Why We Need to Care about Bias-Based Bullying

When I was 4 years old, I remem­ber my old­er broth­er com­ing home one day from Junior High with dis­tress and tears.  Although, at that age, I did not com­pre­hend every sin­gle thing that was talked about, I knew one thing–my broth­er was hurt and upset.  Lat­er, I found out that anoth­er stu­dent grabbed his tur­ban from behind him while he was walk­ing.  This same stu­dent had taunt­ed him for weeks about his tur­ban before the inci­dent, but no admin­is­tra­tor at the school did any­thing about it.  At the time, I did not even know about bul­ly­ing or who a bul­ly was, all I knew is I nev­er want­ed my broth­er to expe­ri­ence this again.  This sit­u­a­tion was final­ly resolved only after the school admin­is­tra­tion saw to what degree the attack took place.

It is a known fact that bias-based bul­ly­ing and harass­ment towards South Asian stu­dents and fam­i­lies is a grow­ing prob­lem.  Accord­ing to a 2009 U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice and Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion study, over 54 Per­cent of Asian Amer­i­can youth report­ed expe­ri­enc­ing bul­ly­ing, the high­est per­cent­age of any eth­nic group sur­veyed. In SAALT’s report, In the Face of Xeno­pho­bia, the New York City Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion and the Sikh Coalition’s 2007 report indi­cates that in the nation’s most diverse neigh­bor­hood of Queens, 77.5 per­cent of young Sikh men report­ed being harassed, taunt­ed, or intim­i­dat­ed because of wear­ing a tur­ban.  Like my broth­er, many stu­dents and com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers face harass­ment every day because of their eth­nic and racial iden­ti­ty and reli­gion.  But what comes across as more prob­lem­at­ic than the issue itself is that there is no sys­tem in place to pre­vent bul­ly­ing before it hap­pens or so it nev­er hap­pens again.  Cur­rent­ly, leg­is­la­tion is being con­sid­ered in Con­gress that will help vul­ner­a­ble stu­dents and fam­i­lies. The Safe Schools Improve­ment Act is a pro­posed fed­er­al anti-bul­ly­ing law.  If enact­ed, it will require schools and school dis­tricts to col­lect and pub­li­cize data about inci­dents of bul­ly­ing and harass­ment.  This will cre­ate incen­tives for school offi­cials to pro­tect stu­dents and allow gov­ern­ment agen­cies to quick­ly iden­ti­fy schools and school dis­tricts where prob­lems exist. It is impor­tant that our pol­i­cy­mak­ers know that this is and impor­tant step in pro­tect­ing all vic­tims from bul­ly­ing in our schools. Last sum­mer, with the help­ful guid­ance from the Sikh Coali­tion, I went to Capi­tol Hill and lob­bied two con­gres­sion­al offices with the hope that they would con­sid­er this an impor­tant issue and act on it.

This piece of leg­is­la­tion is very impor­tant but cre­at­ing effec­tive tools to pre­vent bul­ly­ing and edu­cate stu­dents is just as crit­i­cal. Per­son­al­ly, I was very dis­tressed grow­ing up see­ing more and more Sikh chil­dren fac­ing such grue­some bul­ly­ing inci­dents.  I want­ed to help in any capac­i­ty I could, even if it was small.  While in col­lege, I cre­at­ed a “Com­bat­ing Bul­ly­ing” project with lead­er­ship train­ing from the Sadie Nash Lead­er­ship Foun­da­tion.  I was able to devel­op les­son plans for 8 work­shops bring­ing 8 Sikh youth togeth­er every 2 weeks to learn about bul­ly­ing, under­stand that they are not alone in this process, and explore var­i­ous resources that were avail­able for them if they were bul­lied again.  Upon com­ple­tion of the pro­gram, the stu­dents were more con­fi­dent and bet­ter able to address the issue.

In July, SAALT will be bring­ing stu­dents from across the coun­try to the nation’s cap­i­tal to attend the 2013 Young Lead­ers Insti­tute. The stu­dents will build lead­er­ship skills, explore social change strate­gies around bias-based bul­ly­ing among South Asian and immi­grant com­mu­ni­ties in the US, and devel­op excit­ing project ideas to enact change on their cam­pus­es and in their com­mu­ni­ties. I am excit­ed to work with these Young Lead­ers and sup­port their cre­ative projects to edu­cate peers, raise aware­ness, and cam­paign for change as they work for a safer schools, safer fam­i­lies, and safer com­mu­ni­ties.

Learn more about SAALT’s Young Lead­ers Insti­tute and our incom­ing 2013 Young Lead­ers!

 

Manpreet Kaur Teji
Pro­gram Asso­ciate, South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT)
Vol­un­teer Advo­cate, The Sikh Coali­tion

Supreme Court Watch: Fisher v. UT Austin and the South Asian Community

On June 24, 2013, the Supreme Court issued its rul­ing in the case of Abi­gail Noel Fish­er v. Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas at Austin, involv­ing the university’s use of race in its admis­sions pol­i­cy. Here at SAALT, we eager­ly await­ed the Supreme Court’s rul­ing, as we had joined an ami­cus brief filed by the Asian Amer­i­can Cen­ter for Advanc­ing Jus­tice in the Fish­er case last year in sup­port of the UT-Austin admis­sions pol­i­cy.

In its deci­sion, the Court upheld the broad­er prin­ci­ples from exist­ing prece­dent from Grut­ter v. Bollinger, which allowed for race to be used as one of var­i­ous fac­tors giv­en the com­pelling state inter­est in pro­mot­ing diver­si­ty with­in edu­ca­tion. How­ev­er, rather than rul­ing on the con­sti­tu­tion­al­i­ty of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas’ pol­i­cy itself, the Court returned the case to the 5th Cir­cuit Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court asked the low­er court to review whether the con­sid­er­a­tion of race in the admis­sions pol­i­cy in ques­tion was nar­row­ly tai­lored and nec­es­sary in order to achieve edu­ca­tion­al diver­si­ty.

Despite com­mon mis­per­cep­tions to the con­trary, South Asians sup­port and ben­e­fit from holis­tic race-con­scious admis­sion poli­cies like the one imple­ment­ed by the Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas. South Asian stu­dents, along with all oth­er stu­dents, enjoy a rich­er learn­ing envi­ron­ment when they are immersed in a diverse edu­ca­tion­al set­ting.  The abil­i­ty to learn from stu­dents and peers var­i­ous back­grounds helps bet­ter pre­pare them for the work­force and the real world. In fact, in light of ongo­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion that South Asians encounter in this coun­try, it is vital that stu­dents from oth­er racial back­grounds learn about our expe­ri­ences and we, in turn, learn about theirs. It is also impor­tant for us to remem­ber that it was not too long ago in our own recent his­to­ry that our com­mu­ni­ty has been denied equal oppor­tu­ni­ty in this coun­try and race-con­scious admis­sions poli­cies bring us clos­er to equal­i­ty. In fact, Asian Amer­i­cans, includ­ing South Asians, strong­ly sup­port affir­ma­tive action and race-con­scious poli­cies in edu­ca­tion­al set­tings, as shown by recent polling from the Nation­al Asian Amer­i­can Sur­vey.

We are heart­ened by the Supreme Court’s deci­sion to uphold prece­dent regard­ing holis­tic race-con­scious poli­cies and are con­fi­dent that the low­er court will uphold the pol­i­cy upon its review of the case.

SAALT thanks Priya Murthy for her assis­tance in pro­vid­ing analy­sis and writ­ing.

Supreme Court Watch: United States v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perry and the South Asian Community

On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court issued its opin­ions in two crit­i­cal cas­es involv­ing the issue of mar­riage equal­i­ty. In a land­mark deci­sion, Unit­ed States v. Wind­sor, the Court inval­i­dat­ed Sec­tion 3 of the Defense of Mar­riage Act (DOMA), which defined mar­riage as between “one man and one woman” and only rec­og­nized oppo­site-sex mar­riages for pur­pos­es of fed­er­al law. Fol­low­ing the enact­ment of DOMA in 1996, same-sex part­ners were denied fed­er­al ben­e­fits, includ­ing those under fed­er­al tax, hous­ing, Social Secu­ri­ty, and immi­gra­tion laws, and exclu­sive­ly grant­ed them het­ero­sex­u­al mar­ried cou­ples. Pri­or to the deci­sion in Wind­sor, denial of such ben­e­fits was allowed, even if cou­ples lived in indi­vid­ual states that rec­og­nized their mar­riage. In its deci­sion, the Court found that DOMA vio­lat­ed prin­ci­ples of “equal lib­er­ty of per­sons” enshrined in the 5th Amend­ment. (It is impor­tant to note that the Court did not rule on Sec­tion 2 of DOMA, which per­mits indi­vid­ual states to enact leg­is­la­tion that refus­es to rec­og­nize mar­riages between same-sex part­ners.) In a sep­a­rate case, Hollingsworth v. Per­ry, the Supreme Court dis­missed an appeal to rein­state Propo­si­tion 8, a bal­lot ini­tia­tive passed by Cal­i­for­nia vot­ers in 2008 that pro­hib­it­ed mar­riage between same-sex part­ners and was sub­se­quent­ly barred from being enforced by low­er courts, on the grounds that those seek­ing appeal did not have the legal stand­ing to do so. As a result, the low­er court rul­ing pre­vent­ing the enforce­ment of Propo­si­tion 8 remains intact.

As an orga­ni­za­tion that has long sup­port­ed mar­riage equal­i­ty, SAALT applauds the rul­ings by the Supreme Court in these two cas­es. In par­tic­u­lar, the Wind­sor deci­sion will pos­i­tive­ly trans­form the lives of South Asian Amer­i­cans involved in com­mit­ted rela­tion­ships by ensur­ing that they can no longer be denied vital fed­er­al ben­e­fits sim­ply based upon whom they love or mar­ry. This deci­sion also paves the way for the South Asians in same-sex bina­tion­al mar­riages (rec­og­nized by the state or coun­try where they were mar­ried) to avail them­selves of fed­er­al immi­gra­tion ben­e­fits, includ­ing the abil­i­ty to spon­sor their spouse under the fam­i­ly immi­gra­tion sys­tem and peti­tion for loved ones liv­ing abroad. For too long, cou­ples in this sit­u­a­tion have lived in a per­ilous legal lim­bo, as we dis­cussed in a recent oped. Such uncer­tain­ty often results in indi­vid­u­als over­stay­ing their visas to remain togeth­er or liv­ing abroad in exile. SAALT com­mends the Court’s deci­sions to reaf­firm the prin­ci­ples of equal­i­ty and fair­ness and looks for­ward to work­ing with fed­er­al agen­cies to ensure that com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers will be able to access the fed­er­al ben­e­fits pro­vid­ed to them as a result of this rul­ing.

For fur­ther infor­ma­tion on the Court’s deci­sion on DOMA will affect eli­gi­bil­i­ty for var­i­ous fed­er­al ben­e­fits, check out the ACLU’s web­site here.

For fur­ther infor­ma­tion on how the Court’s deci­sion on DOMA will affect immi­grant fam­i­lies and cou­ples, check out Immi­gra­tion Equality’s FAQ.

SAALT thanks Priya Murthy for her assis­tance in pro­vid­ing analy­sis and writ­ing.

The Community Safety Act: Accountability for the NYPD and Its Importance to the South Asian Community

On June 27, 2013, the New York City Coun­cil passed two bills of the Com­mu­ni­ty Safe­ty Act, intro­duced last year, which curbs dis­crim­i­na­to­ry polic­ing prac­tices and estab­lish­es account­abil­i­ty mech­a­nisms for the New York City Police Depart­ment (NYPD). One of the bills, the End Dis­crim­i­na­to­ry Pro­fil­ing Act (Intro. 1080), would estab­lish an enforce­able ban against pro­fil­ing and dis­crim­i­na­tion by the NYPD; expand the bases for pro­hib­it­ed pro­fil­ing and dis­crim­i­na­tion (cur­rent­ly, race, eth­nic­i­ty, reli­gion, and nation­al ori­gin) to include age, gen­der, gen­der iden­ti­ty or expres­sion, sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion, immi­gra­tion sta­tus, dis­abil­i­ty or hous­ing sta­tus; estab­lish a pri­vate right of action allow­ing pro­fil­ing vic­tims to file law­suits against the NYPD; and allow indi­vid­u­als to file claims based on inten­tion­al dis­crim­i­na­tion and/or dis­parate impact. The sec­ond bill, the NYPD Over­sight Act (Intro. 1079), would grant inde­pen­dent over­sight author­i­ty over the NYPD to the Com­mis­sion­er of the Depart­ment of Inves­ti­ga­tion through reviews of the police depart­ment and require pub­lic reports regard­ing its find­ings. SAALT applauds the pas­sage of the Com­mu­ni­ty Safe­ty Act as well as the efforts of local orga­ni­za­tions in New York City, such as DRUM — Desis Ris­ing Up and Mov­ing, to ensure these bills become law.

The pas­sage of the Com­mu­ni­ty Safe­ty Act is vital for all res­i­dents of New York City – includ­ing African Amer­i­can and Lati­no indi­vid­u­als who have been sub­ject­ed to an exor­bi­tant and dis­pro­por­tion­ate per­cent­age of stop-and-frisk encoun­ters. Most notably, since Sep­tem­ber 11th, South Asian com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers have been sim­i­lar­ly sub­ject­ed to arrests, ques­tion­ing, and harass­ment sim­ply based upon race, reli­gion, and appear­ance.  In a joint report released in March 2012, In Our Own Words: Nar­ra­tives of South Asian New York­ers Affect­ed by Racial and Reli­gious Pro­fil­ing, by DRUM, The Sikh Coali­tion, UNITED SIKHS, South Asian Youth Action (SAYA!), Coney Island Avenue Project, Coun­cil of Peo­ples Orga­ni­za­tion, and SAALT, com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers’ per­son­al expe­ri­ences revealed the toll that such dis­crim­i­na­tion has tak­en on their lives. Inter­ac­tions with NYPD includ­ed that of a young Bangladeshi man, while sim­ply wait­ing for his friends, being sub­ject­ed to war­rant­less search­es by police; a police offi­cer ask­ing a South Asian stu­dent about his reli­gion; and an Indi­an Hin­du indi­vid­ual being asked about his eth­nic­i­ty and whether he had drugs. Com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers have also been asked whether they are Mus­lim, where they pray, and even been pres­sured to spy on their own com­mu­ni­ties and report on “ter­ror­ist activ­i­ty.” Indeed, reports from the Asso­ci­at­ed Press in 2011 revealed the wide­spread spy­ing and sur­veil­lance by the NYPD on Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties and stu­dent asso­ci­a­tions, both with­in and beyond New York City. (In fact, the New York Civ­il Lib­er­ties Union, the Amer­i­can Civ­il Lib­er­ties Union, and the CLEAR Project at the City Uni­ver­si­ty of New York, recent­ly filed a law­suit chal­leng­ing the dis­crim­i­na­to­ry sur­veil­lance prac­tices of the police depart­ment.) As a result, indi­vid­u­als report­ed that such inter­ac­tions harmed their rela­tion­ships with friends and fam­i­ly and, also, made them more hes­i­tant to reach out to police in times of need.

SAALT has joined our part­ner orga­ni­za­tions in New York City in call­ing for the enact­ment of robust and expan­sive anti-pro­fil­ing poli­cies and strength­en­ing gov­ern­ment and civil­ian over­sight of law enforce­ment agen­cies in the city. We com­mend the City Council’s pas­sage of the leg­is­la­tion, which would go into effect in Jan­u­ary 2014, if enact­ed, and urge the May­or to sign the bills into law.

SAALT thanks Priya Murthy for her assis­tance in pro­vid­ing analy­sis and writ­ing.

 

Supreme Court Watch: Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder and the South Asian Community

On June 25, 2013, in the case of Shel­by Coun­ty, Alaba­ma v. Hold­er, the Supreme Court inval­i­dat­ed Sec­tion 4 of the Vot­ing Rights of 1965 rul­ing it uncon­sti­tu­tion­al. SAALT strong­ly con­demns the Supreme Court’s deci­sion to inval­i­date Sec­tion 4 of the Vot­ing Rights Act which has been piv­otal in pro­tect­ing minor­i­ty vot­ers’ abil­i­ty to par­tic­i­pate in the Amer­i­can democ­ra­cy. In Jan­u­ary 2013, SAALT joined an ami­cus brief in the case, along with 27 oth­er Asian Amer­i­can orga­ni­za­tions, argu­ing in favor of the Vot­ing Rights Act, par­tic­u­lar­ly giv­en its impor­tance relat­ed to lan­guage access and polit­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

With the back­drop of egre­gious racial dis­crim­i­na­tion against minor­i­ty vot­ers, Sec­tion 4 of the Vot­ing Rights Act artic­u­lates a for­mu­la to deter­mine which juris­dic­tions are required to have any changes in their vot­ing laws pre-cleared by the Depart­ment of Jus­tice or a fed­er­al court (under Sec­tion 5 of the leg­is­la­tion) to ensure that minor­i­ty vot­ers’ abil­i­ty to vote is not dimin­ished. The trig­ger for­mu­la used to des­ig­nate such juris­dic­tions, as out­lined in Sec­tion 4, is based on var­i­ous fac­tors, includ­ing his­tor­i­cal evi­dence of racial­ly dis­crim­i­na­to­ry vot­ing prac­tices, impact on lan­guage minor­i­ty groups, and low minor­i­ty vot­er turnout. While the Court rec­og­nized that racial dis­crim­i­na­tion con­tin­ues to plague the abil­i­ty for many to vote, it stat­ed that the cov­er­age for­mu­la used in Sec­tion 4 was “out­dat­ed” in light of recent increased minor­i­ty vot­er turnout, dis­ap­proved of states being treat­ed dif­fer­ent­ly under the law, and sug­gest­ed that Con­gress update the for­mu­la in order to pass con­sti­tu­tion­al muster. This coun­ter­in­tu­itive rea­son­ing ignores that Sec­tions 4 and 5 have been piv­otal in pro­mot­ing enfran­chise­ment, con­sid­er­able evi­dence proves racial dis­crim­i­na­tion at the polls con­tin­ues, and fed­er­al leg­is­la­tors have rec­og­nized the impor­tance of keep­ing the Vot­ing Rights Act in effect. In fact, the Vot­ing Rights Act, includ­ing Sec­tion 4, has increas­ing­ly enjoyed sig­nif­i­cant bipar­ti­san sup­port with­in Con­gress over the years and was most recent­ly reau­tho­rized almost unan­i­mous­ly in 2006.

The right to vote has been a long-fought bat­tle for com­mu­ni­ties of col­or in the Unit­ed States. The Vot­ing Rights Act is an his­toric and cru­cial piece of leg­is­la­tion that was borne out of our country’s Civ­il Rights Move­ment and the pio­neer­ing strug­gles of the African Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ty in the 1960s. Indeed, the South Asian community’s own path to attain nat­u­ral­iza­tion, con­fer­ring the right to vote, has been a rocky one. In 1923, the Supreme Court then ruled that South Asians were not con­sid­ered white by the com­mon per­son and thus could not be con­sid­ered cit­i­zens; this remained in effect until leg­is­la­tion was enact­ed decades lat­er. In more recent years, as doc­u­ment­ed by elec­tion mon­i­tor­ing and exit polling efforts, South Asian and oth­er vot­ers of col­or con­tin­ue to encounter bar­ri­ers at the polls because of race, reli­gion, and lan­guage abil­i­ty and restric­tive vot­er iden­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­pos­als con­tin­ue to threat­en the right to vote. South Asians will not be immune from today’s dis­ap­point­ing rul­ing, par­tic­u­lar­ly giv­en our community’s over­all size and growth in juris­dic­tions pre­vi­ous­ly cov­ered under the Sec­tion 4 for­mu­la, includ­ing Ari­zona, Geor­gia, Texas, and Vir­ginia.

This rul­ing is a grave set­back for vot­ing rights and equal­i­ty in the coun­try that ignores both the his­tor­i­cal and con­tem­po­rary evi­dence of dis­crim­i­na­tion that minor­i­ty vot­ers face. Com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers are encour­aged to join a peti­tion call­ing for an amend­ment to pro­tect the rights of all vot­ers. Look­ing for­ward, SAALT will con­tin­ue to work with allies when Con­gress devel­ops a new cov­er­age for­mu­la in light of today’s rul­ing and ensure that it address­es dis­crim­i­na­tion against racial, eth­nic, and lan­guage minori­ties.

SAALT thanks Priya Murthy for her assis­tance in pro­vid­ing analy­sis and writ­ing.

Under Suspicion, Under Attack

Xenophobic Political Rhetoric and Hate Violence against South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern, and Arab Communities in the United States
This new analy­sis finds that South Asian, Mus­lim, Sikh, Hin­du, Mid­dle East­ern, and Arab com­mu­ni­ties are sub­ject to an increas­ing­ly hos­tile cli­mate in the Unit­ed States, char­ac­ter­ized by fre­quent hate vio­lence and ris­ing xeno­pho­bic polit­i­cal rhetoric in the nation­al polit­i­cal debate.
xeno rpt cover web