As One Mutiny Stands Down, Others Rise

I first stumbled onto Sepia Mutiny as a college student, a confused but curious 2nd genner who had never had brown friends, fresh from my first trip ever to the desh and desperate to find more out more information about the a CD I had bought by some “Rabbi” with a guitar. This was the first result, and after a few more inquisitive clicks around the site, I was addicted and would never be the same again. This was IT, the in I had been looking for but had been denied for so long. Though it seem silly now, my first real desi friends would be those I met online. I was a Mutineer, and I had a mission.

Fast forward to March 2012.

Despite admitting to have shot and killed a 17 year-old armed with Skittles and a hoodie, George Zimmerman remains a free man today. The story struck a chord and has become a worldwide sensation. Just as thousands of ordinary folks of all stripes have taken to the streets to peacefully protest the outrageous impunity, a similar scene is happening right now in Punjab; the difference is that the “criminal” is slated to die for attempting to stop the targeting of his community for extrajudicial torture and killings. Here is the breakdown on Balwant Rajaona and why he was to be hanged from The Langar Hall.

On March 31st, Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana [was] set to be executed in Punjab for his involvement in the assassination of former chief minister of Punjab, Beant Singh. Chief minister Beant Singh was involved with carrying out brutal and mass killings of Sikhs in Punjab.  He is widely held responsible by many Sikhs for ordering the kidnap, torture and death of many young Sikh men.  A report by Amnesty International can be found here.

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Let it Bhi (Part II)

Ahoy-hoy, Mutineers!
Although it’s been a while, I’m taking a cue from Vinod and am holding the sentimentality for a moment, namely to revisit one of the most Mutinous Musicians Sepia has showcased: the inimitable Bhi Bhiman. Since Bhi was first broken to the desi masses, he has gone, well, viral. Not only has he managed to drop another amazing album, but Bhi has been profiled by such journalistic stalwarts as NPRHuffPoPopMatters, and that old rag, The New York Times. All of this without losing what makes him special: that astoundingly soulful and smokey set of pipes that fit his socially aware but catchy folk melodies quite nicely.
As promised, here is the long-awaited interview with the fabulous Bhi Bhiman, culled from email and conversation over a wonderful lunch at San Francisco’s now shuttered Pot de Pho.

Check out his video for “Guttersnipe,” his sultry voice set along a snapshot of “life along the Indian railways,” after the jump.

Free Dharun Ravi: Fairness vs. Justice

I was naive I suppose.  I really thought that the jury, upon hearing all the detail that the mass consuming public was not privy to, would acquit Dharun Ravi on all charges, regardless of the fact the prosecutor seemed to be cleverly boxing them in to a particular outcome, armed with ambiguous law.  At a minimum I thought the major charges, including the “hate crime,” would be hard to deliberate on, possibly resulting in a mistrial.   The comprehensive NewYorker article last month showed that the case, far from being what the media initially portrayed, was full of twists, conflicting behavior, and most importantly I believed, reasonable doubt.  A few years back I watched the absolutely brilliant 8-part documentary The Staircase (now apparently free online), about the murder trial of a bisexual man in North Carolina.  It forever changed my view of highly publicized trials in America.  They seldom have anything at all to do with justice.  Everyone involved is a victim.  More recently, we saw a miscarriage of justice in the case of the West Memphis three.  Ravi’s trial result should not have surprised me.

Ravi is an immature, upper middle class kid and a “casual homophobe” (more on  that term later) but he is not a perpetrator of a hate crime.  To consider him more than marginally complicit in the death of Tyler Clementi hurts two groups: victims of true hate crimes and the mental health community.

First off, I reject the mostly Right Wing assertion that we should banish the term “hate crime” from our legal system.  ”Aren’t all crimes hate crimes” they argue?  Such arguments are specious an predicated on the belief that political correctedness is the only reason such a label exists.  Bullshit.  When a man has a chain put around his ankles and is dragged behind a car because he is black, that’s a hate crime.  When a Sikh man is shot for being a “Muslim terrorist“, that’s a hate crime.  When a gay man is tied to a fence and tortured, that’s a hate crime.  Being stupid while you are coming of age and meeting people with different backgrounds than you?  Not a hate crime.  Most crimes are committed because of anger, greed, jealousy, or mental illness.  A hate crime is different.  It is often very violent and there is rarely a personal gain.  The crime is committed as an act of domination or intimidation, often based on unjustified fear.  Nothing about Dharun Ravi’s behavior, as evinced by texts, emails, tweets, and witnesses shows even an inkling of such a motive.  One could argue he was more uncomfortable with Clementi’s socio-economic status than his sexuality!  He was also uncomfortable about an older man, a stranger, coming into his room and having sex.  Many of us may have reacted poorly in such an instance.  What opponents of the term “hate crime” get right however, is that the laws are sometimes so ambiguous that a clever prosecution can convince a jury that a wide variety of crimes meet the legal definition of a “hate crime” and that they have to convict based on the definition alone, regardless of common sense.  We have seen “terrorism” laws abused in this same way.  I would not be at all surprised if Ravi’s case someday reaches the Supreme Court for this very reason.

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Desis Are Everywhere

Though I’ve previously blogged about the APIA Census 2010, South Asian Americans Leading Together and the Asian American Foundation have just released a fascinating new report, “A Demographic Snapshot of South Asians in the United States.”  Even though the current population total number has been previously reported and is not new news (over 3.4 million South Asians live in the United States and the population has grown by 78% in the last decade), what is interesting about this report (which you can download here) is the population map they provided.

It should be no surprise by now where the largest populations of South Asians are.  According to the report, metropolitan areas with the largest South Asian populations are New York City, Chicago, Washington DC, Los Angeles, and San Francisco-Oakland and in over the past ten years, the Washington DC metropolitan area overtook the Los Angeles metropolitan area as the area with the third largest South Asian population.

But to me what was surprising to see is where exactly the growing South Asian populations live (as seen in the map above). The South Asian population grew the most in Charlotte, NC, increasing 187% over the past ten years. This was followed by Phoenix; Richmond VA; Raleigh, NC, San Antonio, Seattle, and Stockton, CA; Jacksonville, FL; Harrisburg, PA; and Las Vegas. Among the ten fastest growing South Asian metropolitan areas, only the Seattle and Phoenix metropolitan areas had more than 30,000 South Asians in 2010, while the smallest of the top 10 fastest growing metropolitan areas was the Harrisburg, PA metropolitan area with close to 6,500 South Asians. These are all regions without a significant history of South Asian American migration and I wonder what has happened in these regions that led to such a rapid growth in these cities. Continue reading

Q&A with Daisy Rockwell AKA Lapata

Unsettling. The Little Book of Terror, a slim, brightly-colored book of paintings and short essays by Daisy Rockwell hardly contains standard coffee-table fare. Divided into five sections, this cheeky little volume features your usual gallery of big-name, international rogues. Osama bin Laden. Saddam Hussein. But the feeling of uneasiness comes not from these over-chronicled villain archetypes whose images we’ve all seen scattered over televisions a hundred times over.

Instead, it comes from candid portraits such as that of Mohamed Mahmood Alessa, a 20-year old in New Jersey who was appended by the FBI after he tried to join a militant group in Somalia. In her portrait of Alessa, Rockwell depicts him in bubble-gum pink tones, prone on a floral bedspread, cuddling with his beloved cat, Princess Tuna. Unsettling. The narrative of terror that we often see seldom contains photos of wannabe terrorists cuddling with their kitty cats, or of the underwear bomber as a sullen teenager, posing during a school trip. Continue reading

Joe Biden imitates Indian accent during NH speech

Vice President Joe Biden (who I like to think of as America’s wacky, slightly off-color Uncle Joe) briefly imitated an Indian accent while giving a speech in New Hampshire on Thursday.

As longtime readers know, this isn’t the first time Biden’s gotten into hot water with the desi community. Back in 2006, the then-Senator noted that “You cannot go into a Dunkin Donuts or a 7-Eleven unless you have a slight Indian accent.”

Watch the video of yesterday’s speech below. The imitation begins at 00:09 and ends rather abruptly. As one Buzzfeed commenter noted, “It’s like halfway through the impression he thought, “Oh sh–, better not follow through with this one.”

Marie Claire interviews Nikki Haley

Haley's senior class photo (c. 1989)

Marie Claire Magazine titles its interview with South Carolina’s governor “Will Nikki Haley Be Our First Female President?” and looks at her tips for personal success and her inspirations. That’s how we get to know she’s totally into Joan Jett. I wonder if she watched The Runaways when it came out in theaters a couple years ago or if she has a vintage collection of Jett LPs.

Here’s some of what she had to say:

FIND WHAT MOTIVATES YOU–ON A DAILY BASIS AND IN LARGER WAYS. Music motivates me. When we have bill signings, we’ve got music playing. I have a great love for Joan Jett. When I am going through the toughest times, I’ll blast her music. She was one of the first female rockers when female rockers weren’t accepted. When no one would sign her, she created her own label. And when she accomplished everything … she walked away! I mean, how cool is that?   FIND DIVERSE ROLE MODELS. Mine are my mother, Margaret Thatcher, Hillary Clinton, Martina Navratilova, Gabby Giffords. And Joan Jett. I tell you, Joan Jett is my idol. I would just love to meet her! (Marie Claire)

 

Jindal kids at the ball

The MSNBC PhotoBlog thinks the Jindal kids–Selia, Slade and Shaan–stole the show at their father’s inauguration for his second term. In the blog’s photo picks, the young threesome make a red-carpeted entrance at the inauguration and peer into a canister presented to their father during the ceremony. Nola.com includes another image of the kids on the dance floor with their parents in its gallery of the inaugural festivities.

Gov. Jindal spent a good portion of his speech yesterday (full text) on the topic of education and ended with cheers of Who Dat! and Geaux Tigers! in support of the state’s sports teams.

US Hopes Desis in India Make Chai Not War in 2012

The U.S. is sending comedy showcase “Make Chai Not War” with performers Rajiv Satyal, Azhar Usman and Hari Kondabolu to India for a seven-city tour starting this week. Spokesperson Victoria Nuland said the tour is part of the State Department’s regular global exchange cultural programs. She offered more information on why the government is supporting the $100,000 tour.

“The reason we decided to support this tour is because, among the things that they are known for is their talk about religious tolerance, about the importance of breaking down prejudices and about the positive experiences they had growing up as Indian-Americans in the United States,” Nuland said.

“In addition to doing shows, they’ll also be holding audience discussions on these issues of religious tolerance, and doing workshops and having some interviews with the press,” Nuland said, adding that the seven city tour costs about US $100,000; of which the US Embassy in New Delhi is supporting them with a grant of US $88,000. (Economic Times)

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Scared for Her Life and Other Stories of Hate [UPDATED]

UPDATED Dec 21, 2011: Looks like Aisha Khan was found and that some of you skeptical commentators were right all along. We will keep you posted as the story develops.

According to Overland Park police, officers made contact with her Wednesday afternoon. She was not abducted or held against her will. Police said there is no criminal investigation. [nbc]

+++++++++++

Are you in Kansas? Pay attention to this photo. Her name is Aisha Khan and she’s missing.

I can’t shake the chills her story gives me. She’s petite, 19 yrs old, newly wed and a college student. Her sister dropped Aisha off at 10am on her college campus so that she could prep for her noon final. But she never made it to her final.

Aisha Khan … has been missing since Friday morning. That is when her older sister said she left frantic text messages with her about a drunken man on the Edwards Campus she described as “creepy.” Faiza Khan said she dropped Aisha off at the campus around 10 a.m. Friday ahead of a noon final. The text messages started arriving within an hour.

 

“There’s a creepy guy that just came up to me, and he was harassing me,” Faiza said her younger sister told her in a message. She told local media outlets that Aisha “was just freaking out at that time. She didn’t know what to do. I guess she pushed him and she slapped him.” [cjonline]

 

I can’t count how many times I’ve been creeped out by harassing men – it often feels that as a woman in the American public we have to brace ourselves for street harassment. But Aisha is a girl in hijab – I can only imagine that her harasser must have said something really islamophobic and sexist to have deserved a slap. Finally, there’s the voicemail message she left her sister.

“Oh my gosh it was so scary,” Aisha said in her voice message. “My heart is like pounding. I’ve never got this scared in my life. Pick up your phones. I am freaked out right now.”

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