Category Archives: Ethnic Studies

Asian Americans and Affirmative Action

Race still matters infographic AAAJ - for websiteAffirmative action is now the latest wedge issue in California to keep ethnic minorities from seeing our common interests.

In California, a bill to revive affirmative action is dead. Mainstream media reports convey that opposition from insurgent Asian Americans groups killed the measure at the last minute. If this is true, then there is much work to be done in Asian American communities about the benefits of affirmative action. 

However, it is more likely that the measure was primarily opposed by white voters, and an over-hyped loud minority of Asian American opposition became a convenient scapegoat for lawmakers. After all, more than 75 percent of Asian American support affirmative action programs. Even when Prop 209 was passed by overwhelmingly white voters, Asian Americans were scapegoated for supporting the repeal effort even though 61 percent of Asian Americans voted against the ban. The backlash against Asian-Americans for the latest affirmative action debacle is the same old “divide and conquer” strategy, and we must stop falling for it.

I support affirmative action. I have written at length about the need for affirmative action, as well as why it is constitutional. Contrary to myths, Asian Americans have been hurt by Prop. 209, and projected Asian-American enrollment rates have fallen as a result of Prop 209. Moreover, Asian-Americans do not lead single issue lives. Many Asian-American women and LGBT Asian-Americans directly benefit from affirmative action. 

We need to restore affirmative action in California, and we need to stop allowing the white majority to use the increased Asian American enrollment numbers as a way to defend a ban that only they support overwhelmingly. 

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Filed under Ethnic Studies, Racism

The Triple Package Review: Debunking Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld

In their newly released book, The Triple Package, Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld propose that some groups are naturally better than the others due to certain cultural traits they possess. I was on HuffPost Live to discuss the book, and to debunk its central notions, which you can watch here:

If the embed link is not working, you can also watch it here.

Some quick points I’d like to reiterate that are also mentioned in the video:

1. Amazed about the publicity and attention that this book is receiving because it is saying nothing new

Whiteness and white supremacy has been predicated on classifying and ranking racial and cultural groups over history, and demarcating some of these groups as less than the other. And discriminating against the people who are supposedly lower on the totem pole. It’s just the same old racism, repackaged as the triple threat.

2. The Triple Package is ahistorical.

Speaking of history, I think the arguments that Chua and Rubenfeld make are very ahistorical. If hard work is the way to success in this country, then descendants of slaves, and migrant workers should be the richest and most successful people. Why are they locked out of prosperity? Rather, Rubenfield and Chua gloss over the fact that the wealth of some groups has been based on the exploitation, looting, plundering over other racial and ethnic groups – the indigenous people were mostly wiped out, black people were enslaving, and now incarcerating at highest numbers. What’s most problematic is that it provides a justification for racial and cultural discrimination – some groups of people are just not as good as others.

3. Perpetuates the model minority myth, which then justifies anti-black racism

Indian population in the U.S. tends to be higher-income because they mostly migrated as “high-skill” workers, and already had education and class privilege that allowed them to migrate and achieve success in U.S. However, there are over 300 million Indians living in poverty in India. And then there are many Indians who are actually not doing so well in the U.S. How does Chua account for that? She just appears to be perpetuating the model minority myth – which is predicated on anti-black racism. These cultural groups are “making it” in America so why can’t black people do so? That’s the implication of The Triple Package.

4. Dangerously suggests that we have moved beyond racism, which is simply not true

I think success is mostly systemic. It is predicated by affinity and closeness to whiteness, environmental factors such as the neighborhood someone grows up in, and class—the wealth of parents – and social connections that someone has as a result of their class and race.

For more critiques of the book, check out this post by friend, Scot Nakagawa.

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Filed under Desi, Ethnic Studies, Moron of the Week

TEDTalk – Redefining “Model Minority”

I was tired of being the exception to the rule. So I decided to flip the rule on its head.

Video here.

Alas, my speech was cut short by two minutes due to the usual extenuating circumstances (sorry person of color, you’ve spoke long enough), so here is the full text.

Enjoy.

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Filed under Ethnic Studies, Immigration, Videos

Reading: Occupations

While I think it is fantastic that Occupy Wall Street is offering immigration training to protesters, I also think that the well-meaning individuals quoted in this article also need to wake up and realize that undocumented immigrants have been organizing for their rights quite visibly and vocally for several years now, risking everything from arrest to deportation to imminent death.  The question is not really about where we are in terms of being the 99% but where have you been?

I’m not sure why people of color, who face the brunt of an oppressive system on a daily basis, are always expected to follow the lead of the outraged cisgender white citizen masses instead of the other way around. Lets be real – undocumented immigrants are the bedrock of a system that extracts surplus value from our labor while denying us basic due process and civil rights. On a related note, in a latest poll, 79% of Latino voters support the California Dream Act, compared to 30% of white voters, which is quite telling and sums up my point.

I don’t think there is one correct way of resisting or fighting for our freedoms and at the same time, highly recommend How Nonviolence Protects the State by Peter Gelderloo:

Nonviolence declares that the American Indians could have fought off Columbus, George Washington, and all the other genocidal butchers with sit-ins; that Crazy Horse, by using violent resistance, became part of the cycle of violence, and “as bad as” Custer. Nonviolence declares that Africans could have stopped the slave trade with hunger strikes and petitions, and that those who mutinied were as bad as their captors; that mutiny, a form of violence, led to more violence, and thus, resistance led to more enslavement. Nonviolence refuses to recognize that it can only work for privileged people, who have a status protected by violence, as the perpetrators and beneficiaries of a violent hierarchy.

I heard Shailja Patel, a Kenyan-Indian poet perform Shilling Love recently, and it moved me beyond measure. I’ll leave you with another powerful performance by her:

Cooking Thanksgiving dinner for someone who eats absolutely no meat, including fish? Try Tofurkey, I’ve been told. We’ll see how that goes.

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Filed under Desi, Ethnic Studies, Racism

Fort Hood Sparks Muslim Bashing in Mainstream Media

Media Bias on Fort Hood Tragedy

This isn’t particularly surprising.

American civil liberties get massacred during such crises. Instead of calling Major Hasan an ‘alleged’ shooter till he is confirmed guilty by a court of law (Fifth Amendment), speculators have already gone judge, jury and executioner on him.

What’s despicable is that allegations of Islamic terrorism are already in the media spin and public discourse over this gruesome incident. The mainstream media wasted no time in linking a minority religion to a mass murder simply due to our preconceived notions of who commits ‘terrorism’ or ‘jihad’ for that matter. As a response to this unjust heterogenous racial interpellation, Muslim organizations were quick to come out and condemn the attacks. As a response to backlash, many will back away from the interpellation (I am not a Muslim) rather than condemn all violence.

United States national identity has always predicated on a phantasmic threat of an internal or external Other, from indigenous peoples to slaves to USSR during the Cold War to immigrants and anyone that can be marked with an old Orientalist trope. Often, labels create a self-fulfilling prophecy that reinforces a bi-polar world-view. The case of Major Hasan might just be one of those self-fulfilling prophecies hidden beneath moral panic.

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Filed under Discourse Studies, Ethnic Studies, Racism

DownFall of Fiji: Coup Culture or PostColonial Failure?

In response to the fourth coup in the Fiji Islands in as many as seventeen years, the international community demanded the restoration of democracy and order in the country. While Sitiveni Rabuka, Fiji’s first coup leader, expressed regret over introducing the concept of military takeover in the country, Dr Brij Lal—an architect of Fiji’s 1997 Constitution—said that Fiji has a ‘coup culture’ in that there is little respect for law and order, and coups will continue because the people responsible for them are never really brought to justice. Coupster and leader of the current illegal regime, Commodore Bainimarama has exploited the problems in Fiji to grab and retain power, while doing little to alleviate the suffering of the poor and working classes. He is yet another opportunist with little understanding or answers to the deep-seated problems plaguing the island nation.

Fiji, the way the world should be’ is an advertising slogan from the late Pope John Paul which has met its demise after four and half coups. The idea that this place is a Paradise has penetrated the Euro-American imagination. This is supplemented in a large part by the tourist industry in Fiji, making slogans and myths that paint a romantic picture of Fiji, hiding the grim difficulties that the multi-ethnic nation is trying to resolve. The National Geographic website states that “the Fiji Islands comprise 333 islands in the South Pacific, with beaches, coral gardens, and rain forests.” It forgot to mention that Fiji also includes people that have survived European colonization and are now struggling with European concepts like multi-ethnic democracy, sovereignty, parliament, and law amidst fresh colonization from tourists.

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Filed under Desi, Ethnic Studies, Fiji

Food More Important Than Democracy In Fiji?

This statement from Peceli Kinivuwaii of the depoused SDL Party is disheartening:

“Because the majority of the people of Fiji – in particular the indigenous community – don’t know the meaning and the value of democracy. That is why people are left alone in the wilderness, particularly naive and totally oblivious to what is happening.”

Disheartening not because of lack of democracy in Fiji, but because the population lacks access to education and the means to participate in government. This cannot simply be remedied by holding elections in Fiji tomorrow, but by building the necessary infrastructure, something that no one wants to talk about.

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Filed under Ethnic Studies, Fiji