Reading and Rioting

My dear law school friend Sam Ames, tells all current and budding lawyers to read Tips for Communicating with Transgender Clients in Prisoners’ Rights Cases that was published by the Sylvia Rivera Law Project.

If you are starting law school this week, check out How To Read A Legal Opinion from my criminal law professor, Orin Kerr. It’s a must-read guide for new law school students.

For the desis, please read A note to all non- queer desis from a particularly agitated queer desi. I’m glad there are some things I don’t need to say because there are increasingly more people who say it for me.

Want to know what on earth went down in London? If you want some critical perspectives on the riots in England, you should check out don’t moralise, don’t judge, don’t take pictures – it’s time for the riot to get some radical politics by Daniel Harvey and An open letter to those who condemn looting (Part one). That’s just a start.

Which movie will alleviate your white guilt? Hat tip from Jose Antonio Vargas, if you are really into movies like “The Help,” check out A Better Life. After all, it is undocumented immigrant workers that are “the help” today and maybe we are the ones who should be telling our own stories.

And of course, I’m just going to see One Day.


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.

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.

"If war breaks out between India and Pakistan, who would you support?"

It wasn’t a serious question. It wasn’t something that he had considered. It was a hypothetical statement, maybe made in jest to get some conversation going with an otherwise quiet companion.

I considered it for a second and answered:

“First, that won’t happen. Second, I would be really devastated.”

We dropped the subject and moved on to other things. I obviously did not pick a side. But my mind kept coming back to the question.

How do I really answer that question? My great-great grandparents came to Fiji in 1879 as part of the indentured servitude system. We didn’t even have a strong, established “Indian” or “Pakistani” identity at that point in time — those countries did not exist as nation-states. We were divided by caste and creed, religion and geography, and subjects of the British. Five generations later, I have no idea what part of India-Pakistan-Bangladesh my ancestors came from and where my family may be scattered. This is true for many in the Indian Disapora, whose families were taken to remote islands and countries for agricultural and indentured servitude purposes.

My mother can probably trace part of her roots to South India, with her father’s family from someplace near Goa. My Dad can trace his roots from Uttar Pradesh (North), maybe some in the Kolkatta region. Our surname is more Western-Indian than anything else.

What part of ‘India’ am I from? I simply refuse to answer that after 130 years. We aren’t from any part of ‘India’ and I refuse to support any sort of belligerance or war.