Adventures of a Forced Migrant Contact Me
On April 24th a nine-story garment factory in the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh collapsed. It is estimated that over 6,000 people worked in the building and as of today, the death toll is at 1,129. Approximately 2,500 injured people were rescued from the building. Brands and companies producing their clothing in the building included Benetton, Wal-Mart, Gap, JCPenney, and H&M, among others. It is considered to be the deadliest garment-factory accident in history, as well as the deadliest accidental structural failure in modern human history
Friend of this blog, Taz Ahmed, in collaboration with South Asian artists from across the country, put this wonderful album together, as a benefit for the orphans of the garment factory workers. Notable names include Red Baraat, Vijay Iyer, Mandeep Sethi, and another friend, Shahid Buttar, who is incidentally a great musician while also being the Executive Director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee.
Taz writes on her blog:
For the past month I have been working day and night on my latest project – because ever since I saw images of Rana Plaza collapsed and all those people and
garment piled in rubble, I couldn’t help but think about how my garment industry owning Bangladeshi family may have been connected. And by default, how I as a Bangladeshi-American was connected. Sure, the family there was not directly connected, but they were part of the Bangladeshi garment industry complex that was feeding into the consumerism complex in the US that I as an activist was often fighting against. I knew I couldn’t save the people in Bangladesh directly, but I could do what I could from here. So I produced an album, with the help of one of my favorite musicians who executive produced & co-curated: Brooklyn Shanti
Way to go Taz.
The album is only $15, which is probably less than the t-shirt you own from Bangladesh.
Check it out here.
“Do you not know how to adjust?”
I often wonder why we are compelled to adjust to the structures and institutions around us rather than have them adjust to our needs. It’s hard — if not impossible — to adjust things like skin color, sexuality, gender, class, certain disabilities, and sometimes even our immigration status. But we are asked to assimilate and acculturate to fit a certain mold.
Who are we serving when we adjust to the establishment? What are we upholding when we acclimate to poor living conditions, lack of basic human rights, a gentrified, hierarchical and capitalist society that is violent to each and every part of our existence?
According to my brilliant chiropractor, my foot pain is the the least of my problems. Everything from my neck to the balls of my feet are out of order. There’s physical trauma and injury to several body parts. Accidents. Bad exercising habits. Too much of something and too little of something else. Life. It’s a physical manifestation of how things around me are always falling apart and how my body is reacting to keeping everything together.
I am out of order. One leg shorter than the other with a pelvis that is tilted up right. My spine doesn’t fall in line. Nerves pinched so they don’t feel pain. Joints clicking loudly and popping out. Feedback mechanisms distorted and dis-functioning. I find it so amusing that even my body has such a rebellious spirit.
There’s beauty in functioning perfectly — functioning in well-behaved, mechanized, controlled, and contrived ways that are expected of us in a capitalist society. But it is so much more beautiful to fall completely apart and not serve any order or ordering. Of course it is going to hurt. They will make sure of it.
Warning: This blog post is not professional. But it is real. Can you deal with it?
You say I’m “not professional enough.” I hear “you are not white enough.”
Profession-al. It’s such a capitalist word, imbued in the disciplining of our bodies, the appropriation of our words and time for a singular purpose. It’s a “civilizational discourse.”
Professional is the customer service representative who has to sound like an empty drone over the phone. Professional is the white executive of a multi-billion dollar company who lies under oath after wrecking our homes and gets a big holiday bonus at the end of the year. Professional is to hold in your true feelings and emotions, to not scream when you will be justified in your anger, to not cry when you need to cry. Professional is repressed. Professional is closeted. Professional is desexualized.
Pro-fessional is a constructed linguistic and cultural representation grounded in racist and sexist stereotypes in order to keep certain people in check or in line, while truncating our truths, marginalizing our histories and erasing our expressions of identity.
A dress pants (suit) is professional attire for an interview in America. A sari or salwaar kameez (suit) isn’t. And a hijab or burkha certainly isn’t. They call this unprofessional person a terrorist.
A “kid” or “petulant child” cannot become a “professional” without papers. Unprofessional becomes a slur that serves as reminder for the many ways in which this country truncates our growth. They call this unprofessional person an illegal. And they tell this “illegal” to keep her/his experiences as a janitor off the professional law school resume.
I’m unprofessional. It means I disrupt hegemonic universalizing narratives. It means I fight the injustice of disciplining and conditioning our minds to certain terrors and violence in our daily lives. It means I don’t conform to labels placed on my body. It means I don’t care if my truth is beyond your comprehension because I will still speak it. And it certainly means I dump the “model minority” stereotype in the dustbin only to reclaim it when I need to show whose the smarter one here.
Keep the violence and colonialism of “professional” off my words and body.
I’m learning that one can be an agent of production and reproduction, but not change or take control of her own production and reproduction. At least, that is what I am told while my body and story is appropriated for some grand project in ways that I don’t always appreciate. I’m trying to live, act and breathe within this complex dilemma of vying to stay with my American family even while rejecting my belonging to any project that perpetuates the American Empire. I don’t know if that makes sense to anyone. But this unique experience has created me. I wish that instead of being cast as part of one grand narrative or another, people could understand my beautiful complexity, the deep sense of love and loss inside me, and my ultimate desire to simply be whole again — whatever that may mean.
“There are more people being gunned down — innocent protesters — in Yemen but no one would propose imposing a no fly zone on Yemen because Yemen does not have oil. It [war on Libya] is so transparently an attempt to protect British companies’ and other Western companies’ massive investments in Libya that it is discredited in the Arab world.”
-George Galloway, Former UK MP