September 11, 2020

19 years ago today, 3,000 peo­ple were killed on Sep­tem­ber 11, 2001. Our gov­ern­men­t’s response known as the “War on Ter­ror,” has cost more than 500,000 lives world­wide. This num­ber does not even include the lives lost to inter­per­son­al hate vio­lence ignit­ed by this state vio­lence.

Four days after 9/11, Bal­bir Singh Sod­hi, a Sikh busi­ness own­er, was plant­i­ng flow­ers out­side of his gas sta­tion in Mesa, Ari­zona when he was shot and killed. We lat­er learned that his shoot­er had report­ed­ly told a wait­ress at Apple­beesI’m going to go out and shoot some tow­el heads,” and “We should kill their chil­dren, too, because they’ll grow up to be like their par­ents.”

This was the first of 645 inci­dents of vio­lent back­lash aimed at South Asian, Mus­lim, Sikh, Hin­du, Mid­dle East­ern, and Arab Amer­i­cans in the first week after 9/11.

Inci­dents of hate vio­lence tar­get­ing our com­mu­ni­ties have con­tin­ued unabat­ed since since 9/11. SAALT has tracked 679 inci­dents since 2015 alone. Today we renew our com­mit­ment to fight­ing the deeply entrenched fed­er­al poli­cies that emerged from the “War on Ter­ror,” includ­ing the cur­rent Mus­lim Ban.

In those ear­ly days fol­low­ing 9/11, we didn’t stand by and watch as our com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers were harassed, tar­get­ed, and sur­veilled by the gov­ern­ment. We came togeth­er, raised our voic­es, and demon­strat­ed our pow­er. Out of that moment came the cre­ation of the Nation­al Coali­tion of South Asian Orga­ni­za­tions, the Nation­al South Asian Sum­mit, and the Young Lead­ers Insti­tute and long stand­ing coali­tion part­ner­ships work­ing toward sig­nif­i­cant pol­i­cy wins like the end of the 2002 Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Entry-Exit Reg­is­tra­tion Sys­tem (NSEERS) pro­gram all the way to the recent House pas­sage of the NO BAN Act

In the midst of this cur­rent pub­lic health tragedy that has dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly impact­ed Black and brown com­mu­ni­ties and has led to the death of near­ly 200,000 peo­ple in the U.S., we’ve simul­ta­ne­ous­ly seen a dra­mat­ic rise in COVID-relat­ed hate vio­lence attacks tar­get­ing Asian Amer­i­cans. In SAALT’s forth­com­ing COVID-19 report, we mark the dif­fer­ent forms of hate vio­lence, once again ignit­ed by our gov­ern­ment since the pan­dem­ic, which you can pre­view here.

This cur­rent cri­sis, like all crises, has rein­forced that we don’t all expe­ri­ence moments of cri­sis equal­ly. Depend­ing on class, immi­gra­tion sta­tus, caste, reli­gious or eth­nic back­ground, South Asians are tar­get­ed at dif­fer­ent scales and mag­ni­tudes. At SAALT we’re ded­i­cat­ed to acknowl­edg­ing these dis­parate expe­ri­ences, but also what unites us across com­mu­ni­ties. Ear­li­er this month in Irv­ing, Texas, a South Asian fam­i­ly received hate mail say­ing if Indi­an and Chi­nese immi­grants don’t stop tak­ing Amer­i­can jobs, “we will have no choice but to shoot mer­ci­less­ly immi­grants of Chi­nese and Indi­an descent…” White suprema­cists don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly dis­tin­guish with­in our com­mu­ni­ties with the same effi­cien­cy as our gov­ern­ment, which is why build­ing col­lec­tive pow­er is so crit­i­cal.

On this anniver­sary, we hon­or all the lives destroyed by hate vio­lence and state vio­lence, and ask you to join us in fight­ing racism and white suprema­cy in all its man­i­fes­ta­tions.

Learn about the impact of 9/11 on South Asian Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ties by…
- Fol­low­ing the ways in which post‑9/11 poli­cies have changed over the decades, and SAALT’s chang­ing advo­ca­cy in response.
- Watch­ing “Rais­ing our Voic­es”, a doc­u­men­tary about post‑9/11 xeno­pho­bic back­lash.
- Read­ing our month­ly hate reports.

Take a stand against hate vio­lence by…
- Par­tic­i­pat­ing in bystander train­ing.
- Learn­ing about abo­li­tion and strate­gies to com­bat vio­lence that do not involve police.

Civil Rights Coalition Denounces ACT For America’s Anti-Muslim Online Campaign; Calls on the President to #CounterACTHate

Wash­ing­ton – Civ­il rights lead­ers, faith based, human rights, and com­mu­ni­ty orga­ni­za­tions con­demn today’s big­ot­ed, anti-Mus­lim online cam­paign by ACT for Amer­i­ca, report­ed­ly the nation’s largest anti-Mus­lim hate group.  This online cam­paign was sched­uled for just two days before the anniver­sary of Sep­tem­ber 11 to tar­get and man­u­fac­ture hatred for Amer­i­can Mus­lims at a time when vio­lence against Mus­lim, Arab, South Asian, and Sikh com­mu­ni­ties is reach­ing his­toric highs.

ACT orig­i­nal­ly planned to coor­di­nate 67 anti-Mus­lim ral­lies across 36 states under the theme “Amer­i­ca First.”  How­ev­er, after thou­sands of Amer­i­cans came out in peace­ful resis­tance to white suprema­cy and racism in Char­lottesville and Boston, ACT decid­ed to call off its ral­lies and shift to today’s online cam­paign, a clear sig­nal that mes­sages of jus­tice and sol­i­dar­i­ty are drown­ing out mes­sages of hate nation­wide.

This is not the first time civ­il rights groups and anti-racist pro­tes­tors stared down ACT’s big­otry.  In June ACT held anti-Mus­lim ral­lies in 30 cities across the nation under the theme “March Against Shari­ah”.  This cam­paign was met with strong resis­tance from civ­il rights groups who held alter­na­tive events that telegraphed calls for love, fair­ness, and jus­tice. The Trump admin­is­tra­tion was silent in response.

ACT’s founder, Brigitte Gabriel, has made her racism clear. She has said, “Every prac­tic­ing Mus­lim is a rad­i­cal Mus­lim” and has argued, out­ra­geous­ly, that Mus­lims are a “nat­ur­al threat to civ­i­lized peo­ple of the world, par­tic­u­lar­ly West­ern soci­ety.”  In a video mes­sage launch­ing the Amer­i­ca First ral­lies, Ms. Gabriel exclaims, “Let’s show our pres­i­dent that we are behind him in secur­ing our nation.” In accor­dance with the big­otry that ACT pro­motes, its pre­vi­ous anti-Mus­lim ral­lies have attract­ed a host of armed mili­tia-type groups and white nation­al­ists.

Like­wise, Pres­i­dent Trump has made no secret of his big­otry„ stat­ing on the record, “I think Islam hates us” and mov­ing for­ward with his administration’s dogged pur­suit of a “Mus­lim Ban,” among oth­er poli­cies.  The words and actions of the admin­is­tra­tion, includ­ing high-lev­el advi­sors who are known stan­dard-bear­ers for white suprema­cist move­ments, as well as the Pres­i­dent him­self, increas­ing­ly fuel and val­i­date vio­lence tar­get­ing Mus­lims and peo­ple per­ceived as Mus­lim. The FBI’s 2015 hate crimes sta­tis­tics, the most updat­ed data avail­able, show a 67% increase in hate crimes against Mus­lims in 2015, while vio­lence aimed at South Asian, Sikh, and Arab com­mu­ni­ties con­tin­ue to rise. The xeno­pho­bic state­ments by the Pres­i­dent and Gabriel run counter to the val­ues of jus­tice and inclu­siv­i­ty that we seek to uphold.

Peace­ful resis­tance by civ­il rights groups, immi­grant and faith com­mu­ni­ties, and com­mu­ni­ties of col­or has been the strongest coun­ter­weight to the insults and injuries of white suprema­cists and this admin­is­tra­tion. We demand this admin­is­tra­tion, and all elect­ed and appoint­ed offi­cials, con­demn groups that ped­dle hate in the strongest pos­si­ble terms, and back that con­dem­na­tion with swift action and poli­cies that con­tribute to the trans­for­ma­tion of our insti­tu­tions. The hatred must stop now. As a coali­tion of diverse orga­ni­za­tions rep­re­sent­ing com­mu­ni­ties of col­or and immi­grants at the nation­al, state, and local lev­els, we are com­mit­ted to con­demn­ing big­otry of all kinds and advanc­ing the prin­ci­ples of racial jus­tice.

Suman Raghu­nathan, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor, South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er, said, “ACT for America’s racism and fear mon­ger­ing are incom­pat­i­ble with core Amer­i­can val­ues of jus­tice and equal­i­ty in a nation where peo­ple of col­or will con­sti­tute a major­i­ty of res­i­dents with­in the next two decades.  ACT’s deci­sion to shift from nation­wide ral­lies to an online cam­paign, while still tox­ic, is in no small terms a vic­to­ry and emblem­at­ic of the pow­er of stand­ing togeth­er, unit­ed from all faiths and back­grounds against big­otry. The Trump admin­is­tra­tion must end its anti-Mus­lim, anti-immi­grant cam­paign that embold­ens hate groups to com­mit hor­rif­ic acts of vio­lence against our com­mu­ni­ties. Silence is no longer an option. The Pres­i­dent, along with all elect­ed and appoint­ed offi­cials, must con­demn Islam­o­pho­bia and white suprema­cy and ensure that our com­mu­ni­ties can live in a just and inclu­sive soci­ety for all Amer­i­cans.”

Impact of NYPD Surveillance: Limiting the Voices of Our Youth

Like any stu­dent who embarks on their jour­ney through col­lege, I spent much of my under­grad­u­ate years at Amer­i­can Uni­ver­si­ty dis­cov­er­ing my iden­ti­ty, sense of belong­ing and inter­ests in life.  As I reflect on those days not so long ago, I now real­ize how impor­tant being a part of a cul­tur­al stu­dent group was for me and the impact it had on my sense of iden­ti­ty. For me, my involve­ment in the Philip­pine Stu­dent Asso­ci­a­tion played a sig­nif­i­cant role in how I came to iden­ti­fy, both indi­vid­u­al­ly and with­in a com­mu­ni­ty. Know­ing that, it is dif­fi­cult for me to imag­ine expe­ri­enc­ing those moments of self-search­ing and strug­gle while also hav­ing restric­tions on my abil­i­ty to find my com­mu­ni­ty.

Imag­ine hav­ing your stu­dent orga­ni­za­tion be the tar­get of a police sur­veil­lance pro­gram just for the mere fact that your stu­dent orga­ni­za­tion is racial­ly, eth­ni­cal­ly, or reli­gious­ly-based.

Well, it hap­pened in New York and beyond. Stu­dent groups, in this instance Mus­lim stu­dent groups, were tar­get­ed by the New York Police Depart­ment (NYPD). But, it doesn’t just stop there.

It’s not a secret that the NYPD has long-been spy­ing on stu­dent orga­ni­za­tions, places of wor­ship and busi­ness­es.

large

Image from Pol­i­tick­er

In fact, just a few months ago, the Mus­lim Amer­i­can Civ­il Lib­er­ties Coali­tion and the Asian Amer­i­can Legal Defense and Edu­ca­tion Fund (AALDEF) released a report which doc­u­ments this sur­veil­lance pro­gram and its impact on the Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ty since its incep­tion in 2002. Need­less to say, the effects on the Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ty have been dras­tic, caus­ing indi­vid­u­als to restrict their speech and reli­gious prac­tice as well as their every­day activ­i­ties. And, with the recent release of evi­dence that the NYPD has been con­duct­ing in-depth sur­veil­lance on Mus­lim Amer­i­cans by des­ig­nat­ing them as “ter­ror­ism enter­pris­es” and try­ing to infil­trate at least one local com­mu­ni­ty orga­ni­za­tion, I can only imag­ine the impact that this will have on indi­vid­u­als. More­over, as a recent col­lege grad­u­ate, I can’t help but won­der what this means for 17 and 18 year olds as they embark on their col­lege expe­ri­ence, a time many Amer­i­cans use to find them­selves, fig­ure out where they belong, and build com­mu­ni­ty.

Being a part of a stu­dent group and par­tic­i­pat­ing in cul­tur­al activ­i­ties helped me to feel a sense of belong­ing and allowed me to learn more about Fil­ipino cul­ture and his­to­ry dur­ing my four years at Amer­i­can Uni­ver­si­ty. It pro­vid­ed me a space in which to con­nect with peers who shared sim­i­lar expe­ri­ences and strug­gles. It’s dis­heart­en­ing to know that my peers will not have the same oppor­tu­ni­ty, which is such a big part of the col­lege expe­ri­ence. What’s worse, if they chose to explore their iden­ti­ty in these tra­di­tion­al ways, their civ­il rights may be vio­lat­ed as well as their pri­va­cy.

We can­not not let the NYPD or oth­er gov­ern­ment agen­cies lim­it the abil­i­ty of youth to find their iden­ti­ty or of any­one else to engage in their com­mu­ni­ty by threat­en­ing their civ­il rights and reli­gious free­dom. We must demand account­abil­i­ty from our gov­ern­ment agen­cies and offi­cials. We must move for­ward — not back­wards – because a bet­ter future is ahead of us. We owe this much to our youth, our com­mu­ni­ties, and our nation.

AuriaJoy Asaria
Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Admin Assis­tant
South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er, SAALT

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