What We Can Learn from America’s Other Muslim Ban (Back in 1918)

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President Trump’s January 27th Executive Order attempted to ban the entry of nationals from seven Middle Eastern countries and suspended the resettlement of refugees unless they are “persecuted religious minorities,” a terminology that is itself selectively deployed to refer to Middle Eastern non-Muslims in general, and Christians in particular. This policy has correctly been understood as part of Trump’s campaign promise to create a ban on Muslim travel to the United States; the order is currently facing legal challenge in 9th District Federal Court. As a scholar of Middle Eastern migration, I am stunned by this administration’s unwillingness to engage the expertise of refugee resettlement … [Read more...]

Getting Past the Bad Math of the #MuslimBan

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As someone who studies global migration for a living, it has been hard to choose where to begin when it comes to denouncing Donald Trump’s Executive Order on immigration and refugees.  Where to start?  There is, of course, the Order’s bedrock of Islamophobia: Trump has ignorantly conflated Islam with terrorism. And then there’s the constitutional angle: the Order violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, among other things.  Or we could counter with the fact that more than 50 years ago, Congress outlawed national origins bans with the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act. Or the statistical “probabilities” generated by think tanks: The CATO Institute says that your chance of being … [Read more...]

Sipping on the Indian Haterade: Hindu American Whiteness and Support for Trump

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Unlike other communities of color in the United States, it has not been so easy for South Asian Americans to organize and act as one.  The very complexity of South Asia and the myriad of internal politics make mobilization a difficult issue.   Even during my time in Atlanta conducting ethnographic research on the South Asian American sporting community, organizations like South Asians for Unity struggled to collectively engage the heterogeneous ethnic, class, and religious South Asian American community in Atlanta.  Sikh American elders and I (a Christian Tamil) shared a sentiment of feeling minimally included in the discussions about peace on the subcontinent. Thus, even the coming … [Read more...]

The Story of Boogaloo Sam as Told by Izel Gaye

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We all have that one piece of clothing, be it a fresh new hat or a favorite pair of jeans, that when we slip it on it makes us feel like a million bucks.  You walk a little taller and feel as though your outlook for the day may be brighter simply by adorning yourself in this one item.  For Izel Gaye, a 58-year-old man who has lived most of his life on the west side of Fresno California, that special item is a pair of dancing shoes that were given to him by his friend, Poppin’ and Boogaloo icon Sam Solomon. “When he gave you something,” Mr. Gaye reflected in a recent oral history, “It was like oh boy you better hang on to this… it's got the magic touch.  Then when I put ‘em on I feel like I’m … [Read more...]

Sorry, Folks, but Trump Really Is Different

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Trump is different. Wow—a really big breakthrough discovery, huh? Maybe it is. Some contributors to this discussion seem determined to carry a brief for the Left by proving that Trump is merely the coming home to roost of GOP chickens. His misogyny and racism is “nothing new,” or just the logical conclusion of 40 years or more of GOP rhetoric. As tempted as I am to accept this analysis, I cannot. Something new—or at least, not terribly old—is happening right now. To explain away Trump by citing Willie Horton or Strom Thurmond or something is to choose not to reckon with the evidence of the recent past.  Sure, the GOP made robust use of dog whistles and “coded” language to play on the … [Read more...]

There Is a There There: Trump Is Hardly Sui Generis

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I remember almost ten years ago, the normally sagacious Economist commented on the looming 2008 race.  “The smart money is on Hillary,” they declared, remarking sarcastically on the “icy” small talk among Hillary’s lady friends at a tony fundraiser, and warning that an outbreak of Bill’s horn-dog behavior could still upset the Clintons’ especially well-constructed apple cart. [Editor’s note: we thought about going with “eruption” instead of “outbreak,” but decided that either one is queasily connotative when used in the context of William Jefferson Clinton, so… fuck it.] Of course, the good journalists and editors at the Economist could not see the unlikely figure of Barack Hussein Obama … [Read more...]

From Infamous to Famous: (Re)Constructing Atlanta’s Public Housing Through Rap and Hip Hop

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In a September 2010 review of the mixtape Bowen Homes Carlos for MTV’s Mixtape Daily, Shaheem Reid wrote: “Shawty Lo will continue to salute his projects until the day he goes to that upper room.” It is doubtful that Reid imagined that day would come almost exactly six years after writing those words. In the early morning hours of September 21, 2016, Carlos Walker, a.k.a. Shawty Lo or Bowen Homes Carlos, tragically died in a one-car accident on Atlanta’s I-285. Just as an image of Atlanta’s Bowen Homes public housing project lives on after its demolition in the cover art for Shawty Lo’s Bowen Homes Carlos and in the music video for “Dey Know,” the rapper will live on through his artistic … [Read more...]

Artisanal Despair and Farm-to-Table White Nationalism: Watching Trump in Austin

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On Tuesday, after watching hip youngsters juggle dildos in protest of Texas’s new campus carry law (cocks not glocks!), I headed over to the Trump rally in east Austin. It’s a strange place for a Trump rally, and not just because it’s a blue island in a vast red sea. Austin's unemployment rate checks in at 3.6 percent, its population growth rate—around 20 percent—is one of the highest in the country, and it’s also the safest of Texas’s big cities. It’s not exactly the place where you’d expect a depiction of the country as a crime-ridden, impoverished hellscape to be well received. But it mostly was, though you can probably chalk this up to the basic nature of campaign rallies. I’ve been to … [Read more...]

Finding Family with the Wilderpeople

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Historian and legal expert Ariela J. Gross opens her 2008 work What Blood Won’t Tell with details from the life of Alexina Morrison, an enslaved person in Jefferson Parish Louisiana. In 1857, Morrison fled her master and found herself imprisoned in a local jail, where she convinced the authorities that she was actually white; she had been kidnapped and unfairly sold into slavery, she told them.  William Dennison, the local jailer, believed Morrison and took her into his own family, gradually integrating her into white society where she attended balls and other social functions. Eventually, her master James White sued to return her to her previous status.  The case, Morrison vs. White, went … [Read more...]

Settin’ the Woods on Fire in the Countercultural South

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I recently contributed an essay to a volume that’s forthcoming from UNC Press called The Bohemian South.  You can count me as one who is skeptical of a tradition of bohemianism in the South, at least as it is now manifested and understood. Whatever bohemianism means, it is not skinny jeans and food trucks—a familiar scene one can find in the trendier lanes of Atlanta or Durham or Richmond these days.  Sure, there was North Carolina’s Black Mountain College, where Robert Creeley and John Cage cavorted in the 1950s, as well as a smattering of other avant-garde cultures in the history of the South. But the bohemianism of today’s urban creative class seems like just a hipper … [Read more...]