the district aimed towards supporting underrepresented and underserved Asian American and Pacific Islander students.

Despite the efforts of many community activists last month to launch the #SaveAPISA movement to save the APISA program, the Oakland United School District board voted last week to pass a budget that lacked funding for this initiative. The budget which resulted in the ending of APISA — the district’s only program aimed at supporting underserved Asian American and Pacific Islander students — passed by only a single vote; but that one vote is enough to eliminate necessary resources for marginalized and struggling youth.

Continue reading “Oakland Unified School District Votes to Cut Program Serving Asian American and Pacific Islander Students”

Defending Diversity on Campus

Side View of statue of John Harvard by Daniel Chester French. (Photo credit: Farrell Grehan/CORBIS)

By Guest Contributors: Itzel Vasquez-Rodriguez and Sally Chen

The value of a “Harvard education” — which draws students around the world with its promise to produce the future “citizen-leaders for our society” — is inextricably linked to the university’s affirmative action policy. 

The two of us – Sally, a Chinese American senior at Harvard, and Itzel, a Xicana who graduated in 2017 – owe our education to Harvard’s race-conscious admissions policy. We just testified in the lawsuit SFFA v. Harvard, which claims that Harvard’s policy discriminates against Asian American applicants.

Continue reading “Defending Diversity on Campus”