Category Archives: Politics

Is It Too Soon for ‘I Just Look Like a Terrorist’ T-shirts?

Coming of age in a post-9-11 America was an eye-opening experience that I have no intention of reliving in my 30s.

And yet, the hatred against Muslim, and perceived Muslims, has reached another level altogether (again), from Republican governors opposing Syrian refugees to Donald Trump’s ridiculous call to end all Muslim immigration. And now the U.S. is looking into more stringent measures against the immigrant fiancé visa process, as if immigrating to the U.S. is not already hard to do.

The immigration reform crowd is unhelpful–they think they are better than this, when in fact, we all know just how they are: useless. Nothing new to be said here, so keep following the failed strategy of naturalizing people to vote for Democrats, who in turn, don’t do anything differently. I am falling asleep as I type. The point is that American democracy is an oxymoron, but I digress.

The media, and our Democrat friends would like us to believe that the right-wing is the real problem. That they are so much better than all this. That they are so much more enlightened because they support DACA now, or the non-existent unicorn that is DAPA. Insert more meaningless acronyms here. But the hatred and violent scapegoating of others is not any different from Franklin Roosevelt interning the Japanese, Andrew Jackson wiping out indigenous peoples, Barack Obama dropping drones on Pakistani children, and Jimmy Carter banning immigration from Iran.

There’s a lack of value for people of color lives here. The myths and legends continue: Muslims didn’t die in 9/11; were not among the first responders; are never the victims of mass shootings, and there is no active effort to wipe out Palestinians.

And if you are Muslim or perceived as a Muslim, you are fully expected to adopt respectability politics. Denounce violence done in the name of Islam, ridicule other countries, and faiths, and wave the American flag.

Then, there are the “We are all Muslims” crowd. I would rather not waste any time of these people. No, we are not all Muslims. Fact: Some of us, especially those of us with turbans, beards and brown skin, are perceived as more Muslim than others.

Friends from abroad often ask me why there is so much anti-immigrant sentiment in America, when it is supposedly a country of immigrants. After all, it was supposedly built by immigrants (and chattel slavery), but they don’t necessarily like newer immigrants who do not assimilate or bow down to their idea of integration. Perhaps, they feel immigrants will do what they did to the original inhabitants of this land: wipe them out. There’s a lot of insecurity and projection. They hate immigrants, because we are different from them. Because we are not like them.

Yes, we are different. I have no problem with that. Our food has more flavour; our movies are more colourful; our skins more beautiful; and our tongues are far sharper. And thank goodness for all that. Because really, who would want to be like this?

Couch-Potato

Everyone is supposed to be better than this. Few are though.

 

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Violence

We have a right to be angry when the communities we build that are supposed to be the model for a better, more just world harbor the same kinds of antiqueer, antiwoman, racist violence that pervades society.

Recommended reading for this week is Why Misogynists Make Great Informants: How Gender Violence on the Left Enables State Violence in Radical Movements. Fellow badass organizer, Flavia Isabel, sent me the link and many parts of it resonated with me, especially this bit:

We might think of these misogynists as inadvertent agents of the state. Regardless of whether they are actually informants or not, the work that they do supports the state’s ongoing campaign of terror against social movements and the people who create them. When queer organizers are humiliated and their political struggles sidelined, that is part of an ongoing state project of violence against radicals. When women are knowingly given STIs, physically abused, dismissed in meetings, pushed aside, and forced out of radical organizing spaces while our allies defend known misogynists, organizers collude in the state’s efforts to destroy us. The state has already understood a fact that the Left has struggled to accept: misogynists make great informants. Before or regardless of whether they are ever recruited by the state to disrupt a movement or destabilize an organization, they’ve likely become well versed in practices of disruptive behavior. They require almost no training and can start the work immediately. What’s more paralyzing to our work than when women and/or queer folks leave our movements because they have been repeatedly lied to, humiliated, physically/verbally/emotionally/sexually abused?

I cannot begin to recount the number of spaces I have either left or been pushed out of due to gender violence: organizations I have built, spaces I have created, and even my own home. It’s the ten-year anniversary of the DREAM Act and I think rather than signing a petition to build the list-serve of an anti-union corporate top-down organization, people in the “movement” should reflect and critique how their own behavior enables state violence on radicals.

Of course, being a queer woman of color doesn’t mean I cannot contribute to gender violence. Thanks to the pervading forces of misogyny, there have been times that I have been played and ended up silencing the voices of other women in our spaces to the point of forcing them out. I am becoming more mindful of how people appropriate my body, use my identity to their benefit, and how my presence is used to check off certain boxes. And while I have become more aware of different types of violence and more vocal about confronting them, I find myself characteristically excluded from all sorts of spaces where I should be invited. I’ve made peace with this — my body, soul and mind do not need any more violence than I get from people and the state on a daily basis. And I’m happier and healthier than ever before.

I think one of the lessons to draw from this critique is that people should call out racism, sexism, heterosexism, ableism and other forms of discrimination when they see it, regardless of the consequences and repercussions. It doesn’t matter if it is a certain radical Asian-American labor organizer or a certain so-called white ally steeped in racial and gender violence. If they are feeding misogyny, they need to be called out, confronted and told to step-off to the side till they can contribute in ways that don’t do violence to us and our bodies.

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The Death of Bin Laden: The End of An Era?

It’s official — for the first time in history, hordes of mostly white people rioted for May Day outside the White House.

And most of them were The George Washington University students who heard the news about the gathering on Twitter, Facebook and through word of mouth. For me, this was a great moment in social media and I had to be there to capture this moment since I live a few blocks from the White House. Many of my law school friends joined to see the spectacle.

People ran through the streets of D.C. waving their American flags. Capital Bikeshare was instrumental in making sure that those who lived further away had some way of getting to and from the White House especially since the gathering took place close to midnight with the Metro not in operation. Drivers honked as they drove by Lafayette Park. Gathered directly outside the White House, people chanted U-S-A U-S-A and sang the national anthem more than a dozen times into the wee hours of the morning.

But unlike the projections by mainstream media, I don’t believe that all the young smiling faces were really out there celebrating the death of an insidious figure.

Some were definitely frat boys from my university. Many others joined their friends in celebration as a study break. Many were Obama supporters proud that he had just trumped Donald and secured his re-election. And for most of us gathered out there, it was less about nationalism and more about an end to an era. It’s a symbol of closure and hope for better times ahead.

But can the country finally recover from it’s rampant fear and suspicion of the Other?

While Bin Laden is finally dead, so are thousands of civilians and soldiers. Our rights and liberties are at an all-time low and our fear of everyone that is different from us at an all-time high. Thousands have been ripped from their families and deported in the past 10 years in the name of national security. It’s time to put an end to this.

I would like the President to bring our troops home, rescind the PATRIOT Act and end racial profiling at airports. He won’t do that. I would like to carry my shampoo and lotion on an airplane and keep my shoes on at airports. That’s unlikely to happen.

We’ve given up a lot in these past ten years: our respect around the world, our civil rights and liberties and our beacon as a country that welcomes the huddled masses. And we’ve gained little in return. Last night was a celebration with the hope that the coming years will be different.

But it is up to us to make it happen.

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Setting The Record Straight On Libya

“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

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When is the Last Time Bombing A Country Freed People?

(en) Libya Location (he) ????? ???

Image via Wikipedia

I have a question. When is the last time bombing a country with Tomahawk missiles freed a people? Was it in Vietnam, Korea, the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq?

Frankly, I have no idea what is going on in Libya. Qaddhafi claims the uprising is Al-Qaeda forces. The “rebels” — who are religious but claim not to be extremists — say they want “freedom” for Libya from the despot. The UN Security Council passed a resolution to intervene and now the United States, along with France and the UK, are bombing the country.

I can’t help but see a pattern here and coincidences with prior bombing campaigns.

Coincidence #1. Many say that Libyans asked for help and military intervention and that this is not an invasion like Iraq. Rather, that this is an “internationally sanctioned” intervention. The focus is on the tyranny of the Qaddafi regime, much like the 2003 war against Iraq focused on the actions of Saddam Hussein and his mythical weapons of mass destruction.

Coincidence #2: Supporters of the war against Libya also decry the irony that the bombing campaign on the country began on March 19, 2011 — the 8th anniversary of the war against Iraq. Obama could not have picked a better date to commemorate the anniversary.

Coincidence #3. There is an oil factor here as well. The United States was chummy with Saddam till he decided to nationalize his oil industry in the early 90s. That’s when the country started having problems with Hussein gassing the Kurds, with weapons supplied by the United States. Similarly, Libya used to be categorized as a “rogue” country for quite a while. That was until it moved to dismantle its weapons of mass destructed program and liberalize its economy and signed the near-billion dollar oil contract with BP oil, following Tony Blair’s visit in May 2007. Due to the uprising, BP had to suspend operations scheduled to start this year. The company has a lot to lose if it does not resume operations and there is some evidence that it has a lot of power with the British government. (Read up on the Lockerbie bomber).

Coincidence #4. The interests of our allied powers are not so pure so saying that the war is internationally sanctioned is not any excuse. As the country with the largest oil reserves in Africa, Libya supplies 10% of Italy’s gas needs and in return Italy is the second biggest arms seller to the Qadaffi regime. It supplies 10% of France’s oil and petrochemicals and in return France is the biggest seller of arms to the Qadaffi regime. Finally, the BP (a UK-based oil company) investment in Libyan oil $2 billion and in return the UK was the third largest seller of weapons to the Qadaffi regime. Knowing that, I’m supposed to believe that when the UK and French used Italian airbases to implement a no-fly zone over Libya, they did so with the purest and most humanitarian of motives, much like the no-fly zones imposed over Iraq.

I’m not saying that this is a war for oil. Professor Ismael Hossein-Zadeh forewarns that there is strong evidence that the powerful interests vested in war and militarism actually use oil as a pretext to justify military adventures in order to derive higher dividends from the business of war such as defense contracting.

I’m saying that our interests are not as clear and convincing. The United States, France and the UK may have several different interests in attacking Libya, some taking precedence over others. The French interest may be the coming presidential election in France where Sarkozy is not a clear favorite to win re-election. There is a looming European economic crisis and an oil/gas crisis in the short term propagated by the internal turmoil in Libya does not sound appealing for any of the European countries involved in the war. The press says the UN Security Council vote was 10-0, but really there were major abstentions from Germany, India, Brazil and China. I guess they don’t have any interest in going to war with Libya.

If this is only for humanitarian purposes, it is unclear to me why intervention in Libyan affairs takes precedence over intervening in other countries with tyrants and despots as leaders. Why is the United States supporting anti-Qaddafi forces in Libya but not popular uprisings in equally undemocratic countries like Yemen, China, Iran, Bahrain and Sudan? Right now, Japan figures as more of a threat to the world and needs our help more than Libya but I do not see the same priority for the country. Maybe there is a simple answer to all this: it is easier to get rid of Qaddafi and almost everyone will be in a better place without any real objection from anyone.

I want to make it clear that there is no way I support Qaddafi but bombing Libya does not take place in a vacuum. There are economic and human costs involved, and as of now, it is unclear precisely what a successful bombing mission is supposed to achieve. No one is asking the people of Libya what they want to achieve from this. After all, their interests are the only thing that should matter in this new shock and awe campaign.

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American Taliban 1, USA 0

Having dark skin makes one a Muslim in tea-bagger land.

A new poll shows that 1 in 5 Americans think that President Barack Obama is a Muslim. A Puerto Rican man cannot walk through a crowd of anti-mosque protesters without people questioning his religion and place in society. Much like the President of the United States, he is also automatically castigated as a foreigner due to the color of his skin.

The “mosque” on “Ground Zero” controversy is another round of theatrics from the tea-baggers, and like all their theatrics, this one is also full of exaggerations. Simply put, they are protesting a proposal that aims to build a cultural center designed to promote interfaith relations a few minutes away from the site of the 9-11 tragedy. But from the loud bellowing of protesters, one would think that a gigantic mosque the size of the Empire State building is being built on the graves of 9-11 victims from taxpayer money. No, the issue is rather dull and blown out of proportion.

Critics say that the debate over the building of a mosque is a distraction from the more important 9-11 First Responders health care bill that was killed by the GOP. But the issue is not a distraction. The hatred displayed by the anti-Muslim protesters stems from the same conditions that allow a majority of Americans to support racial profiling in Arizona and compels the GOP to use the issue of birthright citizenship as an electoral device: a fear of the Other.

America is undergoing a period of great recession and present unstable conditions allow demagogues to exploit socially divisive issues for political means. African-Americans, Latinos and Muslims are some of the chosen bogeymen “Others” during this era of hate. In the “Ground Zero mosque” narrative, the mosque represents a provocation much like the hijab: it stands for “global Islamic terrorism” and it need not make any sense. On one hand, bigotry on full display in broad daylight is both painful and scary for many people. On the other hand, it tells us that a post-racial America is a fictional entity and we have a long way to go when it comes to matters of race.

For the sake of argument, if the perpetrators of 9-11 did indeed hate us for our freedoms as has been purported time and again, then we are losing a war supposedly waged to preserve those very freedoms? We are losing the freedoms enshrined in the United States constitution and the winner is not a foreign enemy combatant. The winner is the American Taliban.

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New Crack-Cocaine Sentencing Disparity, Slightly Less Racist Than Before

Between hullabaloo over attempts to repeal birthright citizenship and the latest marriage equality victory over Proposition 8, one important story got left out of the news this week. Obama signed a law enacting the most significant criminal justice reform he’s enacted while in office.

By putting his signature on S. 1789, the Fair Sentencing Act, Obama addressed one of the biggest racial injustices of America’s drug war. The bill dramatically reduces the disparity in sentences for drug possession of powder and crack cocaine and repeals mandatory minimum sentences for simple possession of crack.

For almost three decades, those arrested for crack cocaine offenses — mostly young, African-American men — have faced far harsher penalties than the white and Hispanic users of powder cocaine, despite the fact that the two drugs are essentially the same. Crack offenders faced a 10-year mandatory minimum for carrying only 10 grams of the drug, while a power-cocaine user would have to be caught with 1,000 grams to trigger the same penalty.

What created this disparity? In the 1980s, when the crack epidemic swept through inner-city communities, white voters panicked. As a result, thousands of low-level crack dealers and users — mostly African Americans — were suddenly targeted in a wave of harsh new sentencing laws. Not surprisingly, today, over 80% of those serving time for a crack cocaine offense are African-American, despite the fact that two-thirds of users are white or Hispanic. The crackdown and subsequent incarcerations of thousands of young African-American men has devastated the community in unimaginable ways.

The legislation signed by President Obama reduces the 100-to-1 sentencing disparity to a fairer 18-1, meaning a crack cocaine offender would need to carry 28 grams to trigger a five-year conviction. The remaining disparity is due to the fact that crack cocaine is associated with more violent crimes and allegedly has a higher addictive effect than power cocaine.

While Congress should have gotten rid of the disparity altogether, the new sentencing law is still a step away from the tough-on-crime mentality that has paralyzed this country for decades.

Meanwhile, the fight for fair sentencing is only half-won. President Obama must commute existing unfair sentences, while Congress needs to decide whether the new law’s provisions are applicable retroactively. If so, up to 20,000 people serving unjust crack sentences in prison could get released, pending judicial review of their cases.

One small step for Congress, one giant leap for criminal justice and racial equality in this country.

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