Xenophobia Judo (updated)

Last week the Sacramento County GOP, which is the local party for the state capital of the most populous state in the union, had image below on their the official website!

If you had any doubt that the GOP was promoting the message “Obama = Arab = Muslim = Terrorist!” this should put your doubts to rest. (To their credit, the state level party quickly had the material removed but that doesn’t undercut the broader campaign.)

One minor personal consequence of this tactic is that I am unable to go canvassing door-to-door in battleground states for either campaign. Can you imagine the reception I would encounter knocking on doors for the Obama campaign in West Virginia? Or how about ringing doorbells for McCain in Missouri?

Sure, I might be able to overcome the xenophobia and fear of certain voters, but that would make the exercise more about me than the candidate, with each minute spent explaining who I am taken away from time avalable to make the case for a particular campaign. No, that would be immensely selfish on my part.

Unfortunately, this leaves me with only one option if I want to participate in face-to-face persuasion of voters. I could pretend to be working for the opposition.

This was the game Osama Bin Laden seems to have played when created the appearance of favoring Kerry for President. This action was consequential, moving the national polls 2% in Bush’s favor at the time. Given the slim margin by which Kerry lost in Ohio, and therefore lost the election. one can spin a scenario in which bin Laden’s statement guaranteed Bush his second term.

Xenophobia judo is a fairly distasteful tactic to use. I’m hoping that voters recognize and punish rabidly racist campaining as tacky if nothing else.

Still, I want to put both parties on notice. If this happens again, I will get together 100 people from whatever group you are demonizing and we will join and actively campaign for your candidate. We will show up en masse in your campaign office, hand out leaflets, knock on doors, and publicly endorse you in every venue we can. We will be a more perfect karmic punishment for you than any Dante ever devised for the sinners in the Inferno. Consider yourself warned.

Update:

Since some of you are questioning my judgment in deciding not to go door to door, I want to give you a bit more context. I didn’t just make the decision not to go door-to-door in a vacuum. It’s based in part on my regular experiences with racism, but also on discussions with a series of friends who know a fair amount about local politics in these places. One of them is an older guy who has run campaigns in this region for 30 years, another is a younger guy who works with different groups as a consultant, helping them with GOTV (get out the vote) activities. They both agreed that I’d do more harm than good in the context of this election. All the others I’ve asked shared the same opinion.

82 thoughts on “Xenophobia Judo (updated)

  1. This was the game Osama Bin Laden seems to have played when created the appearance of favoring Kerry for President.

    McCain played this game earlier in the summer when he repeatedly pushed the line that Hamas endorses Obama. It is in line with the associating the idea of voting for Obama with support for terrorists, which he has escalated with the Ayers smears, robocalls, and the “who is the real barack obama” question (in tandem with the claims that the RNC and senior Republicans have been pushing that Obama is suspect because he was born in Hawaii and spent his childhood abroad IN INDONESIA!) – a further insinuation that Obama harbors terrorist sympathies himself.

  2. I strongly disagree with the implications of your post. The American people have already shown that they are worthy of more faith than what you’re giving them. A number of almost all-white states voted overwhelmingly for Obama during the Democratic primaries. Louisiana elected Jindal, Virginia once elected Wilder, Arizona elected Raul Castro back in the 1970s, there are all-white towns in the South with black mayors these days, and the list goes on and on.

    There is nothing the McCain campaign is saying that somehow alters people’s fundamental personalities. If you knock on the door of a rabid racist, his reaction is going to be the same to your ethnic identity whether this was an election year or not. It is true that such a person, already inclined to hate Obama, is being given fuel to continue his irrational beliefs by what the campaign is saying. But to suggest that a person of color couldn’t canvass American neighborhoods is preposterous, and I say this as a brown desi who has canvassed neighborhoods across the country for political campaigns, and as someone who was once a traveling door to door salesman in rural areas. It is in fact those very experiences as a young college student which caused me to form an impression of this incredible country and its people that changed my outlook on life here.

    Your attitude disappoints me. The reaction to the kind of garbage the GOP has been putting out there should not be to bury your head in the sand and declare, “I am unable to go canvassing door-to-door now.” Your reaction should be to be more open about yourself, your pride in this country, and your identity as an American to people who are being told the very opposite. It is easy to form bad impressions about some strange black man with a mysterious name when a television tells you to do so. It’s quite another to hold that same impression when a polite young gentleman of Indian descent is on your doorstep shaking your hand and telling you as one American to another what you think about the future of the country you both share should look like.

  3. as a brown desi who has canvassed neighborhoods across the country for political campaigns, and as someone who was once a traveling door to door salesman in rural areas… Your attitude disappoints me

    Do you have a turban and a beard? Have you been pulled over by cops when driving through small town America on flimsy pretenses? When you’re in small towns, how often do people driving by yell at you and threaten you?

    Your situation has a good deal more privilege than mine.

  4. Without knowing a damn thing about me, I’m not sure how you can proclaim my “situation” has “more privilege” than yours. I don’t recall claiming in my comment that this country is void of all racists. I pretty clearly acknowledged their existence, to the contrary. But if you honestly think that Americans will suddenly not tolerate a Sikh desi canvassing their neighborhoods now whereas they would have if McCain weren’t putting out slimy ads, your perception is a pretty tainted and flawed one of this society.

  5. What I don’t get is how they were able to somehow misconstrue Obama’s Acorn connection to something negative. What is Acorn doing if not getting more Americans to vote?

    And that whole Weather Underground “connection” coz he talked to the guy who was a leader in it forty years ago. Do they even realize the amount of baby-boomer-ex-counter-cultural-hippies out there who would totally vote for someone BECAUSE of such a connection??? I read the ideology of that group back during my “i missed out on the sixties” phase and all I can say is too bad we don’t have anything like that nowadays.

    Janis, Jim, Jimmy, RIP.

  6. Still, I want to put both parties on notice. If this happens again, I will get together 100 people from whatever group you are demonizing and we will join and actively campaign for your candidate. We will show up en masse in your campaign office, hand out leaflets, knock on doors, and publicly endorse you in every venue we can. We will be a more perfect karmic punishment for you than any Dante ever devised for the sinners in the Inferno. Consider yourself warned.

    I wonder what the reaction would have been if large numbers of muslim Americans actively campaigned, even if as a joke or as an experiment, for the GOP this election. There buzzline could’ve been something like, “we know this party represents and protects the conservative values of traditional Americans like us”.

  7. 6 · Rashmi Mehngi said

    There buzzline could’ve been something like, “we know this party represents and protects the conservative values of traditional Americans like us”.

    Hey, as Stephen Colbert astutely observes, Dinesh D’Souza gurgles out a very similar argument in his book.

  8. Neil,

    As a fellow turbaned Singh, I have the same ‘tainted and flawed’ perception as Ennis.

    The filth we see coming from McCain’s surrogates allow Muslimophobia (and yes as a Sikh in America, I am a ‘racialized’ Muslim) and behavior to be permissible in the public space. When public officials explicitly or tacitly approve such behavior, it does have real world effects and people like Ennis and I are on the frontline. That is our experience, not just our perception.

  9. I think you (and by you, I mean Jodha and ennis) are misconstruing Neil’s point.

    Prejudice exists in this nation. Anyone arguing to the contrary is just being foolish. Still, that’s no reason to feel like your participation would necessarily “hurt the campaign.” I got a voter call list from the Obama campaign and went through the same fears because my name is clearly Muslim/Arabic and my last name sounds very similar to “Hussein.” I was nervous and those thoughts of hurting the campaign went through my head, too.

    People were nice enough to me, and nobody screamed, “I hate you, you dirty terrorist.” I won’t be so foolish to think that somebody I called didn’t think that, though. But, Neil suggests, and I agree, that your participation and openness about your identity can positively affect people. It may, for example, offer potential voters an example of a more humanized ‘racialized Muslim.’ If we don’t put ourselves out there, we just fuel the ignorance/mystery behind the prejudice.

    That said, I understand if you don’t want to open yourself up to racial hostility because that’s a perfectly acceptable choice, IMHO. Still, you should probably state that as the reason for your apprehensiveness rather than saying you “can’t go” because you think it would hurt the campaign.

    And, let me state for the record, that I and my family have repeatedly experienced discrimination as a result of not just being ‘racialized’ Muslims, but actually being Muslims. As a totally peripheral point, I don’t think it’s appropriate to dismiss someone’s opinion just because they haven’t been through it. Empathy can often serve as a good substitute.

  10. Faiqa:

    I hear you, but I think it’s one thing to hear a foreign name on the phone, one that an uneducated voter may realize is Muslim, it’s another thing to open your door an see somebody with a turban and beard standing there handing out materials for either McCain or Obama.

    Rashmi / Rahul:

    How much things have changed. In 2000, Rove’s grand conservative alliance included Muslims. The GOP was very happy to reach out to them in public on issues they shared with conservative Christians, in particular restricting sexual education in school, homosexuality, and even a silent moment of prayer at the start of the school day. That alliance has unraveled, but for a while, even post 9/11 Muslims were welcome in the White House.

  11. 11 · Ennis said

    Faiqa: I hear you, but I think it’s one thing to hear a foreign name on the phone, one that an uneducated voter may realize is Muslim, it’s another thing to open your door an see somebody with a turban and beard standing there handing out materials for either McCain or Obama.

    It’s still not clear what aspect of my point you are disagreeing with. In my experience, there are some people who are unrepentant racists. And then there are people who are simply ignorant because they’ve never been challenged. I would consider an educated, articulate, intelligent American who happens to have a turban and beard standing on someone’s doorstep to be a direct challenge to any thinking person’s pre-conceived notions about Sikhs, or whatever they initially perceive you to be.

    Imagine if Barack Hussein Obama had chosen the same attitude as yours.

    I’m saddened by the fact that you are too scared to participate in our political culture. From my personal experience, I think you are flat wrong. Wrong about the assumption that this is such a scary country you can’t even knock on strangers’ doors to encourage them to vote for a candidate. When I was a college-age traveling salesman, I had a few doors slammed in my face, and I’m sure I was called a few names behind my back from people who turned me away more politely too. But I also got invited into people’s living rooms, offered tea or coffee a million times, treated like a guest, and talked to by very curious and interested people about why I was in their town. These people included everyone from dairy farmers in isolated counties to factory workers and military folks. As I said, the experience shattered my own prejudices.

  12. Lets not forget that it was the Democrats, starting with Billary’s efforts in primary season, that racialized the Obama campaign. Heck, even Biden, prior to VP selection, commented on Barack’s appeal as a “clean” black candidate. Neither McCain nor Palin have said anything negative as to the race or religion of Obama. However, I don’t deny there are some supporters of McCain that would like to racialize this election, just as there are supporters of Obama who would like to do the same (ie, John Lewis).

  13. Neil and Faiqa, I understand that everyone has different anecdotal experiences, but I think you underestimate the hostile experiences I’ve seen turbaned Sikhs and hijabi Muslim campaigners face when they go canvassing. I say this as a POC who canvassed in a nearly all white state for the primary (and honestly, was oftentimes only “protected” by the fact that my co-canvasser was a tall white guy from Virginia). This is not to say white people in this country have the market cornered on racism, just providing a context. I don’t think it’s appropriate to minimize or deride individuals for their choice to GOTV in alternate ways because of their previous experiences with hostility or violence, even if those were not your experiences.

    There are two issues — one is the question of whether this campaign is “more” charged from the GOP’s tactics over the last month. I would argue yes. There’s definitely been an increase in racist fervor among the group you refer to as the actively (or rabid) racists, Neil. It’s unclear if that will translate into hostility on the streets — it’s much easier to be crazy if you’re in a crowd. But I would argue that the messaging of the McCain campaign has also leaked into individuals who are more latently racist (i.e., almost all of us), particularly towards Muslims, and who are on the fence. I say this because I hear people who I wouldn’t classify as actively racist (or even particularly latently racist) repeating the same nonsense re: Obama and terrorists and who is he really? that comes from the McCain campaign’s ads and talking points. In California. Among individuals with high levels of education. These are really not atypical or unusual people. What this shows me is the strength of unarticulated, and racialized, Islamophobia (or Muslimophobia, as Jodha frames it) in this country.

  14. CMF there are multiple kinds of racialization that are happening in this campaign, and each carries very different reactions. I don’t think it’s helpful to argue over “who started with racism” first in the campaign — both parties have utilized race strategically over time, sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally.

    Also, I’m not sure if I made it clear — I find the attitude that POC and other targeted minorities should “step up” patronizing and inappropriate. I don’t think it’s helpful to say, “What if Barack Obama had sat this one out?” It is not the same, and this is a time when I really think the individual’s experience weights more heavily than what we think a person ought to do. I do think it’s important and helpful for folks to get civically involved, but I think pushing people, or denigrating their attitude, their role in the fabric of civil society, their relationship to their experiences as a POC, are completely inappropriate.

  15. There are more subtle and more damaging ways to enter someone’s amygdala than knocking on their front door.

  16. Neil:

    In California and other ‘blue states’ and regions, I would have no problem participating in such a direct manner. I know some activists from groups such as the Sikh Coalition and scores of other Singhs (and Kaurs) that helped during the Democrat primaries, but, again, mainly in states such as New Hampshire. However, especially in the scenario today, I doubt they would venture to campaign in more ‘hostile’ areas out of pragmatic fear.

    Despite your sadness, even members of the Obama campaign (and as mentioned by Abhi, members of the McCain campaign as well) believe that it is best to keep women with hijabs (and possibly men like Ennis and I) away from the candidates in fear of what our appearance may cause when the clips are shown on Fox News, CNN, etc.

    However, I don’t think you are aware of the pure vitriole that has begun to emerge due to the rising stakes of the election. Various websites have reported the threats that groups such as ACORN have been experiencing. Read the racial injection in the comments that they are receiving. Mike Davis has actually given dire warnings of a post-WWI “German scenario”:

    Out in the stucco deserts of Limbaughland, moreover, fear is already being distilled into a good ol’ boy version of the “stab in the back” myth that rallied the ruined German petite bourgeoisie to the swastika. If you listen to the rage on commute AM, you’ll know that ‘socialism’ has already taken a lien on America, Barack Hussein Obama is terrorism’s Manchurian candidate, the collapse of Wall Street was caused by elderly black people with Fannie Mae loans, and ACORN in its voter registration drives has long been padding the voting rolls with illegal brown hordes. In other times, Sarah Palin’s imitation of Father Charles Coughlin — the priest who preached an American Reich in the 1930s — in drag might be hilarious camp, but with the American way of life in sudden freefall, the specter of star-spangled fascism doesn’t seem quite so far-fetched. The Right may lose the election, but it already possesses a sinister, historically-proven blueprint for rapid recovery.

    Faiqa:

    When my father came to this country(in the late 70s) he was ‘f—ing Ayatollah’; in the 80s he was ‘f—ing Ko-dafi’ (Gaddafi) and a ‘dirty Ay-rab’; in the early 90s he became ‘So-Damn Insane’ (Saddam Hussein); in 2001 we became ‘Islamists’ and ‘Osama.’ I recall most of these transformations, which much the same effect – vandalism to our home, verbal assaults, and a few physicial ones as well. Almost all turbaned Sikh males will share with you the same story (and a few Muslims as well).

    While ‘empathy’ may count for something, empathy is not sympathy. It is extremely problematic to believe that one knows another’s situation better than the person who himself has experienced it. It reminds me of Malcolm X’s comments towards the John Griffin’s book Black Like Me. The book is a non-fictional account where Griffin, a white man, travels for 6 weeks in the segregated South, passing as a blackman. Griffin becomes appauled by the fact that race matters.

    No one knows another’s shoes better than he/she who walks in them. To claim otherwise is even more problematic.

  17. Neil:

    A number of almost all-white states voted overwhelmingly for Obama during the Democratic primaries.

    Sure, Idaho supported Obama in the primaries. But that’s because it took only a few thousand democrats at the caucuses to win the entire state! That doesn’t mean that Obama is running well in Idaho now – he’s a full 30 points behind.

    There is nothing the McCain campaign is saying that somehow alters people’s fundamental personalities.

    ??? You really think that the level of xenophobia in America is constant, no matter what politicians do? Trust me, that isn’t true. The salience of race, and in particular the level of threat associated with “the other” is something that can be primed and hyped by politicians. Furthermore, they do so all the time.

    I say this as a brown desi who has canvassed neighborhoods across the country for political campaigns

    Were you in the sorts of states that I mentioned? Do you have a turban and beard? Was this in this political campaign or perhaps before 9/11? Have you been stopped by the police in such places for driving while brown?

    Your reaction should be to be more open about yourself, your pride in this country, and your identity as an American to people who are being told the very opposite.

    That would make it more about me than about the candidate, which is something I find selfish. If I’m knocking on doors, it has to be because it does the candidate more good than harm. The experienced political hands I know have told me that wont be true.

    Imagine if Barack Hussein Obama had chosen the same attitude as yours

    He has a very good strategy to deal with such concerns. He reminds people over and over that he is a black man with a black wife, a known quantity. He has registered a giant number of new voters. And in Southern states, he’s not expecting to get over 15% of the white vote. He’s trying to outflank racists, not engage and persuade with them. But borderline racists can be a problem. Right now, even some borderline racists are supporting him because of the economy, see “We’re votin’ for the n**ger” This might change if I show up at their door.

    I’m saddened by the fact that you are too scared to participate in our political culture.

    I’m not scared, I simply want to use the right tool for the job. Would you send a tattooed, mohawked, and facially pierced lesbian to canvas conservative mormon salt lake city?

    From my personal experience, I think you are flat wrong… As I said, the experience shattered my own prejudices.

    Again, how often have you been followed by the police? How often have you been yelled at by people in oncoming cars? These things happen to me. From your narrative they haven’t happened to you. They don’t scare me, but they do give me a sense of the limits of my personal efficacy in this political climate. I would be a liability knocking on doors for either candidate in the most contested states, which is why I would be most potent if I acted strategically.

  18. I’m not scared, I simply want to use the right tool for the job. Would you send a tattooed, mohawked, and facially pierced lesbian to canvas conservative mormon salt lake city?

    i’m not sure how your example applies, old turnip. i dont know how things work in your neck of the woods – and i speak as someone who’s been part of a campaign – i’d imagine the canvasser would be workin in his/her own geographical constituency – ergo, there is a sense of ownership, of belonging, of ‘you wont kick me in MY backyard’. that said, it’s your game – you’re the only one who knows what the world is like from your eyeballs – so cant question your judgement or worldview. for the rest, who are casting stones, one doesnt necessarily need to be at the front end of a campaign to serve it. there are many places where a person can serve. if ennis wants to be the guy who sits in the corner shredding paper – vell, so be it – but be sure to wear a daarhi-guard.

  19. i’d imagine the canvasser would be workin in his/her own geographical constituency

    Volunteers are traveling to where they are most needed right now. Plenty of friends are going to battleground states for the weekend to knock on doors. That said, I wouldn’t do it in my corner of the USA either, given the level of pervasive racism here.

    Why doesn’t my example apply? There are tattooed, mohawked and facially pierced Lesbians in Salt Lake City. I just wouldn’t send them to the suburbs to campaign for either candidate.

  20. Why doesn’t my example apply? There are tattooed, mohawked and facially pierced Lesbians in Salt Lake City. I just wouldn’t send them to the suburbs to campaign for either candidate.

    Let the campaign manager make that decision. I would not self-extract myself out of the process. That’s all i am saying. self-flagellation, self-abnegation, overthinking are not in my cup of rasam. unleash the python, my man.

  21. 24 · khoofia said

    unleash the python, my man.

    i wouldn’t send flashers to campaign in the ‘burbs either. nascar dads and soccer moms don’t really appreciate that sort of thing.

  22. Jodha : First, let me say, that sucks that your dad had to go through that. My family went through the same, to the point that some members of my family compromised their faith in the name of safety. I understand where you’re coming from because I have been there. In the end, though, you can explain that you’re not a Muslim, right? I mean, what about those of us who can’t do that because we are, indeed, Muslims? By your reasoning, I can claim that you’re like Griffin (someone who is being discriminated against because they “look” like the object of prejudice) and my bearded male relatives are Malcolm X (the actual object of prejudice). I simply do not agree with that.

    If we dismiss the contrary opinions of people who would further intercultural understanding on the basis of the fact that they haven’t “been there,” we dismiss the type of people who are worth our time in the first place.

    Ennis & Camille : That said, you’re right, I’ve never been canvassing, so I can’t speak with any degree of real credibility on that matter. Just for the record, I respect the choices of people who decided not to do so because they didn’t want to open themselves up to that kind of bashing. I still don’t think you’d necessarily be hurting the campaign if you did go, though. I would assume that anyone who would vote for McCain solely because a bearded man told him to vote for Obama was probly going to vote for McCain anyway?

    P.S. Ennis, I agree the visual of a turban/beard is far more dramatic than a name on the phone. Still, even the most backward-ass uneducated American knows that ‘Hussein’ and its derivatives are Muslim names. I’m just saying… they’re dumb, but not that dumb.

  23. 26 · really? said

    i wouldn’t send flashers to campaign in the ‘burbs either. nascar dads and soccer moms don’t really appreciate that sort of thing.

    My extensive survey of Craigslist – purely for academic purposes, of course – reveals otherwise.

  24. I would assume that anyone who would vote for McCain solely because a bearded man told him to vote for Obama was probly going to vote for McCain anyway?

    The question is what happens if I go canvassing amongst voters who’re essentially fence sitters and who are still rather conflicted?

    For example, let’s say I’m canvassing for Bob Barr and I meet somebody who was going to vote for Barr because he’s not muslim and he’s not Republican. My involvement with Barr might cause them to shift back.

    More likely, I simply wouldn’t be effective. They wouldn’t come to the door, or if they did, they wouldn’t really be receptive to something I was saying b/c they’d be too busy staring at me.

  25. 30 · Ennis said

    I would assume that anyone who would vote for McCain solely because a bearded man told him to vote for Obama was probly going to vote for McCain anyway?
    The question is what happens if I go canvassing amongst voters who’re essentially fence sitters and who are still rather conflicted? For example, let’s say I’m canvassing for Bob Barr and I meet somebody who was going to vote for Barr because he’s not muslim and he’s not Republican. My involvement with Barr might cause them to shift back. More likely, I simply wouldn’t be effective. They wouldn’t come to the door, or if they did, they wouldn’t really be receptive to something I was saying b/c they’d be too busy staring at me.

    This is usually resolved by finding a community in which you would be effective for furthering your ends and developing effective tactics and strategies on a terrain where you can make a difference. It might mean absenting yourself from the Presidential campaign altogether, if you can’t serve a productive purpose in your own eyes. But you probably can find one that will further certain ends- whether electing Obama or something different. For example, take a look at what some folks who are more radical than the Democrats put together as strategy – deals with similar issues, if in a different ideological context.

    In your example, one could argue that if you’re interested in getting Obama elected, instead of focusing on swing voters yourself, you might want to work with volunteers to keep their spirits up, you might want to help encourage those people you know in swing states to continue to vote, you might want to pursue a different tactic like phone calls instead of face-to-face canvassing, or you might want to reinforce to try to convert “lean Obama” people to “strong Obama” people because you would be most effective there. It’s all about cost benefit to yourself and others :)

  26. rashmi mehngi sez

    I can only dream that a handsome young sardar knocks on my door one day…..

    and unleashes the python, no doubt.

  27. Rashmi – That may be true, though I haven’t come across many non-Muslim Husseins in my lifetime the name is, after all, that of the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed, SWA.). But, you could be right, I don’t discount that. Anyway, that would be a minor detail in the eyes of the haters.

  28. I am truly shocked at the overt hatred and disgusted by the outright racism of the Sacramento GOP. The McCain-Palin campaign have taken things to a new low. The irony is McCain’s gall in “defending” Obama at his rallies when his minons start reacting to his campaign’s racially divisive strategy.

    Ennis, I’m hoping with with you that come November America turns the corner on this ugly chapter of its history. In the meanwhile, keep exposing these people for what the are!

  29. Faiqa,

    Thanks for your reponse. After this comment, I think I am going to refrain from the rest of the post, but I do thank you for your thoughtful engagement.

    The difference is not so simple with the Griffin analogy. Griffin goes back to being white. Most Sikh turbaned males will not cut their hair. Because they are ‘racialized Muslim’ they do not go back into being ‘non-racialized Muslim’ as it is only those with power that create these categories in the first place. People that engage in conducts such as vandalism, verbal threats, and even physical assaults usually don’t care to have a history lesson. In fact conduct an experiment with a turbaned Sikh male and a Muslim male in a line-up and look at the reactions from those that have Muslimophobia. I am willing to bet that the Sikh male will elicit the more visceral reaction (in most situtations). The reason is rather simple, the turban and beard are the symbols most associated with this Muslimophobia and the Sikh turbaned male represents almost an exaggerated caricature of these hated symbols.

    It is for this reason, as Camille pointed out, I call it Muslimophobia and not Islamophobia. Most people that engage in these types of antisocial behaviors do so against a ‘racialized Muslim’ – that may include blacks, browns (including Mexicans that were targeted after 9/11), whites, etc. I do see the Muslimophobia tied to ongoing hysteria related to debates on immigration. Nativists love to argue that the reason for militarizing the border is so that “terrorists” don’t get in.

    In fact, on this issue of Sikhs standing with Muslims, I have strongly advocated such an approach within the Sikh community and spurned those that attempt differentiation. Muslimophobia affects all communities and thus we need to take a united stand against it. So no, it isn’t so simple that I explain to an aggressor that I am not Muslim.

    When Sikhs attempted this approach after 9/11, I and many others objected to it. In fact there was a tide against such divisive politics. On a recent blog post that Ennis highlighted, I wrote:

    it reminds me of the Sikhs’ approach post-9/11. There were many that immediately tried to disassociate themselves from Muslims and screamed, “We are not the enemy.“ Of course, implicit in this was the argument that “Muslims are the enemy.� Then later as cooler minds prevailed, in an amazing moment which I still take great pride, Sikhs left behind such divisive discourse and changed their call to “We are all Americans.� I am a proud Sikh. And if someone asks me about my religion, culture, ethnicity, etc., I have no problem to take the time to explain something about our Sikh qaum. However, I remember I was at a bus station, when a man came up to me and said, “Are you a f—ing dirty Ay-rab?� I said, “Yes I am, what the f— are you going to do?� Although I probably didn’t handle the situation in the best manner (and I hope I’ve grown up since then, but am never really sure), still even today I would make the same statement (although hopefully in a better manner). So today, as I see the political discourse allowing for sinister Arabophobia and Muslimophobia, I stand in solidarity and say “Yes I am Arab….even though I am a Sikh.“

    [link]

    With regards to your last statement about dismissing others, in no way am I suggesting we make ‘blanket’ dismissals. I was merely objecting to a very specific situation being made by Neil where I felt that, though he has never been in Ennis or my shoes, still he could tell us how we should behave or perceive a particular situation.

    Thanks again and best regards.

  30. Can you imagine the reception I would encounter knocking on doors for the Obama campaign in West Virginia? Or how about ringing doorbells for McCain in Missouri?

    Nice. Again with the blanket bigoted smearing of entire states. Really open-minded and tolerant of you.

  31. Jodha- You expanded my awareness of the situation.. truth be told, I knew this was an issue, but your comments have given my knowledge a greater degree of depth, and I’m better for it. Thanks for taking the time.

  32. Politics is a dirty game and feelings are going to be hurt. People who where turbans are in a unique situation because they are not seen and thus there is less of a chance for turbaned people to make a positive impact on there image. And on top of that not all turbaned people are going to make positive impacts on there image, I know because I know alot of asshole turbaned people and I am sure they are not helping any causes.

    A man with a beard and a turban is going to scare the hell out of small town people and that is that. Small town white folks need other white folks to talk positively about Obama.

  33. Nice. Again with the blanket bigoted smearing of entire states. Really open-minded and tolerant of you.

    Any time! I’m always glad to help. Don’t mention it. I mean, really, don’t mention it ;)

  34. It’s amazing how quick some of y’all have been to sanctimoniously condemn Ennis for something that is obviously painful and complicated. If every single Sikh in America decided to work on a campaign doing things other than canvassing, would it really affect the ground game so negatively. Ennis doesn’t seem to be talking about bailing on political work, just very reasonably making an assessment – based on personal experience, community memory, and undoubtedly the hate crimes that have happened after 9/11 – that perhaps being a bearded and turbaned man may be a liability in certain situations.

    I mean, it’s not really up to you to decide, is it now Neil? And certainly not your place to wax philosophical about the virtues of political participation when there are other factors in play that you either don’t think about or don’t care to relate to.

  35. I’ve been following this dreary campaign from a pov of history, especially with the Ayres/Annenberg Foundation connections. I’m not a “desi” but, what caught my eye here was the stuff about Ayres. I did not know him personally, but was associated with members of the movement at one time. But first: You may be well advised Mr. Ennis, even if you were campaiging for McCain. I doubt the good people of West Virginia — they are much maligned, most are law abiding and reasonably friendly — will harm you, but they are a fussy lot. They even looked at me funny and I don’t even know why. A white Dem from a prominent San Fran family, Kirsten Brydum, was shot dead at night in New Orleans while campaigning for Obama on a bike trip cross-country. Nobody should assume that their political beliefs protect them.

    To the commenter who gets tingles wishing there were a group like the Weathermen today:

    Ayres is the son of a Dept of Defense official, probably gone by now. His goal was not to praise SDS — the effective, anti-war group, “Students for a Democratic Society”. His goal was to bury it (supposedly because it was too soft), and he and Mark Rudd and others boasted that they did so by being so murderously radical that the CIA was given a “reason” to disband it. “Ayers stated: There’s something about a good bomb … Night after night, day after day, each majestic scene I witnessed was so terrible and so unexpected that no city would ever again stand innocently fixed in my mind. Big buildings and wide streets, cement and steel were no longer permanent. They, too, were fragile and destructible. A torch, a bomb, a strong enough wind, and they, too, would come undone or get knocked down.”

    September 11 2001:No Regrets for a Love Of Explosives; In a Memoir of Sorts, a War Protester Talks of Life With the Weathermen Story beings with: ”I don’t regret setting bombs,” Bill Ayers said. ”I feel we didn’t do enough.” Mr. Ayers, who spent the 1970′s as a fugitive in the Weather Underground, was sitting in the kitchen of his big turn-of-the-19th-century stone house in the Hyde Park district of Chicago.

    As Bloomberg News reported recently, Obama and Ayers have crossed paths repeatedly in the last decade. In 1997, Obama cited Ayers critique of the juvenile justice system in a Chicago Tribune article on what prominent Chicagoans were reading. He and Ayers served together on the board of the Woods Fund of Chicago for three years starting in 1999. In 2001, Ayers also gave $200 to Obama’s state Senate reelection campaign.” He’s been responsible for a hell of a lot more than $200.00 in the current campaign. The Weathermen were basically a hate group. They were mostly upper SEC whites who fancied themselves the radical allies of blacks (most of whom hated them), but they did not do blacks any good. Sometimes they appeared to be self-hating whites, but that was a ruse. They were profoundly twisted psychologically. None came from the South or saw any “injustice” and cared less. It was all about Them. It had more to do with the sheer joy of blowing things up. Baby boomers are nothing if not eternal adolescents. Bernadette Dohrn’s comments after the Charles Manson murders–there’s a connection, the threads are rich and endless– was something about being glad the pigs were dead with a fork in their stomachs. Manson wanted to provoke a race war and Ayres approved. I’m not sure who they were really rooting for but destabilization was the goal, and then setting up a Marxist government. She said it enthusiastically and even her allies thought she probably meant it — jokingly. “Pigs” could have been anybody, btw, who served as a carving palate for their self-expression. It made me a vegetarian–poor animals, they should not be so horrifically envisioned. Neither she nor Ayres are repentant. They’re just older and they want to stay out of jail and man do they have connections.

    In fact they were infiltrators whose intent was to destroy an effective anti-war movement of the Vietnam era. They were not really interested in America except for the material benefits they got, but they loved imagining destroying it and setting up their Marxist version, for lack of a better word. Communism was a “romantic” movement inspiring the children of the rich more than the poor in America, probably because most people were comparatively well-off. Considering the corruption of some facets of the US government and its ultimately criminal excursion into Vietnam, Communism seemed like vengence. Yet the Weathermen were not even honestly Marxist. They were nihilists if they were anything. Ayres and Bernadette Dorhn were in hiding for murder until 1980. They gave themselves up and were by some mysterious process allowed to become tenured professors and head of childrens’ justice. Ayres is OLD intelligence, with deep connections to various government networks. The “government” NEVER left such people or such groups alone, they were always infiltrated. In 1979 he was wanted for murder and terrorism and on the run. A few years later he’s founding the Annenberg Foundation and getting himself tenured. Think, people, think. You regret that there’s no such group today? Are you insane? You want a civil war here? Nobody is legally persecuting you because you are of desi descent. You have the same rights and the same responsibilities as anyone else who is a citizen. You want a group like the Weathermen today? What if they want to blow up The Sri Baba temple? Britney Spears house? The Pentagon? Palin’s igloo? And we wonder why people are xenophobic. These people, Ayres, Dohrn, Rudd and a lot of others you can read about, came from comfortable, privileged backgrounds were prepared to murder innocent people who had nothing to do with them. In America, most such people are from comfortable, spoiled backgrounds. You want more hate and violence, go ahead and wish for more groups like this.

    Also, I must take issue with the No Obama = racism. That is bully tactics, at least for people who care.

    Some white people just don’t f@(#ing believe Obama or believe in him…get it? Some of us have actually ignored the MSM–biggest and most irresponsible “conspiracy” going –and done our homework in less controlled areas.

    Many whites (and some non-whites) honestly think he’s a first-class fraud with a white-hating wife and a white-baiting minister friend of 20 years, and murderous friends who really haven’t repented that much however you wash them out, and a family that has not been interviewed at all about him, and records at Columbia and Harvard he ordered sealed. They have also counted his lies, some of them humongous. They cringe in revulsion and digust when he accepts the term “messiah” for himself and refers to himself as president. Loathsome as GWB is, he is the president until January 09.They wonder why Obama hasn’t had to produce documents anybody waiting for clearance or rights of citizenship has to produce. Even Joe the Plumber was made to worry about his lack of a license.

    This rejection doesn’t indicate that McCain is an acceptable alternative. It means that a lot of us feel that there is NO ALTERNATIVE.

    As for Mccain’s ads–I don’t even pay any attention. The MSM went after Obama’s opponents so viciously that he didn’t have to do it himself. It was planned that way. I have never seen anything like the attacks on Palin. Hey–she’s an easy target but at least we know who she is; she’s the only candidate that has been “vetted” to any meaningful extent and at least you know what it is you are not buying.

    Some of us are not voting for Obama because we think he is a bad choice for our own interests and not to be trusted with our money, our childrens’ future, our own future, or the red button.

    Sincerely, PH

  36. “This rejection doesn’t indicate that McCain is an acceptable alternative. It means that a lot of us feel that there is NO ALTERNATIVE.”

    What about Bob Barr? Yeah, I know he won’t win but he’s technically an alternative. I don’t have much HOPE for either candidate to stabilize the damage of these last 8 years. There won’t be any CHANGE, just more of the same.

  37. Get a life, PH. Good lord…

    The comments about Ayers and the Weathermen were very informative and I agree with a lot of that. They should be strongly condemned. Not that Obama has any connection to that stuff though, just because of some interactions with Ayers on a totally different basis.

  38. records at Columbia and Harvard he ordered sealed

    Tell me more about this, PH. First time I’m hearing it.

    Obama hasn’t had to produce documents anybody waiting for clearance or rights of citizenship has to produce

    He’s waiting for clearance or rights of citizenship????

  39. 27 · Rashmi Mehngi said

    knocks on my door one day…..

    And because the original Rahul is back*, as a tribute I’m compelled to say, “Is that what the kids are call it these days?”

    *”your dude is back, maybach roof is back Tell the whole world the truth is back You ain’t got to argue about who could rap”

    [PS: the ad hominem remarks on this thread are depressing (which have been countered by some people. many thanks. its remarkable how political discussion causes people to forget basic courtesies of charitable conversation. even if you have faced little to no discrimination, it doesn't entitle anyone to dismiss ennis's experience out of hand. sorry to reduce it to this: if a black person told you she faced discrimination or unwarranted aggression in a particular context, would you just counter by saying, "of course not, i was treated very nicely in those particular circumstances?" you probably wouldn't dare.]

  40. 43 · Amitabh said

    Get a life, PH. Good lord…
    The comments about Ayers and the Weathermen were very informative and I agree with a lot of that. They should be strongly condemned. Not that Obama has any connection to that stuff though, just because of some interactions with Ayers on a totally different basis.

    Really? Did you not know that Ayers dad was a big-shot and that he single-handedly (and not colluding with the ‘libruls’ at UC, although they certainly enabled it by bending over for Papa) rehabilitated his kids’ reputation in Chicago? Seriously, it’s not 1968 all over again, and bringing up a ‘radical’ association from the past (especially for people like David Horowitz and Liddy) for someone involved in academia or old-school non-profits is about as remarkable, notable and revealing in terms of judgment as Jerome Corsi rifling through Odinga’s used toilet paper for Obama’s fingerprints. I, for example, am connected by association not only with 60′s ‘radical’ Timothy Leary, the subversive Peter Max, the notoriously flatulent John Fahey, the dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle, the butcher, Chandrika Kumaratunga, and the infamous fop, Lord Soulbury. A host of bodies trail those names, far more than Ayers even encountered or Liddy could fit into his fevered dreams of killing cops and democratic party officials, and my foolish circle of friends and employers have been forced to associate with someone they must still regard, after all these years, as an ‘unknown.’

  41. Amitabh on October 21, 2008 12:20 AM ·

    “The comments about Ayers and the Weathermen were very informative and I agree with a lot of that. They should be strongly condemned. Not that Obama has any connection to that stuff though, just because of some interactions with Ayers on a totally different basis.”

    PH writes:

    “Many whites (and some non-whites) honestly think he’s a first-class fraud with a white-hating wife and a white-baiting minister friend of 20 years, and murderous friends who really haven’t repented that much however you wash them out, and a family that has not been interviewed at all about him, and records at Columbia and Harvard he ordered sealed.”

    This is legitimate, Amitabh? A “white-hating wife”? This person should be ashamed to be writing this nonsense.

    Anyone who beleived anything in PHs post needs to learn to not believe everything you read on the internet. Right off the bat, PH’s post is full of BS. Bill Ayers’ dad was not a “defense department official.” He was CEO of Commonwealth Edison, better known to us in Chicago as ComEd, the electric utility.

    “Ayers’ father, Thomas Ayers, was CEO of Commonwealth Edison as well as a trustee of Tribune Co. and chairman of the board of Northwestern University.”

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chi-radical-ayers_thinkmay18,0,5953909.story

    Whether you “learn” something or not from PH’s post, Ayers is irrelevant to knowing anything about Obama. And just as an FYI, Bill Ayers is a good man. He’s done a hell of a lot more good for this world than most on this message board have ever done or will do.

  42. 48 · KarmaByte said

    If this happens again, I will get together 100 people from whatever group you are demonizing and we will join and actively campaign for your candidate

    Communist Sympathizing Terrorist Educators/Indoctrinators for McCain!