American Exceptionalism vs. the “Damn Paki”

I think everyone should read about how ICE is trying to drug and deport a young immigrant back to South Africa and especially this in particular:

Immigration is not just black and white, fueled by immigrants’ search of money and better economic opportunities. There are many underlying socio-political forces and policies that drive migration flows, whether it be NAFTA, genocide, war, drugs and other goods, or the still-too-relevant effects of imperial colonialism. People are quick to say, “Oh, Country X has had its independence for 38 years now! You can’t possibly blame the problems it has today on Imperial Country A; stop being so sensitive.” Au contraire, mon frère. A country might be independent on paper, but the effects of colonial rule are made to cripple domestic growth and silence the voices of “uncivilized natives” to the point that damage becomes deep-rooted, dooming future generations to colonization by corporations and the imprisonment that come with lack of autonomy.

I’m glad Ms. Bello — a good friend — is pushing the envelope and talking about neo-colonialism and neo-liberalism as an integral part of immigration to America. Of course, our politicians do not want to talk about it. Most of the immigration reform movement won’t touch it with a 10-foot pole.

Too often, stories of exceptional immigrants, miracle walkers and TV personalities serve to perpetuate the myth of the American dream. What’s lost in this narrative is not only the murderous side of American Empire but also the impact of neo-liberal capitalism on developing and underdeveloped economies, which compels people to flee to America.

It happened to my great-(great) grandparents. They were lied to and compelled to leave their homes in an India under British rule to go and work on the sugar-cane plantations of the Fiji Islands as indentured servants. The Indian indenture system was started after the “end of slavery” in America as a way to continue the same old system with a new name? During the Civil War, the availability of cotton drastically fell around the world since Americans no longer had access to free black labor to work in the cotton fields. To alleviate this dramatic fall in the cotton supply, Americans zeroed in on the Fiji Islands. It seemed like a good idea at the time to steal some land from the warring tribes of Fiji or give them guns, alcohol and disease in exchange for valuable land. The story is all too familiar.

But it didn’t work out quite as planned. The Fijians killed and ate some American missionary who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Appalled, the United States demanded payment for his life. The Fijians did not have a Eurocentric form of government or currency and they tried to cede themselves to the United States as payment. America refused. After some back and forth, the British accepted to pay the American debt and take over the islands of Fiji. They started using it as a sugar-cane colony, importing over 60,000 Indians to work in Fiji as indentured servants. A hundred years later, an American-supported anti-labor and anti-Indian coup would ensure the migration of thousands of Indians once again, in search of a new home.

I’m going to be honest. It’s hard to call a place home when you are forcefully ripped from the only home you’ve known, threatened with violence into living in America and forced to live here for a complex myriad of reasons. And it is frustrating when people choose to give your actions for survival in this new Guantanamo an “agency” or characterize it as part of a movement that feeds into the myth of American exceptionalism.

I’m not on the payroll of any organization that works on the DREAM Act. I have lots of friends in the movement but besides that, I would appreciate it if my body was not appropriated without my consent to serve as some narrative of American exceptionalism and exception while this country continues to rape, torture, murder, plunder, and pillage my home(s) in the Global South. I’m frankly not interested. This is not a debate.

It’s especially mind-boggling when people choose to characterize me as a public figurehead or personality against my wishes and than slur me with racist words like “damn Paki.” The first and only time I was called a “fucking Paki” was in the aftermath of 9-11. I was merely 16 and thoroughly confused as to why anyone would call a Fijian person a “Paki.” I quickly learned that the derogatory slur applied to all South Asians. It’s quite possibly the worst racial slur someone could level at me and somehow, a few undocumented youth have learned to do just that besides also leveling insults at my gender identity. So much for a progressive movement of people. When I complain about it, I’m told that it is not a big deal and that I should tolerate the racist abuse and engage my abusers as a teaching tool for a movement of idiots.

I don’t mind engaging ignorance if I’m paid for it. Sometimes when I am bored, I smack some of it around. I wouldn’t even mind it if I didn’t feel like I was kidnapped and put in an American prison against my will. But I don’t need to serve or talk to anyone who treats me in that manner and I certainly don’t need my work and body appropriated to serve the needs of people willing to turn a blind eye to it. There’s a certain privilege that I do still possess: I don’t need to care about living in America and engaging the exceptional American Idiot when I’m clearly just a “Damn Paki.”

I’m a proud desi F.O.B. and I could give less of a damn about the American dream.

Hasta la vista. Alvida.

Posted on by Prerna in Desi, LGBTQ