Don’t Boo, Act

img_9212Something happened on Tuesday night besides the Lakers losing. For the past few days I’ve been having crying spells and Twitter is still a storm. But despite everything, I live in California, I’m financially stable, I’m not Muslim or Hispanic, and I do have a good amount of privilege. To Donald J. Trump I say this: I am not going to go away. I am going to fight your racist and sexist ideals in every way I can.  

So to all privileged folks who feel the same way, how are we going to deal with a Trump presidency? Well, here are a few ways….

  1. Donate: Everyone is tight on cash now, I get it. But right now, it’s more vital than ever that organizations mobilizing for reproductive rights/LGBTQ rights/racial equality are funded, especially since a Trump administration puts their federal funding status in jeopardy. Waive a Starbucks coffee for a week, budget some money if you can, and make a monthly commitment to donate. Here are a few links to start with:
  1. Speak: Don’t stay silent when witnessing racism and sexual harassment. Here’s an incident I experienced last February:

While tuning out on BART and reading a book, I saw through the side of my eye three people sitting in two seats. I turned and saw an older man squeezed into a seat with his hand around two girls. He was talking to them, smiling and ignoring their quiet pleas for him to leave them alone. I took off my earphones and shouted at him to move away from them. After a (thankfully!) nonviolent exchange, he got up and left them alone.

If you witness something, INTERVENE, DO NOT STAY SILENT UNLESS YOU FEEL THREATENED. Trump did not become president because of active racism, he rose because of indifference towards racism. This rule applies at the dining table with your family as well. It is incredibly difficult when it involves people you love, but hold your ground. Make it clear it’s not personal, but it is incredibly important. If you’re not in a position to speak up, at least do so afterwards. A few words of consolation (e.g. “I’m sorry that happened, know that you’re supported and wanted”) can really make a difference.

  1. Volunteer: Wherever. The homeless shelter, the anxiety text hotline, right now there are multiple organizations that are understaffed but can’t afford to hire on additional people. If you have the time, use it. Address social issues directly instead of lambasting them. A few examples:
  • Upset about educational disparities? Volunteer to tutor via organizations that support underrepresented populations
  • Passionate about reproductive rights? Volunteer for abortion hotlines
  • With ACA in jeopardy, mental health might be on the line. Volunteer for local crisis hotlines. If you prefer something more clinical, try volunteering at the local hospital; every person makes a difference there!
  1. Stay Informed: Again your mental health comes first. Tune out of the news if it’s too much. But do your best to stay up-to-date on what’s happening, not just on the federal level, but the state and local level as well. If you disagree with a new city ordinance, mobilize, make a public comment, speak up. Contact your local representatives (state government AND federal). We have social media to connect now, and we can use it to promote our causes.
  2. Avoid Finger Pointing: This is the hardest one. Even now, I feel anger, guilt, and fear. I have to remind myself that yelling at Trump supporters and cursing them as “deplorables” is not going to help the situation. Trump’s presidency isn’t a result of one factor; it’s a combination of the GOP, Democratic Party, and the media. Don’t yell at your friend for being a Republican; again, NOT GOING TO HELP. The New York Times put together a helpful reading list to explain this year’s election results, and I encourage you to read it. Also The Naked Truth: Trumpland was insightful. Which brings me to…..
  3. Forgive: Forgive yourself and forgive others. In the past few days, I’ve been berating myself for not phone banking or volunteering for the campaign. But in the end, none of that is going to help communities that are currently at risk. Anger is valid and understandable but allowing it to take over, rather than channeling it, will not help you or anyone.

Comment if you disagree or have some more to add!

Also a personal request to Mr. Trump: please don’t try to speak Hindi in another commercial, my ears still hurt from the last one.

To Hindu-American Voters

In response to Donald Trump’s recent stunt:

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Dear Hindu-American voters,

Our position in this election is interesting to say the least. We make up less than one-percent of the USA’s population, we are considered people of color, yet our population consists of diversity that is rarely acknowledged by mainstream media. However, a significant number of us immigrated to the United States with college degrees. So many, such as like my parents, were able to dodge the challenges of social mobility which so many immigrants face today. As a result, it is not entirely surprising to see Trump’s appeal to Indian-American voters, but a quicker look at his positions prove that his presidency would be nothing short of disastrous for our community.

(Ideally, I would present arguments concerning Trump’s sexism, xenophobia, racism, the list goes on, and you would go out and vote for Hillary Clinton. Yet, a) That will be another blog post and b) No one seems to care about this because, as too many of my peers have stated, “He won’t affect me after all!”)

So instead, consider what Trump’s policies mean for you:

First off, the infamous Muslim ban. I’m not going to try to present how ethically messed up this proposal is because that merits its own article. But, fun fact, this ban will affect you regardless of your religious affiliation. India has the third highest Muslim population in the world, and last time I checked, religious affiliation is not legally collected by the federal government. So in addition to the TSA checks, any travel between here and India will most likely be more scrutinized, resulting in traveling inconveniences such as background checks for all travelers. Do I see #ThanksTrump trending? Depends on your vote.

Trump has also expressed disdain for #BlackLivesMatter, to which I say, read this letterBlacks and Latinos paved the way for civil rights in this nation. It is why I was not sent to another school with the word “colored” on my backpack. It is why my parents were able to obtain higher education here through student visas. As mentioned:

But here’s the secret our community was never taught: our presence in the U.S. is linked to the work of Black activists. Up until the 1960s, racist immigration laws allowed only 100 immigrants from countries like India into the U.S. per year. But during the Civil Rights Movement, Black Americans used protests and civil disobedience to help remove some of the most racist laws in the U.S. not only for themselves but for all minority communities.

Consider what a Trump presidency means for education and college debt. Currently private colleges receive more tax breaks than public ones. In addition to running a fraudulent university, Trump has yet to address the underfunding of universities, resulting in increasing tuition prices that millennials currently face.

Better yet, consider what a Trump presidency means for the next generation. I was lucky to be raised in an ethnically-diverse and affluent neighborhood that praised diversity rather than tearing it down. Yet, some of my peers in college were not. They were told from a young age to “go back to their country.” A vote for Trump is no longer a cry for lower taxes, it is an endorsement, a form of vocal support of these messages. A recurring complaint is that the status-quo isn’t working, to which I agree. But last time I checked, there are three branches to Federal Government, not one. And all of them depend on this election.

So think. Think whether Donald Trump aligns with your values, the values that brought us here. And register to vote.

Two Questions for the World

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If you live in a cave, then you still would have heard the scandal that shook the Internet today. Long story short, Donald Trump supports sexual-assault (surprise of the century!).  Twitter is currently a storm. Questions are being tossed around: will this break the election? Will the GOP stand by Trump? Why did it take so long for this to get leaked in the first place?

I have two questions for the world:

1. Was this what it took to break Trump?

Trump has said he would date his daughter, he talked about his daughter’s breasts when she was an infant, he has called women “pigs”. He called Mexicans “rapists”, he has expressed that women who have an abortion should be punished—this list could go on for another 1000 words, but not the point.  Why is it so shocking that a man, who has been accused of rape and cheated on his wives, is able to rationalize groping women?

But I have a follow-up:

2. Why are we so surprised?

This has been branded a “locker room conversation”, and the sad part? I agree.

To clarify: no, I do not think this type of dialogue is acceptable. But is this something we could hear in a guys locker room randomly?

Yes. And that is where this problem is.

How many times have women heard guys “rating” girls based on appearance?  How many women are assaulted on college campuses again? How many men have rationalized rape under the pretense that women were “asking for it”? How many men, when confronted with these statistics, insist that #NotAllMen are the problem?

Laci Green answered the last question quite well:

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If we took a national survey as to how many women know of some man who acted like the way Trump did in that 2005 clip, the numbers might surprise a few. Two years ago, I wrote a similar piece regarding the Isla Vista killings, a hate crime motivated by pure sexism. The hashtag #YesAllWomen arose, and narratives ranging from microaggressions to rapes proved that in terms of gender equality, the world has a long way to go.

The boy who hit me was “just fooling around”. The teenager who rated me a three out of ten was only “having fun”.  And my former friend was just “taking rejection badly”.

Is it so surprising that one of the presidential nominees is that person?

Dealing with Post-College Life

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Keep in mind that this is coming from someone who’s still figuring it out.

  1. Send that text, you won’t regret it: Keeping in touch with friends is hard if neither initiates. Sending in that checking-in text once in awhile can be key to maintaining relations post-college.
  2. Make America Read Again: In the past three months, I’ve read more books for fun than during all my college years combined. Reading brings so much gratification, and it gives you a sense that the world’s larger than you perceive it to be.
  3. Learn how to Adult: If college hasn’t done it already, then it’s about time. Laundry, dishwashing, grocery shopping, learn it all while you’re young, folks.

 

Dear Governor Brown: AB 2017

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Dear Governor Brown,

Earlier today, you vetoed AB 2017, a bill focused on increasing funding for college mental health services. The bill received bipartisan support from both the Assembly and Senate, along with backing from mental health advocates.

Your reasoning behind this decision was based on the numbers. I know of your recent decisions for striking down bills, most of which under the assumption that we can’t spare the money for it. I am not going to argue with this because I lack both insight on the state budget and the skills to draw such a conclusion.

However, this seems to be a recurring theme. Politicians talk, make speeches, shed tears, but when it comes to actual action, we see nothing from our legislators. Consider this twenty-four page document, which I will gladly summarize for you:

  • One in four students have a diagnosable illness
  • 40% do not seek help
  • 80% feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities
  • 50% have been so anxious, they struggled in school
  • Many students have cited stigma and lack of resources for not seeking help.
  • Half of all college students cited their campus as not being supportive with regards to mental health.

 

Mental health is not a bad day once in awhile or the moment when we need to clutch a stress ball. Mental health is an umbrella term; it is intertwined with and as important as physical health. The spectrum is endless and only a portion of it was represented in my project for college students & mental health. In California, we are seeing suicides as early as in high school. We witness issues such as substance abuse, eating disorders, yet we continue to shrug.

It is unacceptable that most children with mental illnesses remain untreated. It is ridiculous that the wait times for a counseling appointment in the UC system can last for three months.  Governor Brown, California’s economy might be globally ranked, but suicides are on the rise. This issue needs to be addressed on a fiscal level. We need both prevention and clinical interventions, but money does not grow in trees. Perhaps it’s time the state walks the walk and considers long-term investment in college mental health.

 

Solidarity in the South Asian Community

This post is far from comprehensive and is a fraction of my thoughts on the issue. I hope to write about these topics more often in the future.

The 2016 election, while gifting me with headaches due to Drumpf’s barking, has sparked significant discussions regarding allyship in multiple communities. After the Orlando shootings, the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castle, and the increased mainstream media coverage of hate speech, more questions have been raised: what do we do if we witness such a situation? Do we call the police or whip out our smartphones?

From an Indian-American perspective, this is interesting. I do not have white privilege, yet I am part of a racial group that receives positive stereotypes ranging from “hard-working” to “smart”. Thanks to casteism and resulting social mobility that benefited my parents, I do not need to worry about my financial capacity on a daily basis. The South Asian community is divided when it comes to politics: we see individuals actively fundraising for Drumpf and others participating in #BlackLivesMatter activism. The issue of race results in mixed reactions, ranging from appreciation of the discussion to anger for even suggesting it.

A specific aspect of allyship I wish to discuss is our relationship with the Muslim community. In some languages, the word “Hindu” is synonymous with “Indian”. I’ve witnessed the blatant hatred and bitterness from Hindus towards Muslims; several times in India, I’ve been told about how Islam is a “violent religion” from family friends to taxi-drivers. In the United States post 9/11 era, we’ve witnessed forms of discrimination Muslims still face on a daily basis. Some of us have even experienced it at TSA security checks. Sikhs have experienced increased rates of hate crimes due to anti-Muslim sentiment. From what I’ve witnessed, the Hindu community has expressed outrage at these behaviors, but most reactions I have heard basically consist of: “But I’m not Muslim, so I shouldn’t be pulled aside.”

But this is not the reaction we should be expressing.

In February 2015, three Muslims approximately my age were shot down for their religion. Every single Muslim I have engaged with on this issue has faced some form of discrimination, whether that be being called a “terrorist” on the bus or receiving a threatening comment while walking on the sidewalk. And yet, instead of showing solidarity and support, we choose to distance ourselves and close our eyes to institutionalized racism.

Our history is filled with bitterness and is often used by Hindus as justification for their bigotry. But as of right now, Hindus dominate Parliament, universities, and state governments. Insisting a temple was torn down four hundred years ago is no proper justification for the slaughter of 2000 people.

Yes, the Indian-American community faces discrimination too. We have to perform higher than our white counterparts to get into college, a lower-than-3.7 GPA  could cost us a job offer, and we are fetishized in mainstream media. But insisting that Muslims bear their discrimination in silence is unacceptable.

So how can you be a better ally? Be active. Dispel stereotypes when they’re mentioned. Joking that someone is part of ISIS because they wear a hijab isn’t funny–it leads to hate crimes. Be vocal, because we cannot dispel hatred if we choose to remain silent.

The Summer Reading List

Currently it consists of the remaining books I put down on a list a year ago.

Summer Reading List: Fiction Summer Reading List: Non-Fiction
  1. Wuthering Heights (re-reading)
  2. Le Morte d’Arthur
  3. 1984
  4. A Prayer for Owen Meany
  5. Fifty Shades of Grey (gave up on this one, no shame).
  6. The Winter King
  7. Wolf Hall
  8. Outlander
  9. The Name of the Wind
  10. The Return of the King
  1. Guns, Germs, and Steel
  2. The Rape of Nanking
  3. Beyond Outrage
  4. Things that Matter
  5. Human Genome
  6. Emperor of Maladies
  7.   
  8.   
  9.   
  10.   

Updated as of 9/25/2016!

To the Instructional Quality Commission, CA Dep of Ed

This is my public comment for the meeting concerning the changes in the sixth grade world history textbook. For more information, please check out South Asian Histories for All 

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I’m a recent UC Berkeley graduate and here on behalf of students from over 30 California colleges and universities who don’t want 6th graders learning that caste, a system that slaughtered thousands, provided social stability. We ask you to remove the sentence in Chapter 10, page 220, line 928, that says caste provided social stability and identity.

As an a upper caste Hindu American born who’s financially stable, I am here because what the Hindu American Foundation is proposing is against everything the California educational system has stood for.

Both California and Texas control the textbook market. The Texas textbook erases every reference to the pain and oppression slaves faced. And here we are surprised to see EDUCATED-people openly denying racism in America. We see politicians mock #BlackLivesMatter and deny the existence of filmed-police brutality

You can love your religion while still recognizing structural inequalities within it, I say this as someone from an upper caste Hindu family. Both my parents were able to secure master’s degrees and provide me with financial stability. They were aided by their caste privilege. I went through the CA public education system. But this isn’t everyone’s story, and I cannot in good conscience approve of children thinking otherwise.

We would never say slavery and racism “provided stability and identity,” and we shouldn’t say that about casteism.

Thank you, on behalf of students from 30 California colleges and universities.

The Future Ben Carsons

Rewind to two years ago: Summer 2014. “So, what did you think about the Supreme Court ruling this morning?” I ask in my biochemistry discussion. I’ve spent the past hour raging to my friend, a recent poli-sci graduate, via text.

Pin drop silence. People are confused: what was the ruling? I explain the Hobby Lobby decision. Most don’t seem to care: for now, the structure of the nucleotides will do. Everyone goes back to talking about the World Cup as I try not to throw a desk across the room.

This isn’t anything new. I’ve broached political topics to my biological-science-major friends, only for them to transform into deer in headlights. Yet, the fury on my end doesn’t fade away. When hearing the Hobby Lobby ruling, I am angry that someone would equate Plan B to an abortion pill. After spending hours in classes that outlined chemical pathways of the reproductive system, I can barely stand that such scientific inaccuracy was swallowed by judges, even in the highest court of the land. But here I am, in a room with the future doctors of the United States, and Brazil’s soccer team is a greater concern to everyone than reproductive healthcare.

Now I’m in quite a different scene: I’m living with thirty other UC Berkeley students and interning at the Mental Health Association. Sacramento was an intellectual shift for me. For starters, everyone at the Capitol Mall reads the news. Sure they might not understand the difference between alpha-helix and beta-sheet secondary protein structures, but they definitely don’t ditch the polls in June and November. Everyone in my cohort has an opinion on topics ranging from education to environmental legislation.  Within my organization, people are watching key legislation that merely changes a few words in Medi-Cal yet can have a fiscal impact of millions of dollars. Once a month, organizations ranging from hospital associations to advocacy groups sit down and discuss policy recommendations, including amendments to existing bills. Discussion remains energizing and fast-moving, especially when field-overlap occurs: how does mental health tie into K-12 education? Where can we do better within psychiatric care in the criminal justice system? How do we address the coefficient of homelessness in mental illness?

The downside to all of this? Only one other person in my political-nerd cohort had taken biochemistry.

It is inconceivable to me that individuals can rationalize entering healthcare without knowing the dynamics of the field; it’s the equivalent of taking a flight without packing. I still struggle to articulate my frustration without using expletives. Political apathy is what adds to the problem: it’s why lawmakers can write off tuition hikes, it’s why my high school demographics have flipped, and it could be how Donald Drumpf gets elected in November. Everyone got a taster of this when Benjamin Carson was running: he separated Siamese twins, got into one of the top medical schools, became an accomplished neurosurgeon, yet still managed to confuse Hamas and hummus. He received the mainstream media spotlight (and the mean tweets), but he’s definitely not the first doctor to fumble–and at this rate, he won’t be the last.

AMCAS tried to flip this around by adding Psychology and Sociology to the MCAT. Yet, we the pre-meds have found our way to best this by memorizing all the sociological terms and occasionally picking C as a last resort on multiple choice. Anyone can pick which political labels to identify with, but the bottom line is this: our government wasn’t structured to accommodate civic disengagement. There is a significant difference between not being able to afford time off on November 8 versus binging Game of Thrones instead of sending in a mail-in ballot.

If the recent legislative decisions regarding the Zika virus wasn’t a sign that pre-meds need to speak out, then the ongoing anti-vaccination movement should be. Voter disenfranchisement hasn’t disappeared–it’s only changed its shape; your vote is representing more than you might think. A biology class isn’t a requirement for filing for candidacy, but it is a necessary prerequisite for addressing healthcare. And that is where we come in.