It is not enough to simply warn about the perilous conditions facing migrants. The U.S. government must help change these conditions.
Amnesty International has documented how U.S. policy has been designed to deny migrants access to relatively safe areas along the Mexican border and direct them into “remote, uninhabited expanses of land and sea along the border” placing them “in mortal danger.”
In addition to deadly terrain, migrants traveling through these areas face kidnapping, extortion, sexual abuse, and murder at the hands of criminal gangs. The U.S. government can, and must, reduce these dangers by reversing the policies that drive migrants into these areas.
“Nothing in these abstract economic models actually works in the real world. It doesn’t matter how many footnotes they put in, or how many ways they tinker around the edges. The whole enterprise is totally rotten at the core: it has no relation to reality.”—" [Noam Chomsky, Understanding Power, pp. 254-5] (via betweenkittensnriots)
“I write to record what others have erased when I speak, to rewrite the stories others have unwritten about me, about you. To become more intimate with myself and you.”—Gloria Anzaldua (via logansuareluvzquotes)
“As a black lesbian feminist comfortable with the many different ingredients of my identity, and a woman committed to racial and sexual freedom from oppression, I find I am constantly being encouraged to pluck out some one aspect of myself and present this as the meaningful whole, eclipsing or denying the other parts of self. But this is a destructive and fragmenting way to live.”—Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde, activist, author, librarian and all-around brilliant. Today, February 18th 2014, would have been her 80th birthday. (via queerbookclub)
When the border cops opened my bag they pulled out the trophy and I swear to goddess, the guy sneered and said: ‘I didn’t know they give awards out for being bisexual.’
I, of course, could not resist replying: ‘Only if you’re really good.’
It went downhill from there. I was detained in a holding cell for over eight hours where I was interrogated. They seized my phone and computer, claiming my work could ‘possibly be considered obscene according to Canadian law.’
[ Originally posted on my old blog on October 11, 2007 ]
Anti-racism is a rewarding but grueling journey which must be consciously undertaken and intrepidly pursued (both inwardly and outwardly) if one hopes to make serious progress along its twisting passageways and steep inclines. There’s no static end-condition at which an anti-racist can arrive and definitively declare, “Hallelujah! I am Not A Racist!” Rather, it’s a lifelong process of historical education, vigilant self-interrogation, personal growth, and socio-political agitation. Racism fractures our world and our own intactness; anti-racism seeks to proactively treat these bleeding wounds and restore the integrity of our humanity.
As I’ve often noted, many white liberals remain oblivious to the depth and breadth of anti-racist work, opting to hide behind the delusion that anyone who votes for Democrats and doesn’t have a pointy hood in the closet is “a good guy” in the movement toward greater social justice (as though the Democratic Party is some bastion of progressivism and not one of two hands strangling US polity on behalf of the ruling class and the corporate-political establishment which sponsors its power). Some might be surprised to learn that when people of color talk about racism amongst ourselves, white liberals often receive a far harsher skewering than white conservatives or overt racists. Many of my POC friends would actually prefer to hang out with an Archie Bunker-type who spits flagrantly offensive opinions, rather than a colorblind liberal whose insidious paternalism, dehumanizing tokenism, and cognitive indoctrination ooze out between superficially progressive words. At least the former gives you something to work with, something above-board to engage and argue against; the latter tacitly insists on imposing and maintaining an illusion of non-racist moral purity which provides little to no room for genuine self-examination or racial dialogue.
Countless blogospheric discussions on racism amply demonstrate the manner in which many white liberals start acting victimized and angry if anyone attempts to burst their racism-free bubble, oftentimes inexplicably bringing up non-white friends, lovers, adopted children, relatives, ancestors; dismissing, belittling, or obtusely misreading substantive historically-informed analysis of white supremacism as “divisive”, “angry”, “irrational”; downplaying racism as an interpersonal social stigma and bad PR, rather than an overarching system of power under which we all live and which has socialized us all; and threatening to walk away from discussion if persons of color do not comform to a narrow white-centered comfort zone. Such people aren’t necessarily racists in the hate-crime sense of the word, but they are usually acting out social dynamics created by racism and replicating the racist social relationships they were conditioned since birth to replicate.
“One night she came back from her daily walk stunned by the revelation that one could be happy not only without love, but despite it.”—Gabriel García Márquez,Love in the Time of Cholera (via lifeinpoetry)
Dear American Non-Black, if an American Black person is telling you about an experience about being black, please do not eagerly bring up examples from your own life. Don’t say “It’s just like when I…” You have suffered. Everyone in the world has suffered. But you have not suffered precisely because you are an American Black. Don’t be quick to find alternative explanations for what happened.
Don’t say “We’re tired of talking about race” or “The only race is the human race.” American Blacks, too, are tired of talking about race. They wish they didn’t have to. But shit keeps happening. Don’t preface your response with “One of my best friends is black” because it makes no difference and nobody cares and you can have a black best friend and still do racist shit and it’s probably not true anyway, the “best” part, not the “friend” part. Don’t say your grandfather was Mexican so you can’t be racist. Don’t bring up your Irish grandparents’ suffering. Of course they got a lot of shit from established America. So did the Italians. So did the Eastern Europeans. But there was a hierarchy. A hundred years ago, the white ethnics hated being hated, but it was sort of tolerable because at least black people were below them on the ladder. Don’t say your grandfather was a serf in Russia when slavery happened because what matters is you are American now and being American means you take the whole shebang, America’s assets and America’s debts, and Jim Crow is a big-ass debt.
Finally, don’t put on a Let’s Be Fair tone and say “But black people are racist too.” Because of course we’re all prejudiced…but racism is about the power of a group and in America it’s white folks who have that power. How? Well, white folks don’t get treated like shit in upper-class African American communities and white folks don’t get denied bank loans or mortgages precisely because they are white and black juries don’t give white criminals worse sentences than black criminals for the same crime and black police officers don’t stop white folk for driving while white and black companies don’t choose not to hire somebody because their name sounds white and black teachers don’t tell white kids that they’re not smart enough to be doctors and black politicians don’t try some tricks to reduce the voting power of white folks through gerrymandering and advertising agencies don’t say they can’t use white models to advertise glamorous products because they are not considered “aspirational” by the “mainstream”.
And remember that it’s not about you. American Blacks are not telling you that you are to blame. They are just telling you what is.
“In America, violence and the threat of lethal force are the ways we communicate. Violence—the preferred form of control by the state—is an expression of our hatred, self-loathing and lust for vengeance. And this bloodletting will increasingly mark a nation in terminal decline.”—The Rhetoric of Violence (via azspot)
Full text: “That awkward moment when you run away from your home country due to discrimination for being queer…Only to be locked up in the land of the free with a lot of machista, and sexist, homophobic, transphobic ICE officers.” – Alejandro Aldana
Yesterday, I received this bittersweet postcard from my dear friend, Alex Aldana, who is currently detained at the Otay Detention Facility in San Diego.
Alex lived with his family in California for ten years, where he graduated from high school and worked hard to make his community a better place. He left the U.S. to go back to Mexico five months ago to care for his sick grandmother.
Over these past few months, Alex discovered how crime and corruption made life particularly difficult for the LGBTQ community in Mexico. In Guadalajara alone, 128 gay and lesbian people have been killed, and none were reported as hate crimes. Now, Alex wants to return to California, where his mother and sibling reside so that he can continue to take care of them, and lead a life that does not entail the amount of violence he would face if he remained in Mexico.
Even with the heightened standard for credible fear instituted by the new Lafferty memo in light of the numerous claims for asylum from Mexico and Central America, Alex has already passed his credible fear interview. This means that according to Immigration and Customs officials, Alex has established a clear and convincing chance of winning asylum before an Immigration Judge based on his fear of persecution in Mexico. According to ICE guidelines, Alex should be released from detention to pursue his asylum case as he is neither a threat nor a flight risk. However, he has been detained at Otay for more than a month for no real reason, and subjected to abuse inside the facility.
“Collectively [Bengali immigrants to the US in the 1900s-1940s] used Americans’ confusion over their “race” to their advantage, developing a fluid and contextual approach to their identity. They were “white” when they attempted to claim citizenship, “Hindoo” when selling exotic goods, “black” or “Porto Rican” when disappearing into U.S. cities or actively attempting to evade the immigration authorities. They were “Indios” on the streets of Spanish Harlem, and their Puerto Rican and African American wives were “East Indian” when they ran their Oriental gift shops or greeted customers in their restaurants.”—
The book documents the first wave of migration for South Asians into the US, from the late 1800s up till around the 1940s. They were predominantly Bengali and tended to be based in two main hubs: New Orleans (clothesmakers and purveyors of related goods) and New York (sailors and shipworkers). They built families and communities with the local African-American and Latin@ communities, with a lot of intermarriages. During that time there was a huge fad for all things “Oriental”, which they capitalised on.
One thing that really fascinated me about the book was how the existence of these immigrants really confounded US race relations, especially during the heights of the Jim Crow era. They weren’t black, but they weren’t really white either - what the fuck were they? Their race was recorded as all sorts of things: White, Black, Coloured, Hindoo, Turkish, Malay (that last one makes me laugh out of personal irony).
As the quote demonstrates, they - and not just them either, but the communities around them - used that racial ambiguity for various means. At one point some South Asian activists tried to use the fact that they were Caucasian (the Caucus regions also covered a lot of South Asia) to prove that they were White and therefore should have citizenship/residency reinstated (this was during a time where the US gov was taking away citizenship from particular groups of people). Some others worked in solidarity with Black activists to assert their own rights. Some Black people called themselves “Hindoo” and appropriated South Asian culture, reinventing their identities as being from some “exotic Oriental land” peddling carpets and garments as a way to protect themselves from anti-Black laws.
The children of these immigrants, almost all of whom are part Black or part Latin@, talked about how their racial identities are similarly ambiguous depending on context. One of the interviewees, whose dad is Bengali and whose mum is Puerto Rican, talked about how he’d be Puerto Rican through and through when hanging out with his maternal cousins, but then he’d go to meet his dad’s friends and be totally Bengali.
There’s a lot in there about managing multiple cultures, involvements in activism, how the immigrants built support networks for future waves of immigration, how they coped with Partition and the Liberation War (making a lot of them effectively “stateless” since their origin city had changed hands multiple times), how they were integrated, assimilated, and eventually forgotten - until now.
I really really recommend reading the book if you want to know more about race relations in the US from a perspective that doesn’t get heard about much, and how diasporas create their own supports.
Being Bengali myself I sometimes wonder if migration, liminality, and transience are things that exist in our blood - generations of people moving around, having our own borders constantly rebuilt and destroyed and redefined, confounding others wherever we go. My entire family tree are all migrants and travellers, probably for generations, even before any of them reached the Subcontinent. I’m probably related to some of these US immigrants. It’s interesting and ironic how it’s taken me 29 years and moving across the world to find anyone who has a connection to that amorphous concept of home.
1.Bitter Sweetsby Roopa Farooki - A spellbinding first novel about the destructive lies that three immigrant generations of a Pakistani/Bangladeshi family tell each other. Henna Rub is a precocious teenager whose wheeler-dealer father never misses a business opportunity and whose sumptuous Calcutta marriage to wealthy romantic Ricky-Rashid Karim is achieved by an audacious network of lies. Even as a child, their daughter Shona, herself conceived on a lie and born in a liar’s house, finds telling fibs as easy as ABC. But years later, living above a sweatshop in South London’s Tooting Bec, it is Shona who is forced to discover unspeakable truths about her loved ones and come to terms with what superficially holds her family together—and also keeps them apart—across geographical, emotional and cultural distance.
2.Swami and Friendsby R.K. Narayan - Swami and Friends introduces us to Narayan’s beloved fictional town of Malgudi, where ten-year-old Swaminathan’s excitement about his country’s initial stirrings for independence competes with his ardor for cricket and all other things British.
3.Malgudi Daysby R.K. Narayan - In this collection of stories composed of powerful, magical portraits of all kinds of people, and comprising stories written over almost forty years, Malgudi Days presents Narayan’s imaginary city in full color, revealing the essence of India and of human experience.
4.A Fine Balanceby Rohinton Mistry - The time is 1975. The place is an unnamed city by the sea. The government has just declared a State of Emergency, in whose upheavals four strangers—a spirited widow, a young student uprooted from his idyllic hill station, and two tailors who have fled the caste violence of their native village—will be thrust together, forced to share one cramped apartment and an uncertain future.
5.A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth - Vikram Seth’s novel is, at its core, a love story: Lata and her mother, Mrs. Rupa Mehra, are both trying to find — through love or through exacting maternal appraisal — a suitable boy for Lata to marry. Set in the early 1950s, in an India newly independent and struggling through a time of crisis, A Suitable Boy takes us into the richly imagined world of four large extended families and spins a compulsively readable tale of their lives and loves.
6.Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra - A policeman, a criminal overlord, a Bollywood film star, beggars, cultists, spies, and terrorists—the lives of the privileged, the famous, the wretched, and the bloodthirsty interweave with cataclysmic consequences amid the chaos of modern-day Mumbai, in this soaring, uncompromising, and unforgettable epic masterwork of literary art.
7.Animal’s Peopleby Indra Sinha - Ever since he can remember, Animal has gone on all fours, his back twisted beyond repair by the catastrophic events of “that night” when a burning fog of poison smoke from the local factory blazed out over the town of Khaufpur, and the Apocalypse visited his slums. Now just turned seventeen and well schooled in street work, he lives by his wits, spending his days spying on town officials and looking after the elderly nun who raised him, Ma Franci. When Elli Barber, a young American doctor, arrives in Khaufpur to open a free clinic for the still suffering townsfolk — only to find herself struggling to convince them that she isn’t there to do the dirty work of the Kampani — Animal gets caught up in a web of intrigues, scams, and plots with the unabashed aim of turning events to his own advantage.
8.Maps for Lost Lovers by Nadeem Aslam - Jugnu and Chanda have disappeared. Like thousands of people all over England, they were lovers and living together out of wedlock. To Chanda’s family, however, the disgrace was unforgivable. Perhaps enough so as to warrant murder. As he explores the disappearance and its aftermath through the eyes of Jugnu’s worldly older brother, Shamas, and his devout wife, Kaukab, Nadeem Aslam creates a closely observed and affecting portrait of people whose traditions threaten to bury them alive.
9.The Kite Runnerby Khaled Hosseini - The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy, Amir, and the son of his father’s servant, Hassan, The Kite Runner is a beautifully crafted novel set in a country that is in the process of being destroyed. It is about the power of reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption; and an exploration of the power of fathers over sons—their love, their sacrifices, their lies.
10.Running in the Familyby Michael Ondaatje - In the late 1970s Ondaatje returned to his native island of Sri Lanka. As he records his journey through the drug-like heat and intoxicating fragrances of that “pendant off the ear of India, ” Ondaatje simultaneously retraces the baroque mythology of his Dutch-Ceylonese family.
11.The Blood of Flowersby Anita Amirrezvani - A mesmerizing historical novel of an ill-fated young woman whose gift as a rug designer transforms her life. Illuminated with glorious detail of persian rug-making, and brilliantly bringing to life the sights sounds and life of 17th-century Isfahan.
1. Mambo in Chinatown by Jean Kwok - 22-year old Charlie Wong is the daughter of a Beijing ballerina and noodlemaker from Chinatown. When Charlie begins work as a receptionist in one of New York’s finest dance studios, she starts to follow in the footsteps of her late ballerina mother, and quickly discovers her talent to teach ballroom dancing. But her new found happiness is soon to fall apart as the two worlds are in danger of colliding. When her younger sister Lisa falls ill, Charlie ultimately has to make a decision where her heart belongs.
2. The Partner Track by Helen Wan - Chinese-American lawyer, Ingrid Yung, must choose between the prestige of partnership and the American Dream that she—and her immigrant parents—have come so close to achieving.
3. Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok - Emigrating with her mother from Hong Kong to Brooklyn, Kimberly Chang begins a double life as a schoolgirl by day and sweatshop worker at night, an existence also marked by her first crush and the pressure to save her family from poverty.
4. Wrack and Ruin by Don Lee - Lyndon Song is a renowned sculptor who fled New York City to become a Brussels sprouts farmer in the small California town of Rosarita Bay. Lyndon has a brother, Woody, an indicted financier turned movie producer, and Woody has a plan involving a golf course on Lyndon’s land and an aging kung-fu diva from Hong Kong with a mean kick and an even meaner drinking problem. Over one madcap Labor Day weekend, this plan wreaks havoc on Lyndon’s bucolic and carefully managed life—leading to various crises, adventures, and literature’s first-ever windsurfing chase scene.
5. The Calligrapher’s Daughter by Eugenia Kim - In early-twentieth-century Korea, Najin Han, the privileged daughter of a calligrapher, longs to choose her own destiny. Smart and headstrong, she is encouraged by her mother—but her stern father is determined to maintain tradition, especially as the Japanese steadily gain control of his beloved country.
6. Drifting House by Krys Lee - Set in Korea and the United States, from the postwar era to contemporary times, Krys Lee’s stunning fiction debut illuminates a people struggling to reconcile the turmoil of their collective past with the rewards and challenges of their present.
7. The Ghost Bride by Yangze Choo - Part 19th century novel, part magical journey to the Chinese world of the dead set in colonial Malaysia, Yangsze Choo’s debut novel is a startlingly original historical fantasy infused with Chinese folklore, romantic intrigue, and unexpected supernatural twists.
8. Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford - Confined to Seattle’s Sacred Heart Orphanage during the Great Depression, Chinese-American boy William Eng becomes convinced that a certain movie actress is actually the mother he has not seen since he was seven years old, a belief that compels a determined search for answers.
9. Sightseeing by Rattawut Lapcharoensap - Set in contemporary Thailand, these are generous, radiant tales of family bonds, youthful romance, generational conflicts and cultural shiftings beneath the glossy surface of a warm, Edenic setting.
10. Moon Cakes by Andrea Louie - The second daughter of successful Chinese parents, Maya Li grew up in Ohio raised on equal measures of steamed rice and sliced white bread. Now, working in New York City in a series of dead-end jobs, she finds herself heartbroken and in search of the sense of self. Then, almost accidentally, she is drawn to the country of her parents’ youth and embarks on a trip to China.
“She recognized in Kelsey the nationalism of liberal Americans who copiously criticized America but did not like you to do so; they expected you to be silent and grateful, and always reminded you of how much better than wherever you had come from America was.”—Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah
“The problem with English is this: You usually can’t open your mouth and it comes out just like that—first you have to think what you want to say. Then you have to find the words. Then you have to carefully arrange those words in your head. Then you have to say the words quietly to yourself, to make sure you got them okay. And finally, the last step, which is to say the words out loud and have them sound just right.
But then because you have to do all this, when you get to the final step, something strange has happened to you and you speak the way a drunk walks. And, because you are speaking like falling, it’s as if you are an idiot, when the truth is that it’s the language and the whole process that’s messed up. And then the problem with those who speak only English is this: they don’t know how to listen; they are busy looking at your falling instead of paying attention to what you are saying.”—
In a way, immigration is already a queer experience. Immigration creates ruptures of time, place, homeland, family. It creates scattering, and forces a breakdown and rearrangement of identity. Immigrants are made to reformulate their communities and support systems. Detention centers are harmful for everyone. Our solidarity is with all immigrants and undocumented people, not just those whose genders and sexualities fit under ‘queer’. Our commitment is to detention abolition broadly.
For us, #queeringimmigration means challenging immigration dialogues to include an analysis of gender and sexuality-based violence, and challenging queers to show up for immigrants of all genders and sexualities. To support immigrants constantly and materially. To show up.
Juan Carlos Romero seems like a typical New York City college student. He has a shy smile featuring wire braces, and he lives with his parents and sister in the melting pot neighborhood of Jackson Heights in the borough of Queens. But he shrinks from talking with friends at school about spring break plans or summer vacations.
“It’s disheartening, I don’t know too many undocumented people, so when they talk about traveling and doing all sorts of fun stuff, I just have to stay away and avoid those conversations,” said Romero, 20.
He and his sister, Denise Romero, arrived in New York from Mexico with their parents when they were 8 and 10 years old, respectively. Like many of the other estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, the Romeros knew life in New York could be tenuous. According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the Department of Homeland Security, more than 1.8 million people have been deported since President Barack Obama took office. That number is expected to reach 2 million this month.
“Americans define racism as individual, overt and intentional. But modern forms of racial discrimination are often unintentional, systemic and hidden. The tropes and images of the civil rights era reinforce the old definition. People taking on new forms constantly look for our own Bull Connor to make the case. We can find these kinds of figures. But there’s inevitably debate about whether they truly hit the Bull Connor standard, as we can see in popular defenses of Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Gov. Rick Scott. Politicians, employers and public administrators have all learned to use codes for the groups they target. The notion that all racism is intentional and overt is a fundamental building block of the false solution of colorblindness.”—Rinku Sen, at ColorLines (via thesmithian)