February 4, 2022 | NEWS | By Star Goudriaan

On Jan. 31, 2022, South Asian American writer, strategist, lawyer, and racial justice advocate Deepa Iyer gave a virtual talk at Colorado College entitled “From Silos to Solidarities: Post 9/11 and Beyond.”

According to her website, Iyer specializes in immigration, civil rights, and political equality. She works at the Building Movement Project and is the director of Solidary Is. Both organizations help create productive multicultural connections.

In her Monday talk, Iyer emphasized the need for situating contemporary civil rights discourses regarding Asian communities in the United States and within broader history. Specifically, she related the hostility with which Asian immigrants were met with at the turn of the 20th century to the  state violence that increasingly permeated Asian communities in the aftermath of 9/11.

Iyer explained that many privileged Americans categorized Asian immigrants in the U.S. as “economic-displacers,” barring them from citizenship and land ownership for a prolonged period during the last century. Post 9/11 rhetoric and practices surrounding Asian communities continued the hostility with policies like the USA PATRIOT Act, and more recently with what has been referred to as “The Muslim Ban.”

Iyer also referenced “The African Ban” to illuminate how the target of racist state policies is an expansive, multi-valanced plurality deemed a non-appropriate singularity by white supremacists.

As this is the case, Iyer leans on conceptions of solidarity and resistance that should do three important things: push back on inequitable policies and practices, protect, defend, and build community power, and engage in inter-communal activism.

Iyer defined transformative solidarity not as a hashtag, slogan, or necessarily an outcome, but as the action of showing up for those around you, and doing so in accordance with your values, the values of your larger community, and the communities with which your community interacts.

Iyer reminded us of three important principles of community engagement. First is the centering of the correct people; that is, the people who are directly impacted by a particular policy or action which needs change or support.

Second is the practice of co-conspiracy: taking action not as a by-stander, but as someone who is willing to sacrifice their privilege for the sake of people beyond them.

Third is co-liberation or mutual trans-communal freedom: the recognition that only when black people are free is everyone free.

These practices center around fostering respect for diverse experiences without equivocating disparate experiences.

Towards the end of the talk, Iyer offered resources for further learning. She pointed her audience toward a multi-modal curriculum called “Teaching Beyond September 11” from the University of Pennsylvania.

She also pointed to her podcast, particularly the episode on the 20th anniversary of 9/11, “Solidarity is This” and offered a tool she created called The Social Change Ecosystem Map. This is used to encourage audience members to start thinking through what kinds of roles we might be able to play in making a societal difference.

If you found this article interesting and would like to learn more about Deepa Iyer’s socio-political work and activism, check out her book, “We Too Sing America: South Asian, Arab, Muslim, and Sikh Immigrants Shape Our Multiracial Future,” her podcast “Solidarity is This,” and her website: http://deepaiyer.com/.   

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