your defense of immigrants is fucking colonialist

This past week, Donald Trump showed his ass. So did white liberals. You know, the ones swathing themselves in American flags and holding pictures of dead Syrian children. For a moment I thought the alt-right had gone so far right it was left again, because some of the white liberalism I witnessed at #NoWallNoBan actions this weekend was downright imperialist in the name of immigration. 

“Yo!” you protest, “Stop criticizing the people that are joining the movement! They should be rewarded with freshly baked cookies and golden safety pins for their allyship!”. To which I reply, without criticism, the only movement that these white liberals are joining is the United States’ movement to colonize the globe. People need to understand what they’re fighting, and it is unfortunately abundantly clear they will never reach this understanding without my salty first generation immigrant opinions ruining their day, nor the voice of other sisters who’ve been fighting their entire lives. 

In no particular order, here are some things I want to express to well meaning white liberals. And trust me, I’m a model minority, so this is the nicest and gentlest way anyone is ever going to explain this to you. 

  • It’s the United States, not America. There are many countries in North and South America, and they sure as fuck don’t want to be lumped in with a monstrous administration that is trying to legislate them out of existence. 
  • The United States’ “greatness” is a code word for expansionist imperialism. It is part of decades-old nationalist rhetoric that says because the U.S. is greater than other countries, they are justified in imposing their greatness on other countries through military violence. Seeing United States flags and hearing “USA! USA” chants is fucking violent to those of us who have seen nationalist jingoism be used to justify military intervention in our home countries. This is not at all a proud moment for the United States, so leave your patriotic pride at home. 
  • Immigrants don’t owe you any explanations for their existence. Please stop with the well meaning talk about how immigrants make this country great, as if we ONLY grant citizenship to great individuals. If citizenship were based on greatness and contribution, we would be revoking the papers of white people who didn’t do anything with their lives. 
  • If it takes a picture of a dead Syrian child to get you to care about immigrants, you might need to have a talk with yourself. If you are NOT a member of a community of color who has PTSD from seeing dead bodies killed by the state, then you should thank the stars for your sheltered existence, and then have a talk with yourself. And then stop circulating those images forever. 
  • Yeah your great grandpa was 1/8 Hungarian or something, but unless Trump signed a ban on travelers from your country OR your family is here due to the U.S. bombing your country, please kindly stop appropriating the experiences of people who are actually suffering. “We are all immigrants” is cute in theory, but it completely erases the role white supremacy plays in specifically targeting Latinx, South Asian, African, and Middle Eastern* immigrants. 
  • Learn some fucking Spanish. Or Arabic. What’s the point of expressing your well intentioned allyship if the people you are supposedly supporting can’t understand you?***
  • Immigrants are among most impacted in the United States by lack of access to healthcare, wage theft, poverty, gentrification, police violence, etc. So if you’re pro-immigrant, consider fighting for those issues that affect immigrants once they have to figure out how to live here.
  • Black people are Muslims/immigrants too. Sudan, one of the countries on Trump’s ban list, is a country of predominantly Black Muslims. The United States has been resettling refugees from Africa for decades. And slaves were brought to the United States against their will. And yet people will hold #RefugeesWelcome signs and in the same breath wonder why #BlackLivesMatter isn’t #AllLivesMatter. If your immigration stance is only based upon uplifting immigrants that are pale (i.e. light-skinned Muslims) or stereotypically docile (i.e. Southeast Asians), then you are not actually pro-immigrant; you’re pro-white. To oppose colonialism is to oppose the anti-blackness inherent in our global systems, and to say #BlackLivesMatter.

Now go drink some water to wash away that salt. Oh, and that poster by Shepard Fairey sucks. 

* 1/31/17 UPDATE: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated “Arabic” and omitted South Asians and Africans affected by the ban.

** 1/31/17 UPDATE: White people have complained that this post leaves them paralyzed and without action items, so I have culled only the directives from what I have written above  :

  • Leave your patriotic pride at home. 
  • Stop with the well meaning talk about how immigrants make this country great.
  • Have a talk with yourself.
  • Stop circulating those images [of dead Syrian children] forever. 
  • Stop appropriating the experiences of people who are actually suffering [via] “We are all immigrants”.
  • Learn some fucking Spanish. Or Arabic. ***
  • Consider fighting for those issues [healthcare, wage theft, poverty, gentrification, police violence, etc.] that affect immigrants once they have to figure out how to live here.
  • Say #BlackLivesMatter. 

***2/2/17 UPDATE: People are apparently tripping out over the fact that language justice is like, a thing, so here’s further explanation. https://www.waysidecenter.org/programs/language-justice/ 

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Weekly Reading List: Brock Turner is a Rapist Edition

Stuff on the internet that I’ve been reading instead of Edward Said’s Orientalism.

Social Justice

Arts – Dallas

  • Changing Gears At Dallas’ Office Of Cultural Affairs – After a yearlong search by a $50,000 paid search committee, City Manager AC Gonzalez decided to reject the search committee recommendations and instead appoint someone relatively unknown by the Dallas arts community to the Executive Director position of the Office of Cultural Affairs. I’m willing to not judge Executive Director Jennifer Scripps until we see evidence of whether or not she takes steps to support individual artists, cultural equity, government transparency, and creative ways of publicly leveraging private support (I am very curious if the references to private support means that the onus is on artists and organizations to raise their own funding (ugh), or if the city will find a way to publicly manage private arts patronage) – but if the search committee was pointless, I want that $50,000 of taxpayer money back (#grants, anyone?).  Also, stay tuned for the June 23 special meeting of the Arts Commission, in which the OCA will either try to explain or find a way to ameliorate why they are cutting $60,000 from each city cultural center’s upcoming budget. Dallas, y’all! Supporting culture, one budget cut at a time.
  • GABRIEL DAWE: IN RAINBOWS – An artist from Dallas makes it onto the national scene, and everybody loses their shit (just kidding, I’ve been a fan of Gabriel Dawe’s work for years).
  • Building a bridge, not a wall: Crow Collection announces major partnership with Mexico – The resident museum of Imperial-Era Chinese Art (#NotAllAsia guys, #NotAllAsia) has announced a partnership and traveling exhibition with museums in Mexico, and all this chinita poblana can think about is, does this mean we’ll finally get to have a panel on the ChinaMex origins of the chimichanga?

Arts – Los Angeles

  • Los Angeles Is Hiring a Sound Artist to Help Make its Streets Safer – Almost three years ago, I entered a large gymnasium wearing earplugs and holding a blue balloon. The sound vibrations from the building were so loud I could hear it from the parking lot, and I laid upon metal sculptures designed to transmit the sound vibrations. I’m thrilled to see that Alan Nakagawa, artist behind said piece and one of my favorite people, has been selected as the inaugural LADOT (Los Angeles Department of Transportation) Artist in Residence. I’ve been really interested in this residency program ever since it was announced, for the way that it models itself after programs in San Francisco and New York that create space for artists in civic departments (Mierle Laderman Ukeles is one of my big inspirations, so, you know). I would love to see additional cities and city departments (AHEM, AHEM) create positions for artists-in-residence to contribute to the poetic and experiential reading of the city. I can’t wait to see how Alan’s work in sound art and field recording contributes to a more walkable city.

Misc

Los Angeles, I Ache: June 6, 2016

Despite being away from Los Angeles, there are still moments where I feel the sensations passing through collective body of my communities back home. It’s like how a spider senses an insect landing on a nether portion of its web – apt since most of these waves are transmitted through social networks. Usually I don’t sense the joy, but I do sense very deeply when my community aches, and I ache right back.

Here are some things that I’ve been aching about this week:

Shooting at UCLA – I worked at UCLA, knew people who graduated from UCLA. Despite the broken nature of the UC system and higher education, I still consider UCLA one of the defining institutions when it comes to generating discourse on art and activism in Los Angeles. In this case I watched as my friends were on lockdown for hours.

PSSST gallery opening in Boyle Heights

This has been breaking my heart for weeks. PSSST actually approached one of my collaborations earlier in the year for a short summer residency and I was immediately suspect, as it was a white-owned gallery operation in a historically Japanese and Chicano neighborhood of Boyle Heights. Boyle Heights is incredibly well organized, with long histories of cultural organizations and community spaces, and I found it really suspect that none of the prominent cultural workers from Boyle Heights had said anything about this space or were involved. Researching their website, I became conflicted because queer, femme bodied, and PoC artists/curators who I respect a lot and in some cases have personal relationships with were on their board. We ended up turning down the offer. Fast forward a few months, and PSSST is at the center of anti-gentrification protests in Boyle Heights. It has been breaking my heart to watch from afar how responses to these protests have split the art community, and moreover, split the community of radically-minded artists and artists of color. In this case, it seemed like their board of well respected queer, femme bodied, and PoC artists/curators worked to deter the conversation about gentrification and raise doubts about the legitimacy of the protestors. I myself feel really conflicted about this as I am from outside the community and now literally live thousands of miles away, so in a sense I can’t speak to what is truly happening inside Boyle Heights. But I can say that has been personally devastating to see people within my (former?) community exhibit racist and institutionalized behavior that privileges the concerns of the art community over the concerns of residents who have lived and cherished their neighborhood for years. I hope that choosing between the art community and a community on the verge of displacement is not a choice we ever have to make, that as artists we always understand that our solidarity is always with those who are most structurally disempowered – especially if we contribute to that disempowerment.

#BLMLA organizer Jasmine Richards convicted of felony lynching

13305181_10154826220643906_1751655282651861749_oTwo years later, a jury without a single black person and an Asian judge and Chinese prosecutor convicted #BlackLivesMatter organizer Jasmine Richards of felony lynching – an absurd charge that completely perverts the original intention of the law. I remember the day of the protest actually. I don’t think I went but it was in my consciousness. I also remember seeing Jasmine in Power: From The Mouths of the Occupied, a play by #BLM co-founder Patrisse Khan-Cullors at Highways Performance Art space at the 18th Street Arts Center complex in Santa Monica. The play was a collection of dramatized monologues about each participant’s experience with police and state sanctioned violence. Jasmine’s story was one of the most intense stories of the night. I held it in me, I admired her resilience, and I understood her leadership and passion. I ache now because the person who I saw perform that night is not a person who should be in jail. Because of that work, I understand her actions to free a fellow protestor (the definition of “lynching”) to be one of compassion and justice, and I continued to be floored by her strength while understanding that in this world, none of us should be obligated to be that strong.

At the same time, this event really underscores the need to do the work to heal anti-blackness in Asian communities. I think it’s time to acknowledge the structural origins of Asian anti-blackness instead to pointing to any one Asian ally as an example of #NotAllAsians. Until we acknowledge it, we can’t truly dismantle it. As someone who has been divorced from my country of origin for myriad, complex reasons, I am still working through how to begin this work in my own community which I do not consider community (once again, myriad and complex reasons). This is something that I will write more about at a later date.

These are the actions that #BlackLivesMatter is urging people to take:

SIGN THE PETITION: http://act.colorofchange.org/sign/freejasmine-no-jail-time-black-lives-matter-activist-accused-lynching/?sp_ref=203026269.176.169279.e.535244.5&referring_akid=.2244075.bWCrFT&source=em_sp

You can ALSO can help by:

1. SHARE! SHARE! SHARE! We need as many people talking about this as possible. Please share as widely as you can! #FREEJASMINE #BLMDENA #BLACKLIVESMATTER

2. Pack the courtroom for her sentencing hearing:

Tuesday, 06/07/2016 at 8:00 AM, Pasadena Courthouse – 300 E. Walnut, Pasadena, CA.

3. Donate to Jasmine’s legal defense and/or books at www.crowdrise.com/blmla(Note“Jasmine” in your comments.)

4. Use your voicetalents and resources to elevate Jasmine’s case and cause.