Lorenzo Natali Journalism Prize

By: on 18 Nov 2008

It appears, friends, that we have a journalist in our midst!

A Bookmark for Terrorism

By: on 16 Nov 2008

This post serves as a placeholder of sorts - a reminder of past stories on which we've commented whose ramifications we're seeing today, and about which I'll be writing in the next few weeks:

The Other Hindu Bomb? -- May 15, 2006

Call and Response: Sonal Shah

By: on 13 Nov 2008

As you may have noticed, this blog has been silent on the biggest controversy in the South Asian American community ever...well, since Ghadar anyway.  I refer to  Sonal Shah, who was appointed to the Obama transition team and has been called on not fully explaining her ties to Hindutva groups adequately over several years.  This is just a summary, presented for your consideration and thoughts.  Below is an excerpt of Vijay Prashad's Counterpunch article which raised these issues again, Sonal Shah's statement in full in response to the subsequent outcry, and where we are today as neatly summarized by Ali Mir:

PTR Variety Hour: Dr. A's Desi Hip Hop Contest!

By: on 8 Nov 2008

It's a world revolution!!!
Okay, maybe not, but maybe it will be someday! And I will be a part of it! Here are my three entries:

1. From the UK, something political (MC Riz of Road to Guantanamo Bay). He's better live, but this is still entertaining and hardcore politics, despite that I think the style is a little too Eminem who I hate as a public persona:

2. From India, something fun and light (Full On of Channel V). I just like desi rap ("ek bar, do bar, bar bar"... how can you not love it?

A November 5th Poem

By: on 8 Nov 2008

Dear President Barack Hussein Obama,

We are celebrating. For two years, we have watched you revive a nation.  From Berlin to Brooklyn, Chicago to Kansas, from the streets to online chat rooms, your words have rippled on distant shores, hungry for hope.  Your songs of immigrants who went westward, textile workers and dishwashers and poor farmers who organized, ignite us.

When you voted against the war though you had never served, we trust you spoke for the millions of Iraqis, thousands of Americans murdered– and those who return, desperate and jobless.  We pray that when big oil reaches out his hand, you will not ask – how much?

Though your bloodlines are not of plantation workers, when you speak of slaves who whispered freedom songs, we believe your heart bleeds a sincere red.  For undocumented laborers who till in blueberry fields in Maine and kitchens in New York City - jobs Americans refuse - modern-day slavery still lives.  Will you stand up?

For not even a moment, did we consider McCain.  When your experience was minimized to an “elegant idea”, we defended your idealism - and joined the ground efforts to make phone calls to swing states and canvass in the heartland. We donated money, clenching your words -  change is on its way.

Sitting home was not an option. We remembered the struggle of Fannie Lou Hamer, who organized black voters in Mississippi who risked their jobs to cast ballots; Harriet Tubman, who carved secret freedom passages from Maryland to Ontario; Rosa Parks who refused to surrender her seat to a white passenger on a crowded public bus on a cold December day in Montgomery.  We will not let their memories fade into chic tee-shirts.  We proudly cast our ballots.

But we have questions:

Day 1: Post-Obama Victory

By: on 6 Nov 2008

November 5, 2008

Like many people I encountered today, I walked around with a near-constant lump in my throat. The slightest mention of Obama or the election brought back a flood of emotion that I had felt the night before—the feeling that anything was possible, that something truly monumental had taken place and that I, through some karmic gift, was alive to witness this moment. I have cried with strangers, strangers have cried with me, and through it all, I’ve thought: this is what it means to be American.

This victory has meant so much to so many. He has been hailed as the first African-American president, a scant 50 years after the crescendo of the civil rights movement. The Black community has been moved beyond words, and is now beginning to realize the full promise of their personal and political futures. This is no small feat, and I genuinely believe that we will look back on this time as a new chapter in the American journey, one that finally includes people of color.

But this brings me to the one problem that I have with the continued coverage of Barack Hussein Obama. You see, Obama was born to a White woman from Kansas and an African man from Kenya in Hawaii, where he lived until he moved to Indonesia with his mother and her new husband. So already, by the age of 10, Obama’s life was touched by the people, culture, and governments of three continents. You would never know this, though, if you listened to the crowds today. He is a Black president, they say, a hero to the African-American community of which he is indelibly a part, they contend. But the truth is this: Obama is no more African-American than he is White-American, no more shaped by Hawaii or Kansas than he was shaped by his childhood in Indonesia. What troubles me here is that in our rush to label, categorize, or otherwise understand this new, powerful man in front of us, we are collectively painting brushstrokes over his twisting and diverse background. We seem afraid to acknowledge that which he is: a biracial, multicultural individual.

As an American woman born to South Asian parents, I understand what it means to be bi-something (in my case, bicultural). My life has been one long journey of understanding my identity, starting from the embarrassing lunchroom incidents in my small town elementary school cafeteria where my peers would try to decide which of my Indian lunches smelled or looked worse than the others, and continuing through college where my Indian-American friends would tease me for being too friendly with the ‘Americans’ or my White friends would tell me that they barely even noticed that I was Indian (meant to be complimentary. It was not.).

Shocking Tidbit: White People Are Uniquely Homophobic!

By: on 6 Nov 2008

In response to the comments here and on other blogs, I have realized that I am all wrong. As it turns out, looking at a few exit polls is totally the right way to deal with figuring out the intersection of race and sexuality, which we should not try to understand in depth because this is really a simple matter. Therefore, I present you with the following:

According to the results of Initiative 1 in Arkansas, White people disproportionately supported a ban on adoptions of children by LGBT people.

Prop 8 Debate: Let Us Not Be Racist (Updated...Twice)

By: on 5 Nov 2008

As you might have heard, the ballot initiative banning gay marriage in California may pass by a small margin (something like 52% to 48%).  Maybe it won't - Alice Walker just said on BBC that it was voted down.  Regardless, it is close.

What is disturbing to me, but wholly unsurprising as a queer person of color, is that people have started to blame Black people for supporting the ban on gay marriage in large numbers (70% to 30% based on exit polls).  You can see the full exit poll results here.

Here is why I have a technical problem with this:

1) it's a small sample, and it's exit polls.  Black people were 10% of 2240 respondents, leaving 224 people.  I don't know what that means exactly in terms of margin or error or reliability in a narrow sense because I don't have enough stats, but it certainly shouldn't be taken as an indictment against Black people in California purely on social science grounds AT ALL without actually looking at the process in depth of how this came to be.  It's a single initiative based on a single history on a single day, and they asked 224 people who identified as Black (or "African American").

2) It ignores whether other variables might be as or more pertinent than race, and frames the narrative in a kneejerk and divisive way before looking at what's going on.  For examples:

82% of a sample of @650 Republicans voted FOR the ban.
85% of @672 self-identified conservatives voted FOR the ban.
81% of @381 White Protestant Evangelical/Born-Against voted FOR the ban.
76% of @672 of the people who said they would be optimistic if McCain was elected voted FOR the ban.
65% of @672 White Protestants voted FOR the ban.
84% of @493 people who go to church weekly voted FOR the ban.

68% of @179 people contacted only by the Obama campaign voted AGAINST the ban.
83% of @470 people who have never been to church voted AGAINST the ban.
90% of @358 people who said "None" for what religion they are voted AGAINST the ban.

And so forth.  So we have to look much more of the story if we're going to understand what's actually going on, not jump on whatever story we want.

President Obama

By: on 5 Nov 2008


By: on 5 Nov 2008

Congratulations and most humble thanks to those of you (some of whom command my utmost respect and/or love) who worked so hard for this.

That said, the local ballot measures are looking disastrous.

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