by: Miki Kashtan on December 4th, 2014 | Comments Off
Last week, when I sat down to write in response to the situation in Ferguson, I ended up writing much about my own journey of learning about how to engage the topic of race; I wrote more about that than directly about Ferguson. The difference between that first draft and the piece that finally got posted was dramatic. It was made up of feedback from Dave, my editor and supporter, that initially knocked me out completely in its depth and intensity. This was the point at which I turned to Uma and Ya-Ping for support, as well as my colleague and friend Roxy Manning. After about ten rounds of back and forth with some combination or another of all four of them, the piece that is now on the website came into final form.
As much as I like the result, I was left with all that was cut out of the original piece. Although I wholeheartedly agree about taking it out from that piece, I still want to share it. This is what this piece is. If nothing else, for anyone who is like me, I have always had the experience that understanding a process in addition to seeing the results deepens my understanding and increases the chances of integration and personal application. Also, because I want to spell out what I learned as part of my own continuing learning, and in the hopes of supporting others’ learning about the very complex questions involved in these topics. Lastly, because I want it known that this learning process is neither easy nor comfortable. The two days of feedback were, at times, excruciating and nonetheless I am in awe, I am grateful, and I found immense beauty and depth along the way.
There are times, and this is one of them, where my ongoing choice to stay away from public events and electoral politics no longer stands up to my inner sense of moral integrity. This is a time where I am just too clear that it’s only my privilege that makes it even an option to choose. No, I don’t think that privilege is “bad,” nor do I aim to make it go away, nor believe it’s possible or even always desirable to do so. Rather, I want to consider my privilege as a resource, and to keep asking myself day in and day out how I mobilize my privilege and use it for the benefit of all.
Credit: Vox Media
In my position of privilege, I can write whatever I want about Ferguson, and I don’t risk losing a job, alienating people who can make my life miserable, or possibly even more imminent physical risks to my body. I want to be taking the most risk that I can in speaking as much truth as I know, with as much love for all as I can muster, because this is my creed: truth with love, and with enough courage to face all consequences.
This is one small part of a larger aim I have regarding privilege. I want to find ways of getting those of us with privilege to recognize and own it without defensiveness or shame, and to become loving stewards of the resources given to us by the history of racism. Stewarding resources means to me that we know it’s not “ours” to own or use for our personal gain. This is my understanding of Gandhi’s idea of trusteeship, which I see as a major step towards a world that truly works for all. I plan to come back to the very complicated and exceedingly painful topic of privilege soon.
by: Warren Blumenfeld on October 31st, 2014 | Comments Off
Two brothers, Pape, 13-year-old eight-grader, and Amidou, 11-year-old sixth-grader, reported being attacked and bashed by a mob of their classmates on the playground of their Bronx, New York Intermediate School 318. Pape and Amidou, who were born in the United States, lived in Senegal in West Africa for a time to learn French. They moved back to the U.S. one month age to rejoin their father, Ousmane Drame, a Senegalese American.
Throughout the violent attack, classmates taunted the brothers with chants of “You’re Ebola!” The boys were rushed to a local hospital with severe injuries. During a press conference at the Senegalese American Association in Harlem and flanked by community leaders, the boys’ father, a 62-year-old cab driver, reported that “They go to gym, and [taunters] say, ‘You don’t touch the ball, you have Ebola, if you touch it we will all get Ebola.’” The elder Drame claimed that the school did nothing to prevent or to intervene in the attack, and did not even write an incident report.
Though one case of Ebola was reported earlier in Senegal, this month the World Health Organization declared Senegal free of Ebola virus transmission, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In addition, a Senegalese mother announced that her 9-year-old daughter was bullied at her Harlem school, and when she came home, her daughter asked, “Mommy, do I have Ebola?”
by: Arlene Goldbard on October 17th, 2014 | Comments Off
This past weekend, activists streamed into Ferguson, Missouri, for Ferguson October, a “weekend of resistance” comprising actions and events organized by Hands Up United, Organization for Black Struggle, Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment, and other partners “to build momentum for a nationwide movement against police violence.” Protestors marched and staged civil disobedience, shut down commerce, and draped banners from freeway overpasses. Activists posted an open letter that began this way:
Here in Ferguson, our community has come to know terror on American soil. A public slaying so gruesome it harkened images of the lynchings from the most heinous moments in history, for young and old to see.
This is a moment of great beauty and meaning, in which those who desire a nation of justice and love are rising to summon it forth. Some carried a mirrored coffin in a ceremonial procession to the police department, calling to mind the Shinto version of The Golden Rule: “The heart of the person before you is a mirror; see there your own form.”
What will come of this?
by: Rick Herrick on September 26th, 2014 | Comments Off
Credit: Creative Commons/Intel Free Press.
In the late 1970s I read a fascinating article in the New York Times regarding the Mobil Oil Corporation. According to the Times, several African-American leaders purchased small positions in the company. Their ownership of Mobil Oil stock gave them the right to lobby for change.
Their target was South Africa. These black leaders began speaking at general shareholder meetings of the corporation. They also lobbied corporate officers. They had two goals in mind. The first was to integrate the dining facility in the South African plant. The second was to achieve equal pay for equal work. They achieved both goals. Their victory was an important symbol of change in the anti-apartheid movement.
At about the same time Leon Sullivan, an African-American minister in Philadelphia, came onto the scene. Reverend Sullivan was a board member of the General Motors Corporation. In the late 1970s he devised a set of principles requiring corporations with divisions in South Africa to treat all employees fairly. If the company violated the Sullivan Principles, American corporations were to cease doing business with them. Reverend Sullivan worked tirelessly to have these principles adopted and was able to achieve some notable successes.
Again, at about the same time, the anti-apartheid disinvestment campaign emerged. This movement required pension funds and college endowments to sell their equity holdings in companies with operations in South Africa. Students lobbied and protested boards of trustees in many universities to achieve these goals. Anti-apartheid activists made similar demands of state and local pension funds.
by: Murali Balaji on September 25th, 2014 | 2 Comments »
Credit: The Bi-College News (http://www.biconews.com).
Last week’s Confederate flag incident at Bryn Mawr College, one of the nation’s top small liberal arts institutions, raised important questions about how colleges with progressive reputations are combating anti-Black racism. But the incident also highlighted the continuing struggle to develop and sustain interfaith efforts—particularly involving Dharmic traditions—to combat prejudice.
Given my own ties to the South Asian community, I’m personally most connected to the effort to persuade South Asian Americans—the majority of whom identify as Hindu—to become more active in combating racism. For college students of South Asian descent, the reluctance to join in anti-racism efforts can be from a combination of factors, including general apathy, a lack of recognition of the social histories of race and exclusion, or simply an unwillingness to speak out in fear of violating campus norms.
One Hindu American student, Shreekari Tadepalli, a freshman, said she was disappointed by the lack of strong response from the campus’ South Asian community to the flag’s exhibition. Many of Bryn Mawr’s South Asian American students are immigrants from countries like India and Pakistan, but even among those born and raised in America, the flag’s symbolism doesn’t hit home the way it should, Tadepalli said.
by: Murali Balaji on August 14th, 2014 | 1 Comment »
Originally published in the Huffington Post
The turbulent American summer has seemingly reached a boiling point in the last few days, particularly in Ferguson, Missouri, where daily unrest has ensued in the wake of the shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown.
The Brown shooting has come on the heels of other racially and economically charged events across the country, whether it has been the shutting off of water for poor Detroit residents, the upholding of North Carolina’s dubious voter ID laws, or the ongoing crisis of unaccompanied undocumented children on the U.S.-Mexico border.
When Hindu Americans are asked to join interfaith efforts to advocate or speak out on these issues, a common response is “How does this affect us?” That question is driven in part by the demographics of the Hindu American community, which is still overwhelming of South Asian descent. As a result, there still tends to be a conflation between ethnic and religious identities.
by: Leila Dregger on August 4th, 2014 | 1 Comment »
Bombs turn play areas, refugee camps, entire streets into ruins. In these ruins, children bleed to death. Ten thousand people looking for shelter, but hospitals are overcrowded and exhausted doctors. Operations are carried out under mobile phone flashlights because, after the destruction of the only power station in Gaza, there is no electricity. On the other side, an entire people re-experience an age-old fear of attacks and extermination every day, after the discovery of tunnel systems. Eighty-five percent of the Israeli population is, according to the polls, pro-war. Dehumanization, demonization, and hatred exist on both sides. Meanwhile, there is a completely marginalized peace movement – powerless, abused, and threatened. Economies such as the USA or Germany, that have raised their arms exports up to a quarter in the last year, have failed to provide adequate aid, while an airplane with medicine for Gaza was denied landing permission in Egypt.
The only response for an open heart in hearing this news is to act.
Credit: Vision Camp Facebook
Amidst this seemingly hopeless situation Sabine Lichtenfels, co-founder of a peace research center called Tamera in Portugal, initiated what she calls a “vision camp” in the West Bank. It had mainly one goal: to create and maintain humaneness, trust, and equal exchange between Israel and Palestine. Even the international flight cancellations to Tel Aviv could not stop her; Sabine did not give up until she and her team had managed to get the last seats in a fully booked Israeli airplane. Finally, fifty peace workers from Palestine, Israel, and other countries met from July 24 to 29 in a completely open area, near Bethlehem.
by: Warren Blumenfeld on August 2nd, 2014 | Comments Off
Credit: Creative Commons
While contemplating the topic and eventual focus of my doctoral dissertation at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, I was having difficulty deciding since so many potential directions and questions excited me. Knowing me as well as she did, my major professor offered me some guidance.
The seemingly simple but deeply profound words she uttered placed, for me, the scope of my eventual research into poignant and profound prospective driving my research agenda to this very day.
“Your research is your therapy,” she told me. Though framed as a declarative statement, she was posing in these words what I understood as a number of underlying questions. By implication, what I heard her saying was, “There are many potential directions and research questions for you to investigate. What directions and questions will challenge you to change and to grow, not merely as a researcher, not merely intellectually and academically, but also, and very importantly, personally, spiritually, ethically, emotionally, psychologically?”
I listened to my professor’s words, “Your research is your therapy,” and as I did, the bottlenecks in my mind unclogged and tears welled in my eyes. Visions of my childhood swirled in my memories settling upon a five-year-old self seated upon my maternal grandfather, Simon (Szymon) Mahler’s, lap in our cramped Bronxville, New York apartment.
“Listen, if you’re 14, 15, 16, 17 years old, and you’re coming from a country that’s gang-infested – particularly with MS-13 types, that is the most aggressive of all the street gangs – when you have those types coming across the border, they’re not children at that point. These kids have been brought up in a culture of thievery, a culture of murder, of rape. And now we are going to infuse them into the American culture. It’s just ludicrous.”
- Florida Republican Representative Rich Nugent
Rich Nugent does not stand alone in his dire warnings of the dangers children and other migrants will impose on the citizens of the United States if allowed to enter and remain. Phil Gingrey, Georgia Republican Representative, warns of grave public health threats as well. In a July 7, 2014, letter Gingrey wrote to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
“As a physician for over 30 years, I am well aware of the dangers infectious diseases pose. In fact, infectious diseases remain in the top 10 causes of death in the United States. …Reports of illegal migrants carrying deadly diseases such as swine flu, dengue fever, Ebola virus and tuberculosis are particularly concerning.”
Well, “as a physician for over 30 years,” he should know that Ebola is not only extraordinarily difficult to spread, but that it also does not occur in Central America. According to the World Health Organization, Ebola has only been discovered in humans living in sub-Saharan Africa.
Unfortunately, the absence of facts has never seemed to get in the way of anti-immigration activists. Nugent and Gingrey join a long list in their rhetoric of horror, hysteria, hyperbole, and hypocrisy throughout the immigration battles of the United States.