Arun Gupta and The Occupied Wall Street Journal: Desis at Occupy Wall Street, Pt. 4

(h/t @vetoshield for Tweeting this video)

Speaking of desis at Occupy Wall Street, last week I chatted with Arun Gupta, one of the founders of the Occupied Wall Street Journal. Gupta, who talked with me on the phone from a road trip to visit different sites of protest, has been working with newspapers off and on for the past two decades, and writes for publications like AlterNet and Al Jazeera. He’s also been with the Indypendent for the past 11 years. He told me about making the first issue of the Occupied Wall Street Journal happen in under 24 hours.

(Time-sensitive note for New Yorkers: If you want to hear more from Gupta, The New Yorkers editor, David Remnick, is moderating a discussion about OWS tonight at Florence Gould Hall in NYC. 7 p.m. In addition to Gupta, the event features NYer staff writers John Cassidy and Jill Lepore, as well as former NY governor Eliot Spitzer. Online tickets are gone, but a limited number of free tickets will be available at the door.) And a BONUS read via Sonny Singh: Manissa McCleave Maharawal in conversation with Eliot Spitzer about OWS in NYMag, here. I blogged about Manissa earlier in this series.)

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‘It Was So Important That We Were All Together’: Desis at Occupy Wall St., Pt. 3

If you go to Zuccotti Park at 4 a.m., you will see them: a contingent from Occupy Wall Street’s People of Color (POC) working group, standing with others who are banding together to protect protestors from a city effort to clean up the space—widely viewed as a coded way to shut down OWS. Continue reading

The Color of the Call: Desis at Occupy Wall Street, Pt. 2

a video about people at the protests one week ago, courtesy of Thanu Yakupitiyage

“We must not miss the chance to put the needs of people of color—upon whose backs this country was built—at the forefront of this struggle.”

—from CALL OUT TO PEOPLE OF COLOR from the #OWS POC Working Group

How Hena Got There

Two Thursdays ago, after Troy Davis had been executed, Hena Ashraf protested his killing at a rally in New York City. The group that she was with didn’t have a particular plan, she says, but “we ended up on Wall Street.”

It was her first time at Occupy Wall Street, a movement that’s rapidly gaining steam and numbers. And a week ago, by her fourth time there, Ashraf had become a game-changer: one of a group of desis who stood up and insisted that the movement’s primary declaration edit language that referred to racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination as though they were things of the past.

“We definitely stood out,” Ashraf told me. At that point, she explained, the protests were still overwhelmingly white. (We spoke on the phone Sunday night; she was two blocks from Wall Street, heading back to the protests.) But, she added, over the course of her visits to the site, she’s seen them become more diverse.

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Desis Take Action At Occupy Wall Street

 video courtesy of Thanu Yakupitiyage

I no longer live in New York, and I was following the Occupy Wall Street movement only vaguely when last week, something on FB caught my attention… and kept it. It was a lengthy note by Hena Ashraf, chronicling how she and a few other desis had gone down to Liberty Square on Thursday night and argued to change some of the language in Occupy Wall Street’s primary declaration.

I recognized some of the names in her story from my own time in New York: Sonny Singh (of, among other things, Red Baraat) and Thanu Yakupitiyage, an immigrant rights activist who is also a Lanka Solidarity member. And another, whom I didn’t know: Manissa McCleave Maharawal. These four, it seemed, had formed the posse primarily responsible for the intervention that had me riveted.

Here’s how it looks in the Occupy Wall Street notes:

Block 4—Grievance in supporting a document that claims that my oppression on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, religion, and things not mentioned on this document are something that happened formerly and not in the present day.

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The decade of the brown

Via the newstab a data heavy piece in Little India:

Census 2010 data shows that the Asian Indian population ballooned 69 percent from 2000, to 2,843,391. Thus far, the Census Bureau has released Asian Indian data only for those who reported a single race. When multiracial Indians (those who reported multiple racial identities) are factored in the Asian Indian population will top 3.2 million, according to Little India analysis.

Nearly 12 percent of the Asian Indian population in the 2000 Census was multiracial. Little India projects that the final count for the Asian Indian population, including multiracial Indians, will fall between 3.2 million to 3.3 million. The Indian population may well have touched 3.5 million, but an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 Indians returned to India in recent years after the U.S. economy was jolted by the global financial meltdown.

The multiracial issue touches upon a debate that I had with two of this weblog’s co-founders ~2003: the demographic assimilation or involution of the Indian American “community.” I use quotation marks because I think that though there are commonalities and similarities it’s clearly a rather heterogeneous collection of communities, in the plural. Continue reading

Amongst the natives

Andrew Marantz has written a fascinating piece rich with writerly detail in Mother Jones, My Summer at an Indian Call Center. It tells the tale of the hyper-kinetic and atomizing lives of call center workers, and the transformation that globalization has wrought upon the fabric of Indian society. Marantz’s narrative is filled with vivid characters, some of them almost stock figures. He doesn’t truly lay out an explicit polemic, but I found the subtext to be a touch too romanticizing of the old India with its tight-knit families. In part I suspect he’s simply relaying the sentiments of his sources and the people amongst whom he worked as an expat. But there is a difference between avowed ideals and revealed preferences. Young Indians go into the meat-grinder that is the call center career track of their own free will.

I particularly find the subtext irritating because of the writer’s own background: Continue reading

The Haley bubble

meetnh.jpgUpdate: Nikki Haley’s rise raises tensions back home.

Nimrata Nikki Randhawa Haley pushes some peoples’ buttons on this weblog. In this way she’s similar to Piyush “Bobby” Jindal. But it seems that the shine has worn off a little on the man with the golden oeuvre. It began with an optically disastrous and widely mocked Republican response to Barack Hussein Obama’s State of the Union speech a few years back. But over the years his wunderkid reputation has moved to the background inevitably as he’s gotten caught up in the same muck which afflicts most politicians who’ve been in the public eye for long enough.

Of course one can’t say that Nikki Haley has avoided muck in her short time in the national spotlight. But she’s new yet, and the media needs a human interest political story, and she certainly presents well.

In the wake of the announcement of her memoir The New York Times gives her the full treatment, South Carolina’s Young Governor Has a High Profile and Higher Hopes: Continue reading

Stacking up demographically

There’s always a lot of discussion in the national context about statistics such as per capita income, % with bachelor’s degree attainment, etc. On the one hand these sorts of concrete quantities are really essential to move forward any discussion which presumes a possible policy prescription. But on the other hand statistics without the proper frame can be misused. I recall back in college discussions among my friends who were Asian American activists. Their common complaint was that all Asian Americans were bracketed into a “Model Minority,” when in fact there were large communities of Southeast Asian refugees which as a whole totally did not fit mainstream expectations (usually they were really talking about the Hmong). But the reality is that on the balance demographically Asian America is, and was, dominated by a few large prominent groups, such as the Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, and Indians. The Hmong are real, but they’re not representative (a South Asian analog may be the fact that “Pakistani” and “Bangladeshi” in the U.K. really represent the subcultures of the Mirpuri and Sylhetti, with those outside of these communities often being marginalized in the broader discourse because they’re not demographically representative).

This came to mind when discussing Indian American income and education. I decided to look at a few statistics from the Census 2000 and arrange them in scatter plot form so you could compare how two variables manifest in a particular demographic group. I included Indian Americans, Chinese Americans, Mexican Americans, and the general American population. Continue reading

Peter Thiel doubles down on young browns

We’ve pointed to the Indian American prominence in the National Spelling Bee, and or in the Intel National Talent Search, so I thought it might interest readers that two of Peter Thiel’s 20 Under 20 fellows are brown:

faheem-zaman_thumb-2.jpgFaheem Zaman has shot the moon on nearly every SAT test he’s ever taken: 5580 points across 5 tests. He wants to decentralize banking in the developing world with a mobile payment system. Because savings are difficult in poor countries–including in some regions of South Asia where many have to hoard and protect cash–Faheem believes mobile financial services will help bring prosperity to these areas. Before he introduces his technology to the developing world, Faheem’s initial plan is to gain a foothold in the U.S. market for mobile financial services.

sujay-tyle_thumb.jpgSujay Tyle is one of the youngest students at Harvard and is passionate about hacking cellulose to create cheap biofuels. He first worked in a lab when he was 11, interned at Dupont as a teenager, and won the grand prize at the 2009 International Sustainable World Energy Olympiad in Houston. With his older brother, Sheel, he also runs ReSight, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to helping the vision-impaired around the world.

I’ve defended Thiel’s idea elsewhere, but the short of it is that the intent is prod some bright young things to take some time off from school and engage in some entrepreneurialism. The fellows are given $100,000 to drop out of higher education (or not pursue higher education) for two years. I think that our society’s focus on higher education as if it must be the ends for all individuals, instead of a means, is problematic. This is an issue which brushes up against the broader themes which Abhi addressed when it comes to Asian American focus on achievement by orthodox metrics only.

Here’s a post on DealBook, Finding the Next Mark Zuckerberg. Peter Thiel is all over the media, so I’m sure you’ll hear the pros and cons. Continue reading