223. What is the Fight?

I started out thinking I was going to make two blog posts about two seemingly unrelated topics, but now I see they are connected. So this one is a doozy. Pour yourself a glass of something, kick off your sandals, untie your hair, and sink into your favorite chair.

First, like most people I know who care about reproductive rights, I am devastated by the unjust striking down of Roe v Wade. A massive number of us no longer have the basic human right to make decisions over our own bodies. We will be watching the ramifications unfold for decades to come. I truly hope that we see young women from India refuse to marry their male counterparts working in the US. Why come here if you will have fewer freedoms than you do in your country of origin?

It’s complicated to speak of abortion rights when you’re a mom like me. I have had people actually ask me to my face, while my son was playing nearby, “Wasn’t there some in vitro test to tell you he was autistic?” Our Desi folks don’t tend to be sentimental about abortions, at least not in my generation, nor are they likely to act decisively and consistently for disability justice. Even knowing that, these questions have always offended and wounded me. Imagine if I asked you that right back: Your kid is just another engineer/computer science major/doctor–wouldn’t you rather have known that in vitro so you could have rolled the dice anew and had a more interesting child?

Does that question sound ridiculous to you? The questions about my child are slap worthy, yet I still get accosted by them.

What I am not here for is a debate about disability eugenics. I am not participating in the false yoking of autism parenting and abortion rights, just like I was not going to allow people to coerce me into insisting that kids with IEPs needed to be prioritized for a return to school, ie. weaponizing us for the purpose of ending pandemic precautions. The people trying to use us to get schools reopened weren’t too worried about our kids being canaries for the Covid coal mines. A is beyond precious to us, and the value of his life is not up for debate in any scenario.

When people speak of ending a pregnancy because of a possible autism diagnosis, what they mean is that they can’t imagine a world where accommodations are the norm, and a family doesn’t have to be isolated and exhausted. So they assume it is the autistic individual who is the problem, and pity the parents and siblings. This lack of imagination is their problem, not ours. And still. This insistence on locating problems in the individual is so dangerous, and affects us every day, so thanks for making your lack of social imagination into our problem, I guess?

But the other equally serious issue is that of the disabled not having the same reproductive rights as the rest of us. This is a complex topic that deserves its own separate discussion, and parents certainly need to think deeply and consult wisely before we take on guardianship of our adult children. That’s all I’ll say on it for now.

Still, I am not just pro choice, but pro abortion. This country should never have allowed our reproductive rights to be threatened to such an extent, and it is a mark of deep shame that the fanaticism of the religious zealots who pushed the issue this far was allowed to taint the endeavor of democracy.

I was thinking back to how different things seemed when I first moved here in the mid 90s. But then I pulled myself up. There has always been oppression. I just didn’t have enough knowledge of the history of struggle in this country to put the pieces together. And I took too long to learn from the right educators.

The fact is, we either rise together in strength, or we all fall. There is no true success if we have built our lives on the backs of people pushed beneath us. Bootstrap thinking is based on rabid individualism and rampant dishonesty.

Something happened last week that made me both upset, and also grateful that I have at least set my feet on the path of collectivism. This story is one that highlights the shameful racism that our Desi community doesn’t bother to hide. If you are defensive about that, I don’t think we can be friends.

So anyway, I pulled into a gas station which we go to regularly. A few seconds after I had pulled up to a pump, another car raced in right opposite me. The driver basically bullied me into letting him access the pump he was wanting to use, so I was not able to pull up further without hitting his car.

I was annoyed. But the guy looked ill tempered, and let’s face it, New Jersey is full of meannesses like this, so whatever, I moved my car to a different pump. I did sigh and laughingly told the attendant, whom I know reasonably well, that it’s too often women who have to adjust to bullies. We were speaking in Hindi, as we often do.

At this, the attendant said that the other driver was behaving poorly because he was Black. It was shocking in its ugliness, and when I had recovered my wits, I expressed my disagreement. It was awkward. Desi men do not like being told anything by us.

As the gas tank filled, I sat and thought about what I was being expected to agree with. On the regular, I experience similar rudeness from, say, white people, including women, and from other Desis. Some of you are Rude AF and act like you don’t know it. The difference in this situation was that this rude person would be in actual danger if anyone escalated the conflict, BECAUSE of his skin color. The racist labeling was happening right in front of him. It was a moment of shame for me. It should have been for the attendant too.

The thing is, it is precisely these small interactions that spark into racialized violence, ending up on the news. Someone on the ground. Someone with a uniformed knee on them. Worse. As I type, the violence of the past weekend is still under nationwide scrutiny. I don’t want to be even tangentially the reason for that. No one should.

I reject the Desi solidarity that was being offered to me, while painting a Black person as our common enemy. I wish the guy hadn’t been so rude. But I don’t have to like him one bit to know that he deserves to be safe and free.

Writing about this incident has exhausted me deeply. But I wanted to do it anyway because you know, it is way past time for us to figure out how to live in this country without being such fucking Oreos.

And one more thing: every time someone is horrible to my family, it’s hard to know whether their bigotry is aimed at race, caste, queerness, disability, etc. THIS is why we have to rise together. People will look at anything about you that puts you outside the realm of acceptability, and they will stomp your rights into dust for it. For those of us with more than one minority label, the hits are more complicated.

We already know that the powers that be are wary of solidarity amongst minorities.

Why? Because we are stronger that way.

We need to keep working on putting one another first. If that’s too radical, I don’t know how we expect to survive.


2 thoughts on “223. What is the Fight?

  1. Thank you, Radha <3. I so very much love how the tires are spinning in my head through a murky mess of frustration and anger; But your words encapsulate so much of what enrages me and makes me want to tear at my hair with your lovely and illustrative brilliance and precision.

    Liked by 1 person

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