Entries Tagged 'amreekay chal' ↓

How Brown is My Navel – Part 1

Off and on, I’ve been asked about how I want The West to react to some such thing I’m doing. I was asked here and in a forthcoming interview (that I shall link to later in my shameless self-promotion habit, when it’s up).

And then, I’ve been reading some things about race, tokenism, colonialism, feminism and the internet. And I have been having thoughts.

The thoughts I’m having are not so much about this current blogsplosion (which I don’t usually refer to at all but follow kind of avidly really), but about race and the relevance of the term for the kind of work I think I do.

So here are some thoughts-in-progress.

1. Expat

I’ve realized recently in a way that I didn’t before that there’s a vast difference between the US South Asian and the subcontinental South Asian. Maybe this is obvious, but maybe it’s not. But I realized it when I wrote a scathing and angry critique of Yoni Ki Baat for GlobalComment at one point and, in the responses of the creators of that project, realized that we were operating from very different premises.

My experience of South Asian identity in the US has been one of unification. Where the sub-continent is deliberately divided into is constituent countries and those national identities are virtuously adhered to, in the US, boundaries are erased and everyone’s a Desi or a South Asian.

Desi is a racial category. It signifies people from the sub-continent. It calls up brown skin and black hair. It is dominated by Indian identity, but it consists of Pakistanis and Indians primarily.

I don’t know if Desi includes Bangladeshis or Nepalis or Sri Lankans in the same way, or if in the US those points of origin fall under the category of  South Asian. I don’t know the nuanced difference between American South Asian and American Desi. Is South Asian also racial? Probably, but it’s also more. It’s an umbrella of some sort, but I’m not sure what sort.

The reason I can’t go further than this is that I’m decidedly not a South Asian American. Which is to say that, while I am South Asian, while I am Pakistani, while I am also American, and while I am mixed-“race” and mixed-nationalities, I am definitely not a South Asian American because in order to be a South Asian American or a Pakistani American, it seems imperative that one be in the United States. The identity [Ethnic]-American requires residence in and a primary dealing with the US context.

I am asserting this because, in contrast, in Pakistan, I’m half-gori. Or my mother’s American. My identity here is racialized to whiteness, but it’s not the same whiteness that I have when I’m in the States. There I am a light-skinned brown person of ethnic and Muslim origin, and therefore a kind of peripheral subject. Here I am a light-skinned Pakistani of Amreekan ancestry, but not peripheral as a result. Having an American mother does not trump having a Pakistani father or a regular Pakistani accent or fluent Urdu.

In the US, my ethnicity and religious identity marginalize me, and racialize me. Here, I have always been racialized, but that racialization doesn’t consistently marginalize me. Often it privileges me. Sometimes it does marginalize me, or at least put me on the back foot. Occasionally it combines with gender, and then it certainly marginalize me. Mostly it doesn’t matter. I’m gori, but I’m not not-Pakistani.

Gori is a racial characteristic. But race doesn’t mean here what it means in the US.

So, what’s the point? I guess to extricate one kind of Desi from another, one kind of South Asian from another. South Asians in South Asia identify by their national origin. Using the umbrella of South Asian usually comes difficult and it comes with conditions attached, and a time limit. “We will be South Asian for this conference or this SAARC summit or this project we have going together, but when it’s over, I’m Pakistani, you’re Bangladeshi, you’re Indian and we’re all going home now, thank you very much.”

In the US, it seems to be an ethnic and/or racial identity in the face of a larger hegemonic identity of whiteness.

Is that because the whiteness is up close? It’s not like the subcontinent doesn’t deal with the hegemony of the US. But perhaps it is about which hegemony is closer because if you’re using your national identity, that means you’re asserting yourself in the face of someone else’s national identity and so their race doesn’t matter. Whereas if you’re using your race, it means you can cross or have already left behind (to some extent) national borders and the relevance lies with the racial identity that is the South Asian (brown) (desi) person.

It occurs to me, however, that this definitional exercise is in itself bound up with the White-and-American-centred push to define non-white non-American subjects. By the very nature of this definitional process, I am and we are thrown into a world in which the ultimate centre resides in the US.

What I’m trying to do here is say that US South Asians and subcontinental South Asians are not the same thing at all times. A project like Yoni ki Baat (which is how this whole thought process got started for me) needs to acknowledge that, when it’s talking about South Asian, it’s not talking about every kind of South Asian. That a “South Asian” project initiated in the US has to be aware of its own circumstance.

There is a corresponding blind spot, I think, in subcontinental notions of South Asian projects that don’t acknowledge diasporic concerns. That imagine that if there is peace on the land here, there will be peace between people there and that if there is war here, there will be war there, as if the diaspora is a mirror of the “real” South Asia. There is no greater reality to either South Asianness.

Up next:

2. Islamophobia and Racism

3. White Skin Privilege

4. Talking to “The West”

Oprah, Diddy and Other Goodies at GC

I haven’t written here much lately because I haven’t got much to say these days. The stuff I do have to say I send off to GlobalComment or other such fun places what pay me. So I thought that, in addition to some shameless self-promotion that I’m about to do, I should also promote some other good stuff I’ve been reading. To wit, Joe Sapien’s take on Diddy as the next Bond. We take a break from his usual sarcastic tone to sample some flabbergasted outrage and the foolishness that is Diddy. In addition, there’s a good assessment of Obama’s Change.gov blog thing by Sarah Jaffe that you should take a look at. The piéce de resistance, though, is Renee Martin’s take on the fatness of Oprah and how we should shame her for being ashamed of it (my interpretation – not what she actually actually said) rather than point fingers at her for being fat in the first place. (In fact, she didn’t say at all that we should shame Oprah – I just think that Oprah should be ashamed of her shame. All that wealth, accomplishment and power and her weighing scale can break her heart? Pff. Stupid world.)

And I wrote about Mumbai because I do that kinda thing. This is the part where I’m shamelessly self-promoting, btw.

That’s all, folks.

Obama and the Death of Racism

About a month ago, maybe more, I toyed with the idea of not voting because the US incursions on Pakistani soil, unilateral and unwarranted, killing Pakistanis indiscriminately in the name of the war on terror, made me angry. And I remembered how, over a year ago, Obama had said that he would support unilateral action in Pakistan if they had actionable intelligence Osama bin Laden, may God curse his name, was there. My logic was that it doesn’t matter who gets elected: they’re both going to bomb my country.

I suggested this to my (very white) mom and she sent me a terse reply: “A single issue voter is no voter at all.” And I was ashamed. And I requested my absentee ballot.

In 2004, I was in Seattle and my father asked me on the phone, “Are you voting?” I said I was. He said, “Vote well. You’re voting for all of us.” Too bad my vote only counter for one.

So yesterday, as Virginia was being declared for Obama, I called up my father in Islamabad and said, “Obama mubarak!” He said, “Khair mubarak!” and we marvelled at how soon it was clear. He told me what was happening on Fox News, which I have failed to find on my Lahori TV, praise be, and he said – that suddenly the Fox anchors have changed their tune. They’re speaking well of him.

By saying that, well, it’s a great day for race relations and anyway, his mother is white and she raised him; his father wasn’t even in the picture, really; and his poor grandmother than just died… My father said, “It was like they were trying scrub his colour off.”

Great day for race relations, then.

For anyone who thinks that racism is dead, take note: the first thing even father, my die-hard Pakistani father said after the “mubarak” was “I hope they don’t kill him.”

If someone so removed feels that…

from Black Amazon:

Dear God

Bless him Jehovah

Allah

Mother Earth

Yahweh

OBEAH

ANCESTORS ALL

please don’t grant us another picture.

Please not another Myrlie

Not another Coretta

not another going back till that ship on that sea woman rocking now fatherless children

Not another beautiful ” strong black woman” punished by lonliness for loving a man trying to be good. Not another group of brothers in tears kicking themselves because they FELL FOR IT THIS TIME AGAIN. That they believed that this time work would pay off.

who was responding to BFP:

don’t think that I’ve truly understood until yesterday exactly how terribly the black community has been hurt. How devastated the black community was by the violence inflicted on them. How deep the ache of murder, lynching, rape, benign neglect, and threats etched themselves into the black community.

I mean, I had known–but not really, not until last night.

What made it clear to me was not the sobbing black people the cameras kept flashing to, or the black college kids that walked so purposefully to my local voting center, or even all the former civil rights leaders that *told* us all what it meant, point blank, to have a black man as a president.

It was the way the first thing so many black folks said immediately after the announcement was–sweet Jesus, protect that man. It was the way so many black folks said that not so secret prayer, the way one friend didn’t look away from the television as she reached out almost desperately for another friend’s hand.

It was the fear of hope realized. What could ‘they’ do to the small tender bubble of hope that had exploded into reality?

Fuck Off Out of My Country

Yesterday: Well, Bush, McCain, Obama: it’s all the same to me. US ground troops landed a helicopter on Pakistani soil, got out, shot a bunch of villagers “indiscriminately” says Dawn, got back into their helicopter and fucked off. (Edit: yesterday it said “indiscriminately” and today I can’t find the source in Dawn.)

The bit in scare quotes are the bit I’m scared of. And the bit that’s disputed. Along with ground troops actually coming in. I googled the story and most US sources or international media are reporting it as if it was definitely Al-Qaeda that was hit. What we have is that 20 people died, most of them women and children. Someone got back from one of the agencies recently, which is what those parts of the northwest are called, like Waziristan. He was corroborating other stories. That the local “Taliban” are just thugs for hire and always have been. And that the locals, from the community, are now putting together militias of their own to fight the thugs and keep them off their land.

Today: The US is claiming it was soldiers that died and there was no ground attack. And it was all coordinated with the Pakistanis. Look here. And at the longer AP report.

Obama, McCain, Bush. They’d all go looking for bin Laden in Pakistan, unilaterally, without worrying about fucking with Pakistani sovereignty or killing innocent Pakistanis just living their lives between one set of bullies and another.

Talk about Black Flag Days. When Zardari is elected president tomorrow, vile stain of a man that he is, find me a ray of fucking sunshine then.

WOC PhD

I’m getting into this fabulous blog WOC PhD. That’s Woman Of Colour for you non-Amreekan types. For one thing, she featured Stacy Ann Chin in a post on Asian/APIA/Women’s History Month. I’m in love with Stacy Ann Chin. She’s one of most vibrant poets I’ve ever heard or seen. But for another thing, and that’s the real value here, these are some of the best researched and articulate articles (oh, i’m such a good writer – ‘articulate articles’ – but it’s late, okay?_ in blogland and quite possibly on the internet.

Check it out, particularly if you’re interested in race and immigration in the US.

Zia ul Haq is alive and well.

The US Department of Justice is apparently considering changing its rules to profile Muslim- and Arab-Americans. I think this is ingenious. I think that what they should do is enlist the likes of true Islamophobes like Daniel Pipes, put on some spiffy army hats, grow moustaches of varying styles and stomp around town. I think that would be great. Because fascism only looks good if you dress for it.

Fuckers. This after Obama, who I’m still gonna vote for, voted yes on FISA, the bill forgiving the phone companies that complied with illegal governmental wire-tapping and snooping on the private lives of Americans.

It’s not a great day for freedom and democracy and chocolate chip cookies.

Yer Mom

I was reading this post on Oppression Olympics by Octogalore just now and something about this comment by Daisy struck me particularly:

And my question, quite seriously: Who do they think those people WERE in the 60s and 70s, having sex in disco bathrooms, engaging in group marriages and Bob-and-Carol-and-Ted-and-Alice type encounters? All of those people are my age and older now. It’s like they have some idea that all old people just retire and instantly become Baptists, or something. I dunno.

Another old woman and I had a long discussion the other day, about how conservative the young seem to be–and does liberalism mark us as “old”? Odd that ‘stylistic’ liberalism (willingness to try new fashions, music, clubs, vacation spots, foods) is popular with the American young, but NOT idealistic or intellectual liberalism.

My mom belongs to that generation, the hippie dippie liberal all-we-need-is-love generation. She was mostly chilling out during that time, more a thinker than a marcher, and her hippie dippie-ness resided in her associations and conversations rather than anything else. Continue reading →

Yoni Ki Baat – Global Comment

I wrote a sort of review of Yoni Ki Baat, the South Asian rendition of the Vagina Monologues for Global Comment. This is my shameless promotion, let me show you it.

Grad School Sucks All Badness

Because I just enjoy everything way too much and I’m too damn smart, man!

Continue reading →

Stuff White People Like

I just had a look at Stuff White People Like and I’m not impressed. Maybe Dave ruined it for me with his review, which I read before I read the site itself. But I didn’t find it particularly clever. Aside from “being an expert on YOUR culture” and “making you feel bad about not going out”, I didn’t really find any of them particularly funny, or spot on. As a friend of mine said, it’s much more about upper middle class white social democrats than just generically white people. But even still. It’s just sort of dumb.

Redheads

My mom was delighted by this and commanded me to have redheaded babies at my earliest convenience. (She’s a redhead, you see.)

Is Read Hair Dead?

As activists lobby to include the mighty white polar bear on the endangered species list, a critter of a different colour is nervously contemplating its own uncertain future.

The red-headed homo sapiens, predicted by some to be extinct within 100 years, is fighting back with an exclusive dating site, established to keep the rare and fiery breed alive and kicking forever.

There are a jillion redheads on mom’s side of the family. Mom, possibly my granmma, definitely her mom and then a couple on my grandfather’s side, which is Irish. German and Irish redheads.

So does that mean some recessive gene could come to the fore in my kids?

آج کے ارمان

Martin Luther King Jr.: Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord

American Politics

…and optimism. And idealism, too, I guess. Not blind and stupid idealism, simply the having of ideals. It’s a nearly insane notion now, but I like that some people don’t mind being crazy for the greater good.

Check it out, it’s good stuff.