On Wednesday, September 24, I'll be giving an informal talk at the famous brownbag series sponsored by SIPA's Southern Asia Institute! Stop by and chat about migration (regional and global), the importance of literature and narrative in development policy debates, and my book, Muslims of Metropolis, out now through Rutgers University Press.
A couple of weeks ago, Serbian war criminal Radovan Karadzic, pointing finger behind the Srebrenica killings and the siege on Sarajevo, was arrested. Karadzic, it turned out, had been living under cover in plain sight as a furry, round-eyed alternative medicine healer. It's entirely possible that
So, I have to get in on this whole mess. To summarize: an Israeli born New York City fashion designer made a series of overpriced t-shirts capturing his professed hatred for Barack Obama, which proclaim such as "Obama is my slave" or "I killed Obama" or "Obama = Hitler". The first I heard of it was a NY Metro story about one of his customers, a white woman, who was beat down by a group of black women offended by the shirt, and who is now suing the designer "for everything he's got."
Many unanswered questions in the article: 1. Why exactly does this guy hate Obama so much? 2. How is Obama a slave? 3. In what way is Obama similar to Hitler? 4. Who is interested in wearing these statements across their chests? 5. Who would pay $69 for an ugly t-shirt? 6. Why does the article answer none of the pertinent questions?
Now, the problem with news like this is that it leaves a lot of open room for personal interpretation and blank-filling. For example, I've been led to assume that the slave comment comes from a belief that a black man would be a better slave than a president or the presumption that Obama is descended from African-American slaves. Either way, I would assume that the maker of the shirt was either racist or ignorant and dismiss him out of hand. But the statement is cryptic, and other interpretations may be possible. Someone might think the shirt is edgy and ironic, a way of (misguidedly) confronting unspoken racisms and hiply reappropriating negative terms, a la "Obama is my n-word." But surely, we have to ask ourselves what consumer would not assume that the shirt, leaving a lot of room for interpretation, would invite some anger from black Americans. Is the state of our race dialogue so degraded that this consumer would NOT know that?
The Hitler statement as well. Not really understanding the provenance of the thought -- how is a moderate American senator of mixed Kenyan and Ohian blood who grew up in Hawaii and became a law student and community organizer anything like a conflicted Austrian would-be artist with megalomaniac tendencies and the desire to impose strong ideologies on a frustrated nation in his quest for power (to describe him mildly)? A friend suggested it was Obama's ability to inspire worshipful reverence and absolute loyalty in a confused and addled youth. Another suggested it was his willingness to dialogue with Ahmedinajad, which has struck some Israel supporters the wrong way.
Now I think even speculating as to the meaning of such cryptic, open-ended statements opens the door to some interesting thought progressions. I've learned a lot about certain peoples' sensitivities and prejudices -- it's turned into something of a word-Rorschach.
Very interesting discussion on microfinance going on over at Marginal Revolution, regarding what Sepia Mutiny's Vinod describes as a "thug function" in group loans in the village. The original post suggests that villagers in a group microcredit loans often resort to ruffian tactics to repo on an unpaid loan. Of course, there are many different kinds of microcredit loans and arrangements, some are more structured, some are less. But I am interested in tracking the shades of gray between the formal and informal economy.
I dragged myself out of my gelatinous haze yesterday to the
Diversity Center of Queens (on 37th AVE not Rd.), and am I glad I did!
Those guys are truly fantastic. Although Queens is pretty much THE most
immigrant borough in the city, super diverse and fantastically
integrated (at least on the surface), it is also the borough least
backed up by political infrastructure on immigrants rights. David
Anderssen, the driving force behind NYC's immigrant voting project and
Diversity Center events organizer, clued me in yesterday:
reason Queens immigrant rights advocates get nowhere on city politics
is: turnover. I know, so simple and yet so incredibly powerful! The
immigrant communities in Queens have shallow roots! They are turnstile
immigrants, pushing through the grime and the grit on a fasttrack to
the suburbs! They are the ones who have have transformed so many
suburbs into immigrant havens and ethnic "enclaves" (for want of a
better word).They may keep their small businesses here, but within a
year or so, they've moved on. The immigrant core: Jackson Heights,
Elmhurst, Flushing -- in and out. Rego Park, Jamaica, maybe they have
roots, but the heart of Queens is hemorrhaging!
As Anderssen so
eloquently put it, immigrant rights organizing in neighborhoods like
this is like trying to teach a person to walk over and over and over
Interesting thoughts: if political will is generated by
mobilizing a constituency, but that constituency is constantly changing
(even if many of its issues remain the same), what channels to
generating political will and creating policymaking (or at least
influencing) infrastructure remains?
NAVEND, Center for Kurdish Studies Bonn-based research and dialogue center providing interface between academics, politicians, community-based groups working on integration issues, journalists, the public, and Kurdish immigrants. Strongly non-partisan.