Some notes on imperialism and Black-Desi solidarity

In the aftermath of the grisly police murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, there has been a lot of renewed discussion and debate in progressive Asian American circles about how to understand and argue our position relative to Black America.  I particularly liked this piece from several months ago, specific to South Asian and Desi Americans, that talks about the strategy of “selfish solidarity” that builds on radical critiques of the concept of “allyship”.

However, there has been little to no discussion about the global nature of white supremacy, and the way it is produced through global capitalism and imperialism.  This is likely a consequence of Asian American being preoccupied with domestic matters (a reflection of American politics and society as a whole).  This is unfortunate, because it is only when we take a step back and look at the global setting that basis for Black-Asian solidarity becomes clear.  This is particularly true if we look specifically at Black-Desi/South Asian solidarity.  Here are some scattered observations and thoughts:

  • The ongoing militarization of American police departments–disproportionately felt by working-class Black neighborhoods–is a direct consequence of the central position of the military-industrial complex in the US economy, and the ongoing War on Terror, which has had a devastating impact on communities in Pakistan and Afghanistan.  The violent paramilitary forces in control of Afghanistan’s Khost province, and the predatory police department in control of Ferguson, are two expressions of the same system.
  • America’s massive surveillance apparatus, used abroad for things like the drone war in Pakistan, is also used at home to support its racialized and militarized War on Drugs
  • The CIA has played an integral role in destabilizing both South-West Asia and many urban Black communities.  America’s war in Afghanistan during the 1980s saw billions poured into the stabilization of General Zia’s dictatorship in Pakistan, and the entrenchment of a powerful Islamist deep state and the general entrenchment of fundamentalism in both Pakistani and Afghan society.  At the same time, the CIA helped set up supply chains for drug cartels to smuggle cocaine into US markets, as a way to fund right-wing terrorist groups fighting the revolutionary leftist government in Nicaragua; this exacerbated the crack epidemic that devastated many Black communities during the late ’80s and early ’90s, and created the rationale for escalating the War on Drugs and accompanying police violence
  • There is a rich history of Black-Desi anti-imperialist solidarity, particularly in the early 20th century, that can and should be used to build contemporary movements
  • There is potential in exploring the economic dimensions of imperialism and the linked impacts on Black and South Asian peoples, given the inverted relationship between the deindustrialization of American cities like Detroit, and investments into sweatshops in countries like India and Bangladesh

All in all, there are a lot of arguments to be made that South Asian American and Black American political movements are fundamentally fighting against the same systems.  But this is only apparent if we “globalize” the perspectives of America’s racial dynamics, and situate domestic problems within their international context.

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