Sikh Temple Shooting: I’m Not Like You; I’m Better

“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”

-Audre Lorde

Satwant Singh Saleka died fighting back an act of white American terrorism. He did not turn the other cheek. He saw a white man trying to hurt people in his gurudwara and he did the only thing he had to do: fight back with a butter-knife before being overpowered by a gun. He was shot twice and died on his feet, a real soldier.

I’ll leave it to a white American male to think that anyone in a turban is a Muslim and that a gurudwara is really a mosque. Of course, trying to parse out the differences between Muslims and Sikhs in the face of this white terror is precisely what is wrong with America even as the mainstream media runs around like ostriches with their heads buried in the sand trying to figure out to why this happened.

South Asians don’t need to be told why it happened. Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus and anyone who looks brown have faced a long history of attacks in the U.S., that did not just start after 9-11 (though it did become much more acceptable in the immediate wake of 9-11). This country has a long history of violence and hatred towards black and brown people. This latest act of terror happened because of racism — because we do not live in a “post-racial” society.

But white privilege means that no one in the mainstream media will say that openly. White privilege means that the terrorist acted alone, and this was an isolated incident. White privilege means we will not round up and persecute white people for the actions of their ilk. White privilege means that anger and rage at them is not seen as an acceptable emotion. White privilege means that even when people of color are victims, we have to get on television explaining our cultures and religions because they are so different from the norm.

Over the past couple days, I’ve seen countless Sikhs and South Asians get on TV to tell America that we are no different than any other Americans. I don’t believe that. I believe I am different. I know that my difference makes me a better person.

I know that you do not need to understand someone’s faith to know that you should not buy a gun and shoot at them. I know that you do not need to have full civil rights in a society to be a positive, contributing member of it. I know that up against a gun, I have to fight back with either a butter knife or my bare hands. That is what distinguishes me from an American. I am proud to be different. And I feel that Americans lose when they do not embrace that difference.

In my head, the Sikh temple massacre does not just reflect poorly on white supremacists. It reflects poorly on all Americans.

I know that while money will never make up for this tragedy, there is a place that people can shove their white privilege so that they can feel better about retaining it:

Victims Memorial Fund
c/o Sikh Temple
7512 S. Howell Ave.
Oak Creek, WI 53154

We Are Sikhs

Milwaukee Sikh Temple

P.S. Sikh is pronounced “sick” and not “seek.”

Critique of Professional

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.

When is the Last Time Bombing A Country Freed People?

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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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DHS Study: You Can Find Weapons If You Believe They Exist

We have a brand new reason to laugh at TSA after their debacles last month. Apparently, the Department of Homeland Security has funded a study that tells us that humans have not adapted to finding things that do not exist.

Put simply, subjects in a study were asked to examine “checked baggage” for dangerous objects. When a gun or knife showed up about 50% of the time, the subjects did fairly well, only missing the weapons 7% of the time. However, when the prevalence of weapons became less in another trial, subjects missed them about 30% of the time. Conclusion: If airport screeners do not expect to find something offending in your bag, they probably won’t, since they’re deterred from looking as hard.

As a result of this study, we can probably conclude why TSA is only so happy to treat every passenger like a potential terrorist, including an eight-year old kid who just cannot get his name off the no-fly list. Not being psyched-up enough for the hunt could lead to potential failure to capture people that want to harm the United States. But positively thinking that everyone is a terrorist carrying weapons will help us keep America safe and secure, right?

Researchers also noted that this human trait of not finding a needle in a haystack is a result of evolution, and that overcoming this trait is not a simple matter of pushing people to look harder. Human minds will not forage for food in a place that has never borne them fruit and focus on places that have in the past. That just makes common sense.

I guess as a result of this study, Homeland Security needs to employ less evolved screeners who are prone to stereotyping. Maybe they already do, which would certainly explain a lot. Beware, some combination of your shampoo and conditioner might also resemble a gun.

Do you feel safe now?

Photo Credit: Crys

Bainimarama: I Staged Coup to Stop Terrorists

While Lasenia Qarase and his corrupt government was nothing to extol and praise, Bainimarama labeled them as ‘terrorists’ at the United Nations General Assembly, in order to legitimise his reign:

I believe that these critics are largely unaware of the extent to which politicians, in league with those who employ terror as a tactic to push a racial supremacy and corrupt agenda, had become a threat to the safety and security of our people. Terrorism has become a global issue and it impacts Fiji as well. We are fully cooperating in the international effort to control and contain this scourge.

The full speech is here, courtesy Coup 4.5

Commodore, you are reigning over Fiji with the military, using force and terror tactics. What does that make your regime?