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.
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.
The GOP’s post-2008 autopsy — which recommended a more racially inclusive party platform that might attract new Republican voters of colour — is long forgotten. Instead, the RNC has spent the 2016 election cycle harnessing the politics of fear and nativism to compel White voters to the polls this November; a strategy that seems doomed to failure based on sheer voter math alone.
Nonetheless, Republican politicians have taken to the campaign trail to doggedly race-bait, and communities of colour — including Asian Americans — have found ourselves the routine target of their dogwhistle racism.
By Guest Contributor: Bel Leong-Hong, Chair of the Democratic National Committee’s AAPI Caucus
Three years ago today, the Republican National Committee released a report as part of their “Growth and Opportunity Project,” known as the GOP Autopsy, explaining their overwhelming losses in the 2012 election. When it came to the issues that matter to the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, the autopsy vowed to embrace comprehensive immigration reform and recommended that the GOP be more inclusive of the community in party messaging and flexibility in party policies. Basically, it recommended they be more like Democrats.
But it seems that the GOP has thrown this autopsy out the window, because the fear-mongering and anti-immigrant rhetoric has actually gotten worse since 2012, as often demonstrated by their presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump.
We would like to believe that America’s rising nativism is the work of Rightwing extremists. We would like to imagine that middle-of-the-aisle Democrats and Republicans will do their part to push back against the irrational villanization of the Muslim and Muslim American community. But, we learned this week that our elected representatives are, in some ways, worse than the most outspoken of Trump’s supporters. Whereas Trump’s intolerance is all talk, our political leaders recently used the power of their political office to write Islamophobia into law.