Election 2012 Results: Obama Reelection Will Help Minorities in the US and Around the World

With President Obama’s recent re-election, the White House received congratulatory messages from leaders around the world. But, what are the implications of President Barack Obama’s re-election for people of color and minority populations around the world?

President Obama’s campaign said it was the “the clear choice on immigration,” while Romney might have tried to make English the official language of the U.S. and “turn off the magnets like tuition breaks or other breaks that draw people into this country illegally.” In an interview with José Z. Calderón, Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Chicano/a-Latino/a Studies at Pitzer College, he said, “Certainly the election represented whether we were going to go back to a time before the Civil Rights movement,” which he felt the Romney campaign represented. In contrast to Romney’s platform, Calderón believes Obama’s campaign was “able to build a coalition similar to the one in 2008” and advance the possibilities of an open door for immigrant rights and the legalization of the 12 million immigrants in the United States.

Despite being more progressive and liberal leaning than the United States on many issues, Europe and European integration of minority populations is still an issue. With groups such as The Golden Dawn, an openly racist, homophobic, and nationalist group, in Greece gaining more power within the government, what is the impact of Obama’s re-election? As Professor Jayne O. Ifekwunigwe writes in an opinion piece shortly after the European Union received the Nobel Piece Prize, “Ethnic and racial divisions remain deep within Europe.”

As Iranian-German filmmaker, Negar Taymoorzadeh said, “I think it means a lot in terms of representation of black people in the U.S. as well as globally and I feel like a lot of people are less critical towards U.S. policy because they sympathize with the idea of a black president.” But, she added that personally “it doesn’t mean so much.”

Looking at the United Kingdom, Dharmesh Mistry a British-Indian philanthropic consultant said, “I still think we have a long way to go before we will have a minority in that kind of a role. But the UK context, history, structures are so different that it won’t happen here for a while longer.” Mistry sees Obama’s politics as an example of a visionary leadership.

Shatara Ford, an African American feminist filmmaker, living and working in London for the past 4 years says, “It’s a really good thing that Obama will become a two-term president. Seeing as two-term presidents are more common,” she added that, “in the history books he will be perceived as normal — not some aberration or snap reaction to America’s failing economy.”

Ford also said, “On a symbolic level … just seeing a man of color, son of an immigrant and a global citizen — in the most literal sense, is important for ‘othered’ populations everywhere because physically, he represents them: the other. He also represents them in practice, as what he stands for and his policies (international and domestic) come from a place of shared experience.”

Courtney Moffett-Bateau, from Detroit, who recently completed her Master’s in Transnational Studies and has been living in Germany for the past four years, said Obama’s re-election “shows that the United States is finally ready to allow a person of color to assume a place of authority in the highest form of government.” However, she said, “it is obvious that race politics still play an active role in the American governmental process.”

Speaking with a colleague from China, who preferred not to be named, she said Obama is “the choice of most minority groups in the world.”

In India, I spoke with Mansi Ma, a researcher in Delhi. As she recalls the memory of living in the U.S. in 2008, “I was proud to cast my vote for Barack Obama,” remembering his active role as a community organizer and the feeling of great hope.

As Ma said, “much has changed during the past four years … especially seeing him from a different geo-political vantage point.” Reading about the United States from India, she says, “the president of all the world’s hegemony matters greatly no matter who he is.”

According to Ma, the Obama that came to India in 2010 did not speak of entrenched social inequalities, but of how to generate money for American companies. Ma said that President Obama has “ordered drone attacks in Pakistan which killed hundreds of civilians which I don’t support.”

As Ma says, Obama has “ping-ponged the past four years from a beacon of hope, to ruler of hegemony, to supporting the working class, to killing civilians, to propagating MNC capitalist exploitation, and to saving us from the potential horror of Mitt Romney.”

Janet Son, a Korean-Canadian studying Anthropology in Copenhagen, said, “it’s really inspiring,” She believes, “having a visual representation of a person of color in power is huge symbolically for people all over the world because he is black. Symbolically it [Obama’s re-election] has a lot of power.”

Whether or not the symbolism will turn into responsible action on behalf of immigrants, people of color and minority groups around the world remains to be seen.

Q & A with Stanford’s Green Grid Radio

Green Grid Radio is a new hour-long weekly radio show from Stanford radio. The show airs Tuesdays, 1-2pm PST on KZSU Stanford 90.1FM in the San Francisco Bay Area and online at kzsulive.stanford.edu. Recordings of the shows are also available at greengridradio.org and the podcast is available via iTunes here.

Curious about the creation of Green Grid Radio? Adam Pearson, a Stanford student and the show’s producer answers questions from Project Groundswell.

1. Where did the idea for Green Grid Radio come from?

I’d been involved at KZSU Stanford for four years, primarily focusing on a music show. The whole time I kept my extra-curricular interests of radio separate from my academic pursuits of atmospheric sciences and energy engineering. Finally, I thought it would be fun to merge my two passions.

More importantly, the older I’ve gotten the experiences I’ve had working on environmental causes and problems have shown me the severe and critical need for more environmental education. Up until Hurricane Sandy, climate change was not mentioned in the American 2012 election cycle debates or major speeches.

This lack of public interest and awareness during one of the most dramatic years in our planet’s recent climate (hottest month on record in USA, Arctic ice at all-time low, lengthy, costly drought, etc) is merely symptomatic of the prevailing apathy.

There is a dire need for discussions about climate and energy solutions, and I can only hope we’re providing that in our show on renewable energy. Also, these topics traditionally don’t receive much attention in the medium of radio, so in a way it’s all an interesting experiment. At times it kind of feels like we’re pulling up our wagon to the Oregon Trail.

Jeffrey Turner

2. What is the set-up of the show?

Each show we have an “Energy in the News” segment, which provides a mix of local, national, and international energy topics. It’s supposed to be like dipping your toes into the pool of energy information.

Following that we have a section called “Powering Up,” which is run by Nick McIntyre, one of the show’s producers. Powering Up is about bringing the audience up to speed with concepts that are likely present in the featured interview. Sometimes our interviews may go into technical details that may be a bit difficult to understand to the average civilian.

Finally, we usually go to a Roundtable Discussion, featuring prominent Stanford students in the energy/green community. These students usually weigh in and react to the ideas presented in the interview, offer some input on the feasibility of the plan(s)/ideas/suggestions, and speak briefly about their experience. It’s truly a jam-packed show and pretty dense for one hour.

3. What kinds of guests have you had on? Who do you plan to have in the future?

We’ve had Stanford Professor Mark Z. Jacobson and representatives from various industries so far. We’ve had Eric Corey Freed, a green architect, as well as some folks in the nonprofit world — Laura Wisland from Union of Concerned Scientists and Craig Lewis from the Clean Coalition. We’re definitely hoping to take advantage of being on the Stanford campus by bringing in more faculty in the near future. One guest coming on the show in the near future will beDr. Phil Duffy at Lawrence Livermore Labs, and formerly of the Obama White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. And probably the biggest coup we’ve pulled off is an interview with UNDP Administrator, the Honourable Helen Clark who was also formerly Prime Minister of New Zealand. That should be coming up soon as well.

4. Who has been your favorite?

All of our guests have been articulate and offered a unique perspective. Perhaps the most entertaining of them was Eric Corey Freed. Freed joked a bit, he calls our generation the “Dodo Sapiens.” I can’t do his spiel justice, but he does a lot of speaking on environmental issues and is obviously comfortable making fun of our culture to emphasize his points.

5. Why is this an important topic? Why focus on the green grid?

I truly believe that the defining issue of our generation is not the economy or immigration, but climate change. It is a global problem that requires so much work on the individual level up to the international level. Developed countries tend to have freedom of choice to consume and consume. We all have gadgets and things we don’t necessarily need, and this has become a part of our culture. It is politically impossible and otherwise extraordinarily difficult to propose solutions involving curbing our freedom to make decisions.

In order for us to be able to watch American Idol (or whatever it is people watch these days) and plug in our iPads so we can go on facebook at Starbucks, we need a way to power that television and that iPad with clean, renewable power.

Otherwise we’ll find our cities under storm surges, our crops drying up, and our water running out, and suddenly the question won’t be whether or not I want to buy the new iPad, but whether or not I’ll be able to find affordable food in the grocery stores after massive droughts, for example.

6. Where would you like to see it go in the future?

I would love for this show to grow and move forward without me. I’m graduating this year, so the show will certainly be around through March… Stanford students have a lot on their plates. I’ve learned this from experience. It’s going to be a challenge to find a replacement team that shares the same vision and passion, but hopefully we’ll locate that group. But to answer the question more conceptually and abstractly, I would like the show to carry a greater sense of narrative, and I would like for a greater variety of voices leading the interviews. As much as I enjoy interviewing our guests, I can only listen to my voice so much! I think establishing and controlling the narrative of an episode is a high-level skill that will be developed over the course of the year, as we improve our editing techniques, and hear what listeners like best.

7. Anything else you’d like to add?

One of the difficult things in the environmental community, or any activist community for that matter, is that we all are sort of preaching to the choir. I hope Green Grid Radio and Project Groundswell can both reach out and affect people who would have otherwise never tuned in, or stumbled across the website.

India Reacts to the Re-Election of US President Barack Obama

The recently concluded US presidential election generated much interest in India. At the government level, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh congratulatedUS President Barack as did Sonia Gandhi, the President of the Indian National Congress Party. But what about those on the ground in India – what has been their response?

Shibayan Raha at Youth Ki Awaaz, India’s largest online platform for young people, said in an open letter to President Obama:

As you gear up to take your seat in the White House I have these following suggestions which I think if accepted will raise USA’s status much higher in the developing world.

Indians in Mumbai celebrate

Indians in Mumbai Celebrate Obama’s Victory. Image by Gayatri Agnew. Used with permission.

Raha suggested five things:

1. Put Tibet on top of your Foreign Policy Agenda

2. Stop the Drone Attacks

3. Release Bradley Manning

4. Don’t let Israel Bomb Iran

5. Close Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility


India Ink
 highlighted government response to the re-election of Obama, but also quoted the Dalai Lama’s response which is aimed at reminding President Obama of the importance of addressing the “poverty, injustice and deprivation suffered by billions of people,” according to a congratulatory letter he wrote to the president. Dalai Lama also thanked the president for his “steady encouragement” and support toward finding a “peaceful peaceful resolution to the problems in Tibet.”

In a less serious piece, Delhi Walla wondered:

“What if Barack Obama was a neighbourhood or a landmark in Delhi? What would he be?”

Responses ranged from Gurgaon and Connought Place, to Khan Market and Nizamuddin. Siddhartha Basu, a TV producer said in above mentioned post:

“Barack Obama would be India Habitat Centre. He, like the IHC, is the new kid on the block, unlike the conservative India International Centre

Indians in Mumbai Celebrate Obama’s Victory, Image by Gayatri Agnew. Used with permission.

As Infoqueenbee says: The expectation is that the United States will continue its current relations with India, “Expanding trade, ramping up military cooperation, staying out of the India-Pakistan Dispute over Kashmir and opposing outsourcing in the IT field and forcing Indan IT companies to hire US employees.

The Indian diaspora have also welcomed Obama’s re-election, saying saying his administration has delivered and victory is good for the community and India both.

On twitter, a few notable reactions:

@vdehejia (Vivek Dehejia): “Most outsourcing industry leaders said…much of..Obama’s criticism of outsourcing was campaign rhetoric…”. Hope so!

@dhume01 (Sadanand Dhume): FT- In India, a collective yawn. [There was little to separate Obama& Romney on policy toward New Delhi.]

‏@ShivAroor (Shiv Aroor): Mitt Romney trending in India, but Obama isn’t. Proves how much we Indian tweeps love losers.

‏@jonathanshainin (Jonathan Shainin): Tonight’s burning question on Indian TV: Is Obama or Romneybetter for India? Spoiler alert: the answer is no.

The next four years we will see where India and President Barack Obama truly stand.

Hawaii Election Results: First Hindu Congresswoman and 3 Ways Women Made History at the 2012 Election

For some of us, who went to bed late and woke up at 5 a.m. to see the results of the U.S. presidential elections live real time from Aarhus, Denmark, there was a sense of relief that President Barack Obama had been re-elected. But, as I watched the main event, I forgot to pay attention to the changes in the House and Senate.

So, what really happened with the United States Congress? The answer: several firsts for women across the country. Here’ are the top three:

1. First Hindu Congresswoman: Tulsi Gabbard (House, D-HI)

Tulsi Gabbard will represent Hawaii’s 2nd congressional district. According to Jezebel, Hawaii has been declared a “FOX News Disaster Zone.” Born to a a Catholic father and a Hindu mother, she moved to Hawaii when she was 2, and was elected to the Hawaii state legislature at age 21— according to Religion News. Tulsi told the New York Daily, “[I] never felt discriminated against. I never really gave it a second thought growing up that any other reality existed, or that it was not the same everywhere.”

2. New Hampshire Elects All Women

On Tuesday, New Hampshire also became the first state ever to have women in all of its top elected positions. This includes a woman governor, two U.S. senators, and two women in the House. Maggie Hasan (D) elected governor, and she will be the only female governor in 2012

3. First Openly Gay Congresswoman: Tammy Baldwin (Senate, D-Wis.)

Tammy Baldwin is the first openly gay congressperson, as well as the first Wisconsin woman elected to the U.S. Senate. As she is quoted by CNN she ran, “to make a difference” and not to make history. Still, she hopes to see the Senate as a place more reflective of the United States and the “life experience” of women.

It remains to be seen what all these women will be able to accomplish in the next few years. I am thinking it will be something grand.

Mobs Burn Dalit Homes in Response to Intercaste Marriage in India

This article originally appeared in Global Voices.

On 7 November 2012, up to 2,000 people attacked three Dalit settlements in the Dharmapuri District of Tamil Nadu in India, according to the International Dalit Solidarity Network (ISDN) with sources from The Hindu, IBN, Times of India and Countercurrents.

According to newspaper reports, a nursing student, from the Vanniyar (Shudra) community married a man from Aadidravida (dalit) community in the Natham Colony. After her father committed suicide in disgrace, mobs organized against the Dalit community. According to ISDN, the mobs came in the afternoon in vast numbers, looting Dalit homes and torching them with petrol bombs. Hundreds of homes were damaged and 1,500 Dalits left without shelter and belongings.

As Vidya Bhushan Rawat (@freetohumanity), a social and human rights activist, writes in Countercurrents in a post titled Caste And Honor:

The violence against Dalits in the Dharmapuri district of Tamil Nadu is a shocking reminder of social prejudices prevalent in our society and how honor is closely linked to our caste identity.

According to Rawat, “The newspapers have not reported the entire incident and completely ignore as who are the people who have attacked. It is important to identify the communities. It is open and unambiguous that the biggest violence against the Dalits in Tamiladu is inflicted by Thevars and Vanniyars, two major shudra communities lead by different political parties.” While this kind of violence is not permitted in the constitution, “violence against Dalits cannot evaporate with simple rule of law.”

Dalits or untouchables

Guriya & Desi Lal are Dalits or untouchables, part of the Harigans, the people in charge of cleaning the streets. Image by Yan Seiler. Copyright Demotix (27/9/2011)

Newspapers have also suggested that there have been nearly ten inter-caste marriages between Vanniyars and Dalits in this village, suggesting that the violence was incited for political purposes to prevent the threat of growing incidents of such cases in a systematic and ‘well-organized’ attack.

According to IDSN, Henri Tiphagne, executive director of the human rights organization People’s Watch, (an IDSN associate) traveled to the area to assess the situation and provide assistance to children, as he says, “It was the most shocking of caste atrocity incidents that I have seen in my life so far in terms of the effect of the incident – one inter-caste marriage that has been performed with police knowledge and protection resulting in violence with 430 houses attacked.”

On Twitter:

@Rights4Edu (Rights for Education): #Dalit students face #discrimination in Dharmapuri http://thne.ws/WxZYiZ via @thehindu #inclusiveeducation.

@meenakandasamy (Meena Kandasamy): in Dharmapuri. #shame #atrocity #dalits

@dhilipYo (Dhilip Joe Ramki): ‏Industrialise southern districts: Sarath Kumar: Condemning the recent violence against Dalits in Dharmapuri… http://dlvr.it/2WbNK3

According to @kotravai_n (Kotravai) there will be a protest organized by Saathi AAthikka Ethirppu kootiyakkam on November 30 near Memorial Hall at 4pm.

Additional information about the incidents in Dharmapuri can be found at Sanhati in a post titled “Fighting Neoliberalism in Bengal and Beyond.”

Voter Intimidation and Suppression Reported in California, Virginia, and Colorado

When asked to make a prediction about the elections, Robert Entman, Professor of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University, said it would be close. He also remarked that in the past, polling places with predominantly black voters have had fewer polling machines which have caused longer lines.

Though Entman’s talk at Aarhus University on Monday focused on “Political Scandals in the USA and Scandinavia” the real scandal may be occuring as I write — with cases of voter suppression and intimidation across the nation.

A live blog of the problems occuring across the country can be foundhere.

One example occured in a Redwood City, Calif. polling place on Tuesday. Two men stood in front of a polling place and asked voters to present identification, even though the state does not require ID to vote. Redwood City-Woodside Patch reports:

“The two men, described as “thug-looking,” tall and Caucasian with shaved heads, were wearing all black with dark sunglasses and standing in front of the polling place at 134 Hemlock Avenue with their arms crossed.

They carried a binder which they claimed had names and addresses of eligible voters, [voting supervisor Marilyn] Tinderholt said. They were also asking voters to show their IDs, which is not a requirement to vote in the state of California, said volunteer Debra Prime.”

In Virginia, volunteers with a tea party-linked group “True the Vote” are also challenging voters at the polls. Democracy Now spoke withBrentin Mock, a lead reporter for Voting Rights Watch 2012, collaborating with The Nation magazine and Colorlines.com. Mock also describes voter suppression efforts in Florida, where “True the Vote” focuses on alleged felon voters.

Colorlines has also reported voter suppression in Colorado.

As one of my European classmates said, “Really? In America?”

America deserves, and expects, so much more.

Denmark’s Role in Equal Futures Partnership: Aarhus Perspective

This post originally appeared on Aarhus Blog.

In September, the United States established the Equal Futures partnership for the purpose of expanding women’s political and economic participation. In an address to the United Nations General Assembly in 2011, President Obama stated that “We should each announce the steps we are taking to break down economic and political barriers that stand in the way of women and girls.”

Denmark has pledged to –

Assess possibilities for improving the gender balance in Danish companies. Denmark will also implement new measures to reduce gender-based violence, focusing on increasing the awareness on violence in the family and capacity-building among municipal authorities and front line staff. In addition, Denmark will work to enhance political and civic participation of ethnic minority women in Denmark through mentorship programs and support for ethnic minority women’s entrepreneurship and businesses.

According to Helle Neergaard, a Professor in the Department of Business Administration, ”there is a very easy solution – equal access/right to maternity/paternity leave. Right now as the rules are, the mother is favoured over the father and it has negative consequences not only in the workplace (businesses do not choose young women of childbearing age for jobs even if they are as qualified because they will go on maternity leave) and second in the home, where children do not have an equal relationship to their fathers.”

She adds that she believes “it is wrong to support ethnic minority women’s entrepreneurship, when we are not supporting women’s entrepreneurship at large – I do not think that ethnic minority women are more disadvantaged in this respect than native Danish women.”

Whether or not the Equal Futures partnership accomplishes anything remains to be seen.