The acquittal of police officer, Betty Shelby, in the shooting death of Terence Crutcher was preordained.
The narrative follows a familiar pattern: A White individual (Shelby) encounters an unarmed African American man, and with no evident motive, chooses to end the life of the Black person standing before them.
“Crutcher’s death is his fault,” she later said. It is hard to imagine how that could be the case. Dashcam video shows that Crutcher was shot and killed while unarmed and complying with police orders.
After my visit to Ferguson last summer, I referenced the writings of Simone Browne, Christina Sharpe, and Alexander G. Weheliye, to argue that unless we understand how Anti-Blackness/Whiteness operate in the U.S., we will consistently fail in creating a society that would treat everyone with dignity and respect. Without this understanding, we will never build a place that honors the hopes and dreams of someone like Terence Crutcher.
Recently, Brooklyn Nets star Jeremy Lin said to the New York Daily News, “A lot of times we have Asian girls go for non-Asian guys but you don’t see a lot of the opposite. You don’t see a lot of the opposite; you don’t see a lot of non-Asian girls go for Asian guys. When they said ‘Yellow Fever’ growing up, it wasn’t all these white girls going for Asian guys. It was the Asian girls going for the white guys.”
Although Lin was relatively thoughtful throughout his interview, his answers nonetheless reinforced a damaging myth: that Asian American women have more advantages than their male counterparts.
Lin represents a segment among men of color who have become obsessed with embodying a superficial and regressive “masculinity.” If our goal is to dismantle patriarchy, we must form a deeper, layered understanding of “masculinity” and its relationship to Black, Brown, and East Asian American men. That radical reexamination of the “masculine” must account for the marginalization that many men of color feel, while not absolving them of their role in perpetuating misogyny.
“Sudip, what’s going to happen to us? Can he really create a registry…?”
The words stuck to my ribs as nausea gripped me.
It was meant to be a typical Friday night. My friends and I met at the local IHOP, as we often did, with plans to crack jokes about Nicholas Cage or perform impressions of Batman ordering pancakes. Instead, we sat, staring at our plates. I was the one studying politics in grad school, so my two friends — who are Muslim and South Asian American — asked me about what was next. We had grown up together in central New Jersey, where we had spent carefree weekends at shopping malls and exploring random towns along Route 1. Yet, that evening, I saw the lines on their faces deepen with anxious creases.
I would’ve been lying if I encouraged them to sense a light at the end of the tunnel, when clearly, everything we believed was collapsing before our eyes. I shifted the conversation, asking them about a trip they were planning. I tried listening, while realizing that since the election of Trump, my capacity for hope was extinguished.
As we devolve into a modern incarnation of white establishment politics, one that has merged the sensibilities of 1950s-era America with the advent of social media, the easiest and most natural response for us would be to counter through uniting around familiar concepts such as “Asian American” rights and empowerment. However, by doing so without a critical eye, I fear we will lapse into a politics that is neither revolutionary nor liberating.
Only by pursuing a path of deconstructive politics — one that takes apart ideas and identities we take for granted among ourselves — can we truly form an agenda that benefits all classes, all genders, and all those who will be further marginalized by this new and dangerous administration.
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.