Racial Justice

SAALT’s approach to jus­tice, in all forms, demands that the roots of the U.S. nation-state are iden­ti­fied in and traced back to the geno­cide of Native Amer­i­cans and oth­er Indige­nous peo­ple, and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. We assert that no analy­sis of jus­tice in the U.S. is com­plete with­out an under­stand­ing of his­to­ry, nor with­out a com­mit­ment to trac­ing its effect on present events.

Our own South Asian com­mu­ni­ties in the U.S. trace their lin­eage back to dif­fer­ent parts of this shared his­to­ry – from Indo-Caribbean sib­lings, whose ances­tors direct­ly expe­ri­enced the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, to Afghan sib­lings, who have been the tar­gets of more recent end­less wars. Many indi­vidu­dal com­mu­ni­ties in the larg­er dias­po­ra faced vary­ing forms of inter­per­son­al and state vio­lence – but since Sep­tem­ber 11th, the entire dias­po­ra has been bound togeth­er by a cul­ture of racial­ized and xeno­pho­bic Islamophobia.

Since 2001, South Asians, Mus­lims, Sikhs, and South West Asians have increas­ing­ly faced gov­ern­ment scruti­ny, sur­veil­lance, and harass­ment based on their per­ceived race, nation­al ori­gin, and reli­gion. Many com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers remem­ber this form of state harm most clear­ly in the forms of being sin­gled out for exten­sive search­es when board­ing a plane, expe­ri­enc­ing FBI back­ground check delays with immi­gra­tion appli­ca­tions, fac­ing increased harass­ment for reli­gious attire, and being the tar­gets of mul­ti-lev­el sur­veil­lance of Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties. This state-sanc­tioned form of dis­crim­i­na­tion per­me­ates inter­per­son­al rela­tion­ships, and as shown with our research from 2016, often abets cul­tures of hate vio­lence to dom­i­nate social circles.

Our com­mu­ni­ty is not alone in our expe­ri­ences of state vio­lence – every com­mu­ni­ty of col­or in the U.S. has been the tar­get of dis­crim­i­na­to­ry prac­tices that tar­get indi­vid­u­als based on their per­ceived race, eth­nic­i­ty, reli­gion, or nation­al origin.

Though this form of state harm relies on homog­e­niz­ing our diverse com­mu­ni­ty, it also con­tin­ues to reveal inter­sec­tions of priv­i­lege, abil­i­ty, and access with­in our dias­po­ra. For exam­ple, cer­tain male nation­als from pre­dom­i­nant­ly Mus­lim and Arab coun­tries, includ­ing Bangladesh and Pak­istan, were required to reg­is­ter with the Depart­ment of Jus­tice through a pro­gram known as “spe­cial reg­is­tra­tion” in the wake of 9/11. As a result of this ini­tia­tive, near­ly 14,000 men were placed in deten­tion and depor­ta­tion pro­ceed­ings, pri­mar­i­ly for minor immi­gra­tion vio­la­tions. This same coun­try-spe­cif­ic tar­get­ing was mir­rored in the Mus­lim and African Bans.

Addi­tion­al­ly, the use of local and state law police to enforce immi­gra­tion laws through pro­grams, like 287(g) and Secure Com­mu­ni­ties, fur­ther pro­mote pro­fil­ing and under­mine com­mu­ni­ty rela­tions by instill­ing fear and mis­trust. Like­wise, state laws allow­ing or man­dat­ing local law enforce­ment to check the immi­gra­tion sta­tus of indi­vid­u­als they choose to stop also pro­mote the per­cep­tion of com­mu­ni­ties of col­or as sus­pi­cious or “un-Amer­i­­can.”

SAALT works to increase aware­ness with­in the com­mu­ni­ty and the gov­ern­ment about the dis­crim­i­na­to­ry and inef­fec­tive nature of pro­fil­ing. Along­side orga­ni­za­tions led by and with Mus­lims and those racial­ized as Mus­lim, SAALT con­tin­ues to call upon mem­bers of Con­gress, law enforce­ment agen­cies, and pros­e­cu­tors to end poli­cies and prac­tices that have the intent or impact of profiling.