South Asians for Black Power: On Anti-Blackness, Islamophobia, and Complicity

We are a collective of South Asians in the U.S. invested in unpacking the legacy of 9/11 in our communities. We are committed to drawing connections between Islamophobia, caste-based oppression, privilege and complicity, xenophobia and profiling, and anti-Blackness in ourselves, our communities, and the imperial U.S.

We invite you to join us, and sign on to this statement below.

#SouthAsiansforBlackPower

As white supremacist structures of hierarchy continue to conflate markers of race and religion, South Asians in the U.S. are often racialized as Muslim or seen as “terrorist threats.” As people often racialized as Muslim, whether we identify or not, we understand that our own profiling, criminalization, detention and deportation is intimately tied to the struggle for Black Lives Matter in this country.

Earlier this year, we watched in horror as Sureshbhai Patel, an Indian grandfather in Madison, Alabama, was paralyzed by a police officer for walking around his son’s neighborhood. He was mistaken for Black, recognized as a South Asian immigrant, and deemed disposable. Our communities face colonization in the U.S., living in a colonial police state that sometimes grants the wealthy amongst us privilege while brutally policing working-class brown bodies. Our communities face imperialism abroad, where Black and brown bodies are deemed “collateral damage,” from Palestine, to Pakistan, to Syria. Historically marginalized caste communities experience the majority of this violence, whether in the U.S., in South Asia, or elsewhere in the diaspora. 

We understand that police terror, colonialism, and imperialism are all intricately connected to anti-Blackness. The U.S. was built on the ideology that Black bodies were less than human, disposable, and deserving of violence. The South Asian experience and Hindu fundamentalist imposition of caste has constructed similar power dynamics, that continue to reverberate through our communities in the United States and abroad. We must struggle with the fact that we have benefited off of and been complicit in this stolen labor and harm, not just in the past but also presently, within and outside of our own diaspora. We stand with the Black Lives Matter movement, knowing that Black power is inextricably tied to our own liberation as well.

#JusticeforMuslims

As South Asians committed to justice, we recognize that Muslims bear the brunt of pre- and post-9/11 Islamophobia, a system of  state-sanctioned violence that targets Muslim communities at home and abroad. Muslim communities have been victims of state-sanctioned violence in the United States since the early African Muslims were kidnapped and brought as slaves into colonized lands, for the purposes of building America’s wealth and empire. Prior to 9/11, Muslim Americans were targeted and surveilled for participating in the Black Liberation Movement and the Palestinian Liberation movements through programs such as COINTELPRO. We also recognize that Black Muslims have experienced the brunt of state violence through Jim Crow, mass incarceration, police brutality, and structural anti-black racism.

Since 9/11, the War on Terror has institutionalized violence that mainly targets Muslim communities and views Muslims as suspicious, perpetual foreigners and threats. This visceral form of state-sanctioned violence has destroyed the lives of millions of Muslims globally.

According to Physicians for Social Responsibility (PRS), approximately 1.2 million-2 million Muslims have been killed as a result of the War on Terror since 9/11. The estimate for Muslims killed since the nineties due to US intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq, and other countries is estimated to have resulted in the deaths of 4 million Muslims.

Since “Muslim” has been racialized as South Asian, Arab, Sikh, Black, immigrant, and is used as a dehumanizing term, our subset of communities are constantly grappling with the fear of hate crimes and marginalization. Profiling programs such as “special registration”, preemptive prosecutions, the use of entrapments, targeted killings, torture, drones, suspension of basic due process rights, deportations, and the massive surveillance of Muslim community spaces is an attempt to punish Muslims for being Muslim.

Today, we remember all of the families who have been torn asunder by the “war on terror” and the rush to criminalize and conflate race and religion. We remember that this anti-Muslim violence continues into the present day. This past year, three students at UNC-Chapel Hill were gunned down execution style because of their religion. We  want to remember the victims of Oak Creek, and brother Inderjit Singh Mukker, a 53 year old Sikh American resident who was violently beaten by someone who screamed anti-Muslim slurs at him, called him a terrorist, and told him to leave the country. We also want to remember the name of Usaama Rahim, who was killed at a bus stop in Boston by the joint terrorism task force and never received his due process. We also want to think of all the family members whose loved ones are suffering in solitary confinement or Communication Management Units (CMU) in federal prisons from confessions takes through torture and entrapment.

We remember too that the U.S. surveillance machine was perfected on the backs of the Black Freedom Struggle, with operations like COINTELPRO designed to find and eliminate “threats” to the state. We also remember that intersectionality means that certain subsets of Muslim communities experience state violence on multiple fronts.  On the anniversary of this day, that intensified the policing and fear-mongering in our South Asian communities, we come together to stand in solidarity with Muslim communities and affirm #Justice4Muslims. We also affirm  Black Lives Matter as the liberation of non-Black South Asians is tied to the liberation of Black people globally. We also affirm that our liberation is tied to the liberation of all oppressed communities of color globally who are suffering as a result of US-sponsored state violence.

#ModelMinorityMutiny

We also recognize the immense privilege that we receive, as participants – willing or unwilling – in the ideology of the model minority. We commit ourselves to challenging complacency and rewriting our own racialized narratives.

We acknowledge our complicity in settler colonial violence, as inhabitants of this very land. We commit ourselves to fighting for our own liberation, and for the liberation of all oppressed peoples. This means that we proudly declare that #BlackLivesMatter. We commit to undoing anti-Blackness at home, working against Islamophobia, and challenging our identity within the model minority myth.

Authors:

Sasha W., National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA), Queer South Asian National Network (QSANN)
Darakshan Raja, Muslim American Women’s Policy Forum
S.D. Shah
Divya Sundar
Lakshmi Sundaresan
Radha Modi, Phd Candidate, UPenn, Philadelphia
Virali, Bay Area Solidarity Summer (BASS)

Part of challenging anti-Blackness in ourselves and our communities is crafting a new narrative of what it means to be South Asian in the U.S. If you (as an individual) and/or your organization also commit yourselves to these lenses, please sign on below or email sasha@nqapia.org. We will update the list below throughout the day.

Signatures:

SALGA-NYC New York
Almas Haider KhushDC Washington, D.C.
Alliance of South Asians Taking Action California
KhushDC Washington, DC
Sophia Zaman Chicago, IL
Priyanka Amin-Patel San Jose, CA
Priya Rai Seattle, WA
Anushka Aqil Atlanta, GA
Greeshma Somashekar
Rabia Syed Brooklyn, NY
Zainab Badi Oakland,CA
Bix Gabriel
Khalida Sethi Philadelphia, PA
Anjali Misra Madison, WI
Shiva Patel Energy Solidarity Cooperative Oakland
Sameer Rao
Shrestha Singh Harvard Divinity School Fremont, CA, USA
nikhil trivedi Chicago, IL, USA
Samara Azam-Yu ACCESS Women’s Health Justice Oakland, CA
Surbhi Godsay
Divya Sundar Berkeley, CA
Naazneen Diwan South Asians for Justice LA Los Angeles
Meghna Chandra Philadelphia, PA
Samiha Rahman UPenn Philadelphia
Medha Ghosh Philadelphia South Asian Collective
gayatri singh san diego, ca
Chagan Sanathu Berkeley, CA
Robindra Nath Banerji Moody’s Analytics West Cbester, PA
Maarya Abbasi
kiran nigam Philadelphia South Asian Collective Philadelphia, PA
Harsimran Kaur Bagri Seattle, WA
Sumayyah Waheed
SS Silver Spring
Amita Lonial Chicago, IL
Sabrina Ghaus Boston, MA
Mehreen Kasana NYC
Amman Desai
Nikhil Umesh Chapel Hill, NC
Anaar Desai-Stephens Ph.d candidate, Cornell University New York
Lovepreet Gill Los Angeles
Radasians Chapel Hill, NC
Rashida Basrai Mountain View, CA
Sheena Sood PhD Candidate, Temple University Philadelphia
Fernando Espiritu South Central Los Angeles
Sanjana Lakshmi San Jose, CA
Sonalee Rashatwar Philadelphia South Asian Collective PHL, PA, USA
Sara Husain Akron, Ohio
Farukh Basrai Mountain View, CA
Muhammed Malik Muslims for Ferguson/Philadelphia South Asian Collective Philadelphia, PA
M. Shapna Islam Phoenix, AZ
Huma Dar Berkeley, CA, USA
Rosalie Chan Northwestern University Chicago, IL
Saema Adeeb Cupertino, CA
S. Charusheela
Ayesha Ibrahim UCLA
Ashiqur Rahman
Anirvan Chatterjee Berkeley South Asian Radical History Walking Tour Berkeley, CA
Deepa Vasudevan india
Lakshmi Sridaran South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) National
Chandani Patel Chicago, IL
Aqdas Aftab pittsburgh
Vanita Patel Boulder, CO
Jishava Patel Worcester, MA
Eram Alam UPenn Philadelphia
Naina khanna Oakland
Rohima Miah Raleigh, NC
Sunday Kumar Chicago IL
Vivek Anand Berkeley, CA
Meena Muru Los Angeles
Jannat Majeed Washington, DC
Juhi Verma Brooklyn/NY
Radha Radkar New York
Shanella Gandharry Ny, New York
Ronak Kapadia Chicago, IL
Dedunu Suraweera East Coast Solidarity Summer New York, NY
gita mehrotra Portland, OR USA
Sino Esthappan Vassar College Poughkeepsie, NY
Nafisa Kaptownwala Lorde Inc. Toronto
Raina Satija Philadelphia South Asian Collective Philadelphia, PA
Jasveen Sarna New Jersey
Annu D. Durham, NC
Aditi Kambuj Seattle, WA
Alejandro Banuelos MEChA Los Angeles
Sham-e-Ali Nayeem Philadelphia, PA
Shruti Purkayastha Los Angeles
Manali Souda
Eshani Dixit East Coast Solidarity Summer New Brunswick, NJ
Anandi A Premlall SustyQ (Sustainable Queens) Queens
Leila Sidi Edmonton/AB/CAN
Nidhi Kashyap Milwaukee, WI
Davina Simone Brooklyn, NY
Sritha K Masala Militia Toronto
Mahroh Jahangiri Washington, DC
Sanober Umar Queen’s University Kingston
Divya Nair Community College of Philadelphia Philadelphia, PA
Nazia Kazi Philadelphia PA
Trisha Barua
Abhilasha Bhola Los Angeles
Sana Javed Washington, D.C.
Nissar Ahmed * Rohnert Park, California
Kashfi Fahim Richmond Hill, NY
Vivek Venkatraman Mountain View, California
Leya Mathew
Swati Bhargava Zuni, NM
Kripi Malviya TATVA Center India
Seema Rupani Asians 4 Black Lives Fremont/CA/USA
Mirza Alam NewYork
Seemantani Sharma The George Washington University Washington,DC
Fatina Husseini
Aseem Mulji Oakland
Maria Basrai Diamond Bar, CA
Priya Shanker
Tehreem Rehman
Rishi Saraswat Fremont
Fatima Jaffer Trikone Vancouver Vancouver/Canada
Mithra Korukonda
Kartik Amarnath New York, NY
Derek Wong Boston, MA
Leonie Barkakati Yuri Kochiyama Cultural Center Amherst, MA
Sapna Pandya Many Languages One Voice Washington, DC
Alejandro Banuelos MEChA Los Angeles
Sal Salam Trikone Chicago Chicago
Mehreen Haider Arlington, Texas, USA
lasitha Washington, DC
Saba Taj Durham NC
Chinmayee Balachandra Santa Barbara/CA
Maya Mackrandilal Chicago, IL, USA
Manju Rajendran Durham, North Carolina
Dhruv Pathak United Students Against Sweatshops Charlotte, NC
Kulsoom Ijaz VA
samir shrestha students for a free tibet oakland
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