About Abhi

Abhi lives in Los Angeles and works to put things into space.

Free Rides to the Polls

New Yorkers, you have no excuse:

Harpreet Singh Toor, a neighborhood activist who is running to become the first Sikh in the city council, has come up with an innovative way to get his voters to the polls next Tuesday.

Toor has arranged for Sikh cab drivers to use their cars to ferry voters to and from the polls on election day.

“It is important that the voters in Southeast Queens make their voices heard,” Toor said. “Of course I hope that they vote for me, but what is most important is that they vote. For too long the needs of this district have been ignored by those in office. The only way we will change things for the better is to come out and vote in large numbers.”

Toor noted that Sikh cab drivers also offered free rides in the wake of 9/11, and said the gesture then and next week is related to the Sikh concept of Seva, which he defined as doing service without any expectation of return. [Link]

I think we should do this in every district in the country but make it a more collaborative all-around effort! I am imagining that a local sweets store would provide gulab jamuns and samosas in the cab and a local dhol player could get people psyched up by playing their instrument just outside the sphere of the polling place. Then some kulfi on the way out. This is my vision.

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Vote “American” Today

For months we have been highlighting the campaigns of South Asian American candidates. Now it’s “go” time. Get out there today and please encourage others you know to vote as well. It is precisely elections like these where the things you voted for in presidential elections are rolled back. If you felt voting in 2008 was important than this election is no different.

This past August, the Republican nominee for Kansas’ Fourth Congressional District Mike Pompeo — who owes much of his personal wealth and political career to the right-wing billionaire Koch brothers — tweeted out an article referring to his Indian-American Democratic opponent Raj Goyle (a former Center for American Progress staffer) as an “evil” “turban topper,” calling it a “good read.” Shortly after the tweet, the campaign released a full apology, calling it an “honest mistake.”

Now, the campaign has once again returned to racial waters. Pompeo supporter John Eck, who runs an insurance agency in the district, placed two digital billboards above the building that houses his company. The first features an image of Pompeo along with the phrase, “True Americans Vote For Pompeo.” The second billboard says, “Vote American. Vote Pompeo.” [link]

If you have any stories from the polling places today please email or tweet us.
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From Macacas to Turban Toppers…

I have been flipping through the thorough new report released on Wednesday by South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) titled, From Macacas to Turban Toppers: The Rise in Xenophobic and Racist Rhetoric in American Political Discourse. The report catalogs a great many derogatory statements directed at South Asian Americans. The vast majority of the statements cited are examples of anti-Islamic bias by elected officials, but recent examples include statements against South Asian Americans running for Congress (which was also touched upon in this good NPR story from Wednesday morning).

With the midterm elections round the corner, SAALT’s report, From Macacas to Turban Toppers: The Rise in Xenophobic and Racist Rhetoric in American Political Discourse, documents intolerant remarks made by elected officials and those running for office. According to the report, since September 11, there has been an unprecedented rise in xenophobic statements that have specifically targeted South Asians, Arab Americans, Muslims, and Sikhs…

“The details in this report are extremely helpful not only to the South Asian community but to the rest of the country as well”, said Hilary Shelton, Director, Washington Bureau of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), one of the speakers at the briefing. Shelton compared the experiences of Muslims, South Asians, Arab Americans and Sikhs to those of African Americans, who have also been dehumanized and marginalized by a racist political climate.

Reflecting on the current climate of Islamophobia, lawyer, commentator and founder of themuslimguy.com, Arsalan Iftikhar, noted that “‘Muslim’ has become the accepted slur in America… Race, xenophobia, bigotry have now become a permanent political wedge issue in America.” [link]

Many of the examples cited in the report are incidents we have blogged about here on SM. To see them all cataloged in one place though results in an even more disturbing narrative. This is why it is important to vote.

Check out the full report and let us know what you think.

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Where Nikki Haley’s money comes from

A few weeks ago I cited the ridiculous assertion by Republican Congressman Jim Gerlach that it was somehow wrong for his Democratic opponent Manan Trivedi to accept money from…Indian Americans. Well, a noteworthy portion of Republican Nikki Haley’s haul in South Carolina may be coming the same way:

More than 30 percent of Nikki Haley’s campaign cash came from outside South Carolina, more than three times what her opponent Vincent Sheheen has raised out of state in their race for governor.

Sheheen’s campaign quickly seized on the news.

“The truth is Nikki Haley claims to be an outsider, but more than 100 PACs have bought and paid for her vote,” Sheheen campaign manager Trav Robertson said of the Republican state representative. “No other candidate who has run in South Carolina history, to my knowledge, has ever gotten as much money from outside the state as Nikki Haley has…”

Among donors who listed their occupation in Haley’s most recent campaign finance filing, about 6 percent were attorneys.

Lakhwinder Singh, who lives in Jamaica, N.Y., was one of several Indian-Americans across the country to send a check to Haley, whose parents emigrated from India to build a new life in South Carolina. Singh contributed $1,000 after he met Haley at fundraiser in his state.

He said he has friends in South Carolina, but Haley’s campaign is most important to him because of their shared heritage. He said Indian-Americans also rallied around Bobby Jindal in his successful run for governor of Louisiana…

An article in the Hindustan Times noted Haley has attended at least half a dozen galas organized by the Indian-American community and estimated she may have raised $250,000 at them. At one event in New Jersey, Haley told the audience that she wanted to open up avenues for business ties between South Carolina and India.

Sheheen, whose ancestors emigrated from Lebanon in the late 19th century, has experienced similar support on a smaller scale, receiving contributions from both the Arab-American Leadership PAC and Dr. James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute.


That’s great. Apparently all you have to do is tell some uncles that you want to “open up avenues for business ties between South Carolina and India” and that is good enough to fill ‘em coffers. All you aspiring politicians take note. Do you think Haley admitted to them that she does occasionally go to gurdwara? Maybe if she becomes governor on Nov. 2nd she can accompany President Obama to Amritsar? I am just putting that out there for the internet to pick up. It would make for good symbolism (but would cause some tea baggers to suffer a stroke).

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The home stretch for Manan

My cousin Manan, who is running for the U.S. House of Representatives in the 6th District of Pennsylvania, is in the home stretch. Every dollar counts at this point in his bid to upset the Republican incumbent Jim Gerlach.

This is the same Jim Gerlach who began race baiting earlier in the campaign:

Trivedi, who has already raised more than $390,00 dollars as a traditional candidate, in part by tapping a wealthy network of politically-minded Indian Americans in Pennsylvania, is now facing off against Republican incumbent Jim Gerlach (pictured above). Recently, Gerlach launched attacks against Trivedi, saying that he “doesn’t share our values.”

And whose values are those? One guess.

When concerns were raised that the Gerlach campaign’s statement could be perceived as playing on Trivedi’s ethnic differences compared to the average Pennsylvanian voter’s (85% of Pennsylvania’s residents are White), Gerlach dismissively said, “The only one who has played the race card here is him, by going to Indian-American groups to raise money.”

Wait, what?

The logic being used by Gerlach is that Trivedi shouldn’t lobby Indian-American groups, because (somehow) this is racist. [Link]

And this is the same Gerlach who is making the number one issue in his Pennsylvania district…the New York City Mosque. You know, because Manan has brown skin so why not make that the central issue?

The headline of the news release was: “Despite Inquiries, Trivedi Silent for Over a Week on Mosque Issue.”

Mr. Trivedi is Hindu. “That’s what I put on my dog tags when I was in the Navy,” he often says. But supporters of Mr. Trivedi said the news release about the mosque was intended to suggest that Mr. Trivedi was Muslim, an assertion that the Gerlach campaign denied. [NYTimes]

So this is it. If you ever intended to donate your time as a volunteer or make a monetary contribution, now is the time as it is the end of the quarter filing deadline.

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A gathering storm of crazy

This sounds like a really insensitive premise for a video game, right?

The year is 2014, and a new breed of neo-Islamic terrorism is rampant in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio … The current White House Administration is pro-Muslim and has ordered a stand-down against Islamic groups. The mission: Destroy the terrorist command post — or die trying. The fighters must go in “sterile” — without name tags or other identifying insignia — as a deniable covert force. ” [Time]

Guess what? We’d be lucky if this was just a video game. This is reality. There are people in this country with guns that are really this crazy and “training.” Time Magazine has the full scoop:

This August weekend of grueling mock combat, which left some of the men prostrate and bloody-booted, capped a yearlong training regimen of the Ohio Defense Force, a private militia that claims 300 active members statewide. The fighters shot blanks, the better to learn to maneuver in squads, but they buy live ammunition in bulk. Their training — no game, they stress — expends thousands of rounds a year from a bring-your-own armory of deer rifles, assault weapons and, when the owner turns up, a belt-fed M-60 machine gun. The militia trains for ambushes, sniper missions, close-quarters battle and other infantry staples.

What distinguishes groups like this one from a shooting club or re-enactment society is the prospect of actual bloodshed, which many Ohio Defense Force members see as real. Their unit seal depicts a man with a musket and tricorn hat, over the motto “Today’s Minutemen.” The symbol invites a question, Who are today’s redcoats? On that point, the group takes no official position, but many of those interviewed over two days of recent training in and around the abandoned Roseville State Prison near Zanesville voiced grim suspicions about President Obama and the federal government in general. (See Obama’s troubled first year.)

“I don’t know who the redcoats are,” says Brian Vandersall, 37, who designed the exercise and tried to tamp down talk of politics among the men. “It could be U.N. troops. It could be federal troops. It could be Blackwater, which was used in Katrina. It could be Mexican troops who are crossing the border…”

As militias go, the Ohio Defense Force is on the moderate side. [Time]

I urge SM readers to read the whole article. You’ve kind of heard rumors of all this before, but this just lays the crazy out across the table for you to examine.

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Commercializing the Dahi Handi festival

The BBC South Asia had a video short last week about the Dahi Handi festival (each September) in Mumbai. Click on picture for video:

The charming local gentleman they interview in the video vociferously makes the case that they $hould commercialize the heck out of the festival. You know, like La Tomatina in Spain.

Dahi Handi generally takes place on the second day of Janmashtami. An earthen pot containing a mixture of milk, dry fruits, ghee is hung around 20-30 feet high in the air with the help of a rope. Silver coins are hung along with the rope,which are later distributed as prize to the winners. Enthusiastic young men, form a human pyramid by standing one on top of the other, trying to break the pot. Onlookers throw water on the young men in order to prevent them from breaking the pot. Breaking of the pot is followed by prize distribution. Devotees believe that the broken pieces of earthen pot will keep away mice and negative powers from their homes.

Dahi Handi is celebrated with fervor, especially in the twin cities of Mathura – Vrindavan, Dwarka and Mumbai. Young men in Mumbai yell ‘Ala re ala, Govinda ala’ during the ceremony. [link]

What say you? Shall we put together a team of Sepia Mutiny readers?

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Greenspotting: Race and Ethnicity maps of the U.S.

The blogosphere has been buzzing this week over a…Flickr set with ten year old information. And with good reason. Eric Fisher’s use of ten year old census data helps us visualize the segregation we already know exists in our major cities:

[Eric Fisher's] taken a look at the way that the residents of major American cities assort themselves. Inspired by Bill Rankin’s map of Chicago’s racial and ethnic divides, he took census data from the year 2000 to see how other cities stacked up in terms of how citizens identify themselves and where they live.

Each dot in the plot above represents 25 people. The red-green colorblind among you may see a nearly monochrome map since those two colors represent self-identified whites and Asians. The cluster of blue dots … represent African-Americans. In and of themselves, the findings are hardly shocking, but since it’s Flickr, the map has already become interactive as users chime in with notes and comments to explain the city’s patterns. Even if you aren’t a sucker for information graphics, there’s something interesting in comparing and contrasting our city with the others in the photoset. [Link]

Here is the map of my area in Los Angeles. I make up the green right where the Red, Blue, and Orange intersect on the westside:

Use the search bar on Eric’s page to look for your city. I thought the picture of DC showed one of the clearest divides. Can’t wait to see how the demographics change when he uses 2010 data.

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