Category Archives: Politics

Why I Will Join Thousands of Women as we March on Saturday

January 19, 2017

When I first heard about a planned march to amass the nation’s women to highlight women’s rights and in protest against the Trump administration on the day after his inauguration, I was initially hesitant. In originally billing the event as the “Million Women March” and advertising it as the first street protest of its kind, organizers overlooked the original “Million Woman March” successfully organized by Black feminists two decades ago. When this appropriation of Black feminist history was pointed out by feminists of colour, event organizers were dismissive of (and even hostile to) the critique. Instead, (White feminist) event organizers and early supporters offered the same familiar, callous, and white-washing refrain: that feminists of colour were being divisive in raising the spectre of race, and that we should put aside racial differences to provide a united feminist front in opposition to the misogyny of Trump.

Never mind, of course, that we were being asked to rally in unity under the banner of White feminism, which too often overlooks and deprioritizes women of colour and other marginalized women through its uncritical universalization of the lived experiences of Whit straight abled cis-women. Over the years, I have been lectured at countless times by White feminists who resent and reject my brand of non-white feminism; I had no interest in voluntarily exposing myself to that kind of toxic and intolerant space yet again.

But then, something about the event changed. In response to criticism, event founders re-named the march the “Women’s March on Washington” and invited prominent feminists of colour to organize the event. The Women’s March began to embrace a more intersectional framework for its feminism. Organizers acknowledged the March’s relationship to Black feminist history and took steps to acknowledge and commemorate the earlier work of Black feminists. White feminists were reminded that even within feminist spaces, they should do the work of being better white allies to feminists of colour; and that there is never a time when they can or should stop reflecting (and respecting) more and “whitesplaining” less. When some early White feminist supporters spoke against the efforts to make the event more inclusive of women of colour, they were actually told they were wrong!

With these developments, my fears were (somewhat) assuaged. It seemed increasingly clear that while White feminism still has a long way to go, the Women’s March on Washington (and its many satellite events in local cities) was taking steps to be a safe(r) space for feminists of colour and other marginalized feminists.

And so, I have made the (cautious) decision: I will march on Saturday in the Women’s March in New York City.

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#DearMyAAPIRep: Please Join Your AAPI Congressional Colleagues in Boycotting Trump’s Inauguration

January 18, 2017

To encourage better and broader civic engagement within the AAPI community in Trump’s America, #DearMyAAPIRep is a new feature that will appear semi-regularly in 2017 that will feature an open letter written to specific Asian American & Pacific Islander elected officials. Each letter will highlight an issue of particular relevance to the AAPI community and will invite a response from our elected officials.

Dear Rep. Ami Bera, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Rep. Grace Meng, Rep. Stephanie Murphy, Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, Rep. Ro Khanna, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, Rep. Doris Matsui, and Rep. Bobby Scott,

On Friday, the power of the United States’ highest office will peacefully transfer from the nation’s first Black president and to a man who rose to prominence by fomenting a racist “whitelash” against his presidency. Over the course of the 2016 campaign, President-elect Donald Trump deployed racism, sexism, Islamophobia, homophobia, classism, ableism, threats of violence, and the promise of exclusionary immigration laws to cement his majority support among all subgroups of white voters. Today, it remains unclear exactly what legislative damage we might expect with the Trump administration – there is no need for me to list the many looming threats to our liberties and civil rights posed by Trump’s inauguration — but, it is certain that life will be much harder for people of colour under A President Donald J. Trump.

As of this morning, nearly 60 members of Congress have joined a national Congressional boycott against Trump’s inauguration. The boycott was inspired by President-elect Trump’s disdainful (and overtly racist) tweets against civil rights legend (and sitting US Representative) John Lewis. Trump ushered in Martin Luther King Day weekend celebrations with an accusation that Rep. Lewis — who grew up in Jim Crow segregation and who nearly gave his life to the Civil Rights Movement — was “all talk” and that he should focus on fixing soaring crime rates in his “falling apart” district. (In reality, Lewis represents one of the wealthiest, and least crime-ridden, districts in Georgia.) In response to this bizarre and offensive attack, Rep. Lewis mused that Trump was not “a legitimate president”, citing US Intelligence reports that Russia had deliberately influenced the election’s outcome for Trump.

In the wake of this latest Trump Twitter dust-up, members of the Congressional Black, Hispanic, and Asian Pacific American Caucuses rallied to Lewis’ defense with declarations that they would join him in a boycott of Trump’s inauguration. That movement has since spread throughout the House. Currently, four of Congress’ AAPI congressmen – including Reps. Mark Takano, Ted Lieu, Pramila Jayapal and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) chair Rep. Judy Chu – are participating in the boycott.

Rep. Lieu cited Trump’s history of “racist, sexist and bigoted” remarks as motivation for his decision to participate in the protest. “For me, the personal decision not to attend Inauguration is quite simple,” said Lieu. “Do I stand with Donald Trump, or do I stand with John Lewis? I am standing with John Lewis.”

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~1 in 15 Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders Will Lose Healthcare with Obamacare Repeal

January 6, 2017
Photo credit: NBC News

Less than 3 days after being re-elected as House Speaker, Speaker Paul Ryan announced that Republicans’ chief priority this session would be to repeal the Affordable Care Act (or, “Obamacare”), a signature healthcare reform bill of the Obama administration that has enabled more than 20 million previously uninsured Americans to obtain healthcare coverage. Furthermore, Obamacare enjoys particular popularity – and above-average use – among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI).

Many political commentators have weighed in to discuss the devastating impact of an Obamacare repeal on Americans; none have considered the specific impact of Obamacare’s elimination on the AAPI community.

It turns out that if Republicans are successful in passing legislation to dismantle Obamacare, approximately 1 in 15 Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders would lose their healthcare coverage, and millions more would love access to mental health care, reproductive health care, and a vast array of preventative care.

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Against a Deracinated Discourse

December 30, 2016
Trump supporters at a campaign even in Fort Dodge, Iowa, November 12, 2015. (Photo credit: Scott Olson / Getty)

By Guest Contributor: Sudip Bhattacharya

At a post-election event in Boston, Senator Bernie Sanders uttered the following: “It’s not good enough for someone to say, ‘I’m a woman! Vote for me!’” No, that’s not good enough. What we need is a woman who has the guts to stand up to Wall Street, to the insurance companies, to the drug companies, to the fossil fuel industry.”

Since the victory of Trump over Clinton, comments like those have echoed across the political spectrum, including from several Democrats (or those claiming to be). Those who hail from the political left fear that the Democratic party has lost its way with the “working class” — which is a problematic frame that I’ll explain later — or that Democrats are more invested in diversity than in dismantling class oppression. These are both valid points. However, those of us who are underrepresented and politically insecure — especially those of us who are people of color — have reason to worry: this framing portrays us and our issues as mere distractions from the “real” concerns of American people. Evidently, the soul of the Democrat Party is a site of struggle. I hope to push back against the forces that would marginalize racial justice on the Left, and which would leave POC like ourselves stranded and more powerless than before.

There are valid critiques of “identity politics,” including some raised by other folks of color. We might, for example, confuse a person’s background for  their politics. When we elect Bobby Jindal or Nikki Haley, some of us can make the mistake of believing that they’ll stand up for us, or that their wins should be celebrated. Similar sentiments might also apply to Margaret Thatcher or other so-called “change” candidates, even when these figures are revealed to only serve the interests of the wealthy elite. However, the argument turns bitter and dangerous when the person advocating against “identity” politics invokes a sort of “neoliberal” agenda to divide and rule the people while neglecting working class politics.

The critiques of “identity politics” are problematic in three ways. First, it marginalizes the experiences of African Americans and other groups of color who are part of the working class. Second, it distorts the image of who is the typical reactionary voter. Most importantly, it consistently negates the power of race and racism in the U.S., both past and present.

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900+ Asian American Studies Scholars Issue Collective Statement Decrying Trump’s Proposed Muslim Registry

December 4, 2016

collective-statement-aas-muslim-registry

Over 900 Asian American Studies scholars from across the United States issued a joint statement today decrying President-Elect Donald Trump’s proposal to create a national registry of Muslims and Muslim Americans.

Trump has repeatedly said that as president he would institute aggressive measures to limit immigration of Muslims into the country and to place Muslims currently within the United States’ borders under close scrutiny. He has promised to halt the entry of Syrian refugees and to also ban immigration from a number of countries — including Pakistan and the Philippines — with large Muslim populations. He is quoted as suggesting the creation of a national database of Muslim and Muslim Americans — a proposal that is likely unconstitutional — and he staffed his White House transition team with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the architect of the highly controversial NSEERS registry system which was used to monitor the movement of Muslim immigrants under George W. Bush and the first half of the Obama administration.

Earlier this month, Trump surrogate Carl Higbie went on Fox News to defend Trump’s alarming proposals to register Muslims and Muslims Americans. In an appearance on The Kelly File, Higbie suggested that Trump’s proposal for a national Muslim registry has legal precedent: Japanese American incarceration during World War II (for a note on language, see JACL’s Power of Words handbook).

It should come as no surprise that Asian American Studies scholars have something to say about that dubious line of reasoning.

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