South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)
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Welcome to the first of our Voices from the Community series, where we’ll be featuring posts from community ​members on key issues and their intersections.

Over the past few days, South Asians around the world have organized in solidarity with Punjabi farmers to demand justice and better protections for their land and labor rights. (Check out these U.S. based solidarity actions organized by Jakara Movement, SALDEF, and Sikh Coalition).

In light of the recent protests, we’re highlighting this piece by Kirndeep Singh, a researcher and recent graduate from Columbia University, ​which explores the impact of climate change on the mass exodus of Punjabi farmers from their homelands. …

On November 7, people of color caught their breath as they received news that President Donald Trump would no longer office past January 2021; finally, after four years of increased and public attacks on immigrants, Black Americans, queer folks, and Muslims, we have a moment of respite.

But state sanctioned hate violence and xenophobia is far from gone as President-elect Joe Biden continues to engage with heads of states with known nationalist ties, ignoring any ties to Hindutva ideology. …

It’s less than two weeks away from Election Day, and racist rhetoric from public officials and hate violence continues to impact communities all over the country.

From the local level to the federal level, candidates from Laura Loomer to Marjorie Taylor Green who have public track records filled with Islamophobic remarks are winning the praises of President Trump. The president himself, in the first presidential debate of the election, won the admiration of white supremacist groups after he failed to openly denounce white supremacy, instead calling on known hate group, the Proud Boys, to “stand back and stand by.”

Institutionalized racism also continues to play out in the mainstream media. In September, as media outlets and officials marked the 19 year anniversary of 9/11, we saw the diminishment of hate violence survivor experiences by mainstream media figure and NYT columnist Paul Krugman. Krugman discounted survivors of post-9/11 backlash and hate crimes with a Tweet that falsely said “there wasn’t a mass outbreak of anti-Muslim sentiment and violence,” a statement which SAALT’s research directly contradicts. …

This time, four years ago, the U.S. was in the heat of the election cycle. The Trump campaign was regularly using Islamophobic and xenophobic rhetoric to promise discriminatory policies like the Muslim Ban and a border wall. We documented a dramatic rise in hate violence targeting Muslims and those perceived as Muslims during and after the 2016 election.

And this election cycle, we are just as vigilant. This week, presidential candidate Joe Biden announced his pick for Vice President: Senator Kamala Harris. As a woman of Jamaican and South Asian heritage (see our take on this in this NBC article here) joins the ticket, we can unfortunately also expect the Trump Administration will continue to join in more hate speech — drumming up support by appealing to xenophobic, racist, and Islamophic stereotypes. …

As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on and continues to claim thousands of lives, hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric targeting our communities continues without pause. In SAALT’s June hate report, we tracked multiple incidents of vandalism and verbal and physical harrassment targeting Muslims everywhere from Texas to Florida to Minnesota to Massachussetts to New York.

Since June 1, 2020, SAALT has tracked 13 incidents of hate violence targeting Muslims and those racialized as Muslim:

Policing State and Interpersonal Violence

On Monday, May 25th, 2020, George Floyd became the 1,014th person to be murdered by the U.S. police force over the last year.

While we focus on hate violence targeting South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Arab, and Middle Eastern communities, we must not do so in absence of the larger context of Black communities being the overwhelming target of all hate violence and state violence in the U.S. And, we cannot exceptionalize the violence aimed at our communities. As South Asians, we must acknowledge, confront, and dismantle anti-Black­ness in our own communities and decrease our reliance on the racist criminal justice system. …

Courtesy of Shireen Hyrapiet

Over the last month, we’ve seen hate and vitriol run increasingly rampant through our communities, at times outsizing the powerful acts of solidarity, unity, and compassion we have also observed during this time of global health crisis.

In the U.S., there have been more than 3000 reported incidents of hate violence targeting Asian Americans in the last month. A recent poll found that 60% of Asian Americans say they have seen or been affected by a xenophobic reaction to COVID-19. This xenophobia is being fueled by racist rhetoric and policy from public officials, like Senator Cotton’s recent statement on FOX News that Chinese students should be restricted from receiving visas. We’ve also seen an increase in coronavirus-driven hate violence fueled by Islamophobia. In India, since March 28, there’s been a surge in the use of the Islamophobic hashtag #CoronaJihad.. This follows the pogrom in Delhi in February targeting Muslims which led to the deaths of at least 53 people. Equality Labs has found that #CoronaJihad appeared “nearly 300,000 times” and was likely “seen by 165 million people on Twitter.” …

Map courtesy of Dr. Shireen Hyrapiet @hyrapiet

We are undoubtedly in the midst of several crises caused by the Covid-19 pandemic — one of these includes the Trump Administration blaming China for the crisis by calling Covid-19 the “Chinese virus.” Since SAALT’s last report published on March 3, the nation has seen a drastic and dangerous increase in hate violence and rhetoric that targets and affects East and Southeast Asian Americans, and those racialized as East or Southeast Asian.

Prior to this period, we observed a peak in hate violence brought on by President Trump’s election in 2016, when government officials spewed xenophobic falsehoods and declared entire communities as threats, ultimately leading to the Muslim Ban. Once again, we see an entire community framed as a threat, leading to the the widespread Covid-19 related discrimination we have seen in recent months. This Administration’s pattern of criminalizing communities of color and later codifying this racism in policy is why we are on high alert. …

Last week, violence targeting Indian Muslims in Delhi left at least 42 people killed. The violence comes after a series of unjust and exclusionary actions by the right wing BJP government, including the passing of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and establishment of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and is a disturbing development in the overall rise of Hindu nationalism. SAALT, along with 24 South Asian organizations, issued a statement condemning the hate-fueled violence and the state’s role in it, calling on community members to speak up against the ideology of Hindutva, which is essentially a belief in Hindu racial and cultural superiority. …

The last three months of 2019 were plagued by a series of hate incidents. Anti-semitic attacks in New York and New Jersey are on the rise, with police reporting an increase in 20 percent as compared to 2018. An attacker killed five people in a Hasidic rabbi’s home in Monsey, NY while they were celebrating Hanukkah. Earlier in December, two shooters opened fire at a kosher market in Jersey City, killing 6 people. And, from October through the end of December, SAALT tracked 14 incidents of hate violence targeting Muslims and those racialized as Muslim.


South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)

A national social justice org working on policy analysis/advocacy on issues affecting the South Asian community: immigration, post 9/11 backlash.

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