AAPI Heritage Month #24

May 24, 2023

Do you follow politics or news where you live?

In my last post, I claimed that I don’t follow politics in Asia or the Pacific Islands. This hasn’t been sitting right with me all day. I feel I need to rethink that self-perception to better understand how I “follow” politics or news at all.

The feminist thinkers and Third World Women’s Alliance organizers of the 1970s pushed us to understand that “the personal is political.” Our bodies–my body has been made political. Race, gender, class, caste. These are political issues that delve deeper than current events. When it comes to engagement with politics in South Asia, I am trying to be much more aware of violence against Dalit, Adivasi, and Muslim people–particularly women, trans, and genderqueer people. The casteism of the BJP political party has been taught to me by brilliant leaders in Equality Labs. As a Brahmin Indian in the United States, it is my duty to also follow how casteism shows up here and to support efforts to end Brahmin power building.

What I must interrogate is around the shame when I feel I am not following politics there or here enough. I’m quite involved in local politics at the city and state levels for my job in harm reduction policy advocacy Whether it was my job or not, I would be paying a lot of attention to it because it affects my day-to-day life. If I don’t feel inclined to follow politics in Asia with the same fervor as I do local politics, does that mean I think politics in Asia does not affect me as a diasporic Asian?

The Third World Women’s Alliance leaders saw the issues happening elsewhere as affecting them personally in New York and San Francisco. How do local organizers keep up with all that going on internationally? This all definitely goes beyond following politics or the news locally. It’s how we make meaning of what is happening in any one place or multiple places at once. How we connect the international to the local and vice versa.

When the Third World Women’s Alliance was formed, there was excessive violent involvement of the U.S. in Vietnam and across Southeast Asia. As I understand it, TWWA members were protesting not just the war itself, but our nation’s role in it. Today, the United States–which remains an Imperialist power–strategically engages in a variety of wars across the globe and in our communities. The War on Drugs, on Black people, poor people, Indigenous people, trans people… This country uses global tactics locally. Global issues with local impacts, and vice versa.

How do we find our focus amidst it all? How do we find peace and quiet amidst this interwoven global chaos?

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