A dialogue on n+1’s “White Indians” piece

Editor’s note: In reading n+1’s “White Indians,” I had my own thoughts and solicited the opinions of two Indian American friends, who agreed to have our dialogue published as long as they were anonymized. Let’s call them J and T. This is by no means meant to symbolize what all Indian Americans or all Asian Americans think; what follows is real talk about race, hip hop, arts and culture, and politics amongst friends.:

“White Indians” argues that South Asian Americans are a “safe” minority to have on-screen, that “no color is safer than South Asian brown. No minority presence in the US is more reassuring, or less likely to get angry or acknowledge your antiblack racism.”

C: My initial take was that as well written as the article is, I have mixed feelings because the editors (including editor Nikil Saval) don’t talk about the current mainstream or the conflation of South Asian American with the scary terrorist. Conflicted about a lot of it, but the handling of Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley is spot on. Have noticed and cheered rise of desis on tv.

J: Thank you for sending this provocative article. I completely agree with your assessment of it esp. about Muslim-Americans. I too have mixed feelings, particularly about the caustic writing style. It kind of put me in a funk reading it in the morning. It was kind of all over the place and written from a masculine perspective. Why didn’t he mention The Mindy Project? asked K. One error that I’d point out is that Vijay Prashad actually says that the folks who came through the highly skilled labor pool were from middle-class families in India, not wealthy elites. Prof. Pras(h)ad was referenced in a poorly edited documentary “Not a Feather But a Dot.”

T: I actually thought it was very well-written, though after a while it did come off as ranting. That’s the point where I think it lost an overall thesis to the whole piece. However, I do agree with a lot of the points brought up, it’s all stuff I’ve heard in various places since college, just collated.

I agree with his point about Desi actors, but at the same time, I’m conflicted b/c I know a lot of them. They struggle for roles, because diverse roles don’t often exist for south asian actors — the reason the Outsourced people were so excited was, even though they were stereotyped roles, they were LEAD roles, something a lot of those actors have strived for for a long, long time and rarely gotten a shot at. And in the arts, Desis gravitate towards being performers, but not as much towards directing and producing, i.e. decision-making that would open up more opportunities for non-white actors. So essentially, they take what they can get, and I don’t think you can fault them for it. Kind of similar to Hattie McDaniel…..people always gave her crap about taking stereotyped black “mammie” roles, but at the same time, she won an OSCAR as a black woman in the 1930’s. You have to give her credit for that.

There actually are a lot of indian americans (younger) that Identify more with hip-hop culture and not so much the whiteness — but these are the kids of working class families, not the ones that grew up in affluent, “whiter” suburbs. Also — there are a lot of younger Indians leaning to the right, the ones who grew up in more affluent suburbs and all want to open their own businesses, or who are culturally sheltered and think gay marriage is gross….

J: Yeah, one of my young 18 year old cousins is a mini-Republican in the making, all about entrepreneurship, and grew up in predominantly white affluent suburbs. hip-hop is no longer black, urban, or low-income in its roots anymore – it’s global, and there are plenty of people of all races who identify with it, both as listeners and producers.

T: My point about the hip hop was not so much about identifying with blacks (look at most of Irvine, CA as an illustration — hip hop oriented but still very, very Asian). A better way of saying it is that there’s a contingent of young Desis who are not white-identifying, usually from less affluent backgrounds.

C: I think there is a subset of any minority that is not white or mainstream identifying. 626 and Garden City CA is a good example too. How does this compare with the diaspora experience?

Actually, if you don’t mind, this is a pretty educational dialogue. Would it be ok to post this dialogue, with names stripped out if you prefer, to the aaa fund blog?

T: I’m fine if you post the comments, i’ll leave it up to J.

J: Sure, no names please.


Public hospitals in NYC charge less for Medicaid care than private, hospital closings & the safety net

The NYTimes has a new article out on the discrepancy amongst hospitals and what they charge for Medicaid procedures. This isn’t a new topic (Stephen Brill did a great piece on it called “Bitter Pill” and patient advocates have known this for a long time), but the government released new comparison data on 3,000 hospitals nationally. In the NYC area, it’s unsurprising – the public Health & Hospitals Corporation (HHC) hospitals charge less than the US average for Medicaid services. The private hospitals charge anywhere from 1-2 times the US average, to more than that. Unsurprisingly, because the public safety net hospitals try not to gouge their patients, their finances are also suffering. Of the hospitals that have closed or that are on the chopping block, many are HHC hospitals.

Some of the hospitals that charge less than the US average: Bellevue, King’s County, Harlem, Downtown, Elmhurst, Flushing
Some that charge 1-2x the US avg: NYU Medical Centers, NY Presbyterian, St. Luke’s-Roosevelt, Beth Israel, UMDNJ
Some that charge > 1-2x US avg: Robert Wood Johnson Rahway, Long Island Jewish

Let’s have a conversation about what hospitals price gouge versus perform a public service the next time the state decides to put together Berger Commission part 2 to close hospitals. Because that analysis was incredibly short-sighted and determined that there were too many hospital beds in the event of an emergency. Of course, they thought we would still have access to all bridges and tunnels in the event of an emergency. So when Hurricane Sandy hit, Manhattan hospitals had to transfer within the island. But there weren’t enough beds to transfer patients to, so it took longer to remove all the patients from the waterlogged hospitals. I would hope that this is a serious consideration the next time around.

It’s easy to make money by overcharging. It’s harder to keep hospitals afloat when you are committed to public service, harder to justify grossly overcharging for things from basic bandages to complicated, costly procedures.


It Takes A Village To Blow One Up

West, Texas was best known as a place to grab something from the Czech Bakery while driving between Austin and the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Now, West is best known as the latest in a long line of American industrial disasters reprehensible for their utter preventability.

The explosion at the fertilizer plant comes from failure of the local, state, and federals governments and the plant owners and operators to satisfy the needs of worker safety, community safety, and national security. OSHA has not inspected the plant since 1985. Schools and homes were allowed to be built very near the plant. The plant had 1,350 times the amount of ammonium nitrate at which Department of Homeland Security regulation is triggered. We know the plant had so much ammonium nitrate, because paperwork indicating such was filed with with a Texas regulatory entity. The mishmash of regulators is not required to share information. Unlike the inability of first responders to communicate with each other because of technical incompatibilities, government regulators don’t interact with each other. Given the large variety of regulating agencies, better intercommunication is needed.

A tangle of agencies regulates plants like the one in West. Different agencies were assigned oversight for different chemicals there. Among the federal agencies responsible were the E.P.A., Homeland Security, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. State agencies include the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the state chemist’s office and the state health services department.

Ammonium nitrate is a national security concern because in nefarious hands it can cause this:


Terrorism isn’t the only reason for concern about the large amount of such an explosive chemical:

The explosion was so powerful it leveled homes and left a crater 93 feet wide and 10 feet deep. Judging by the size of the crater and the extent of the damage — pieces of twisted metal landed in distant pastures, and ceiling tiles and lights shook loose in buildings two miles away — the explosion was more powerful than the Oklahoma City bombing, experts said.

Texas markets its lax regulations as a reason for businesses to relocate:

Loose regulations” in Texas may be a nice pitch for out-of-state business, however, in 2010 the state accounted for 10% of all workplace-related fatalities in the country. In 2011, Texas had the second-highest number of fatality investigations from OSHA (California was first), in 2010, Texas led the nation in Latino worker fatalities.

The marvelous economic tales spun about Texas even beguile those who should know better like a writer for Texas Monthly. Jack Ohman and the editors of the Sacramento Bee, however, were not beguiled:


The owners and operators of the plant seem to have long thought they could pick and choose what few regulations with which they were supposed to comply would apply to them. Among other problems, the company received a citation for construction of 6,000 gallon ammonia tanks without a permit, did not have a sufficient risk management plan, and had no signs or illegible signs on many storage tanks, many of which did not meet safety standards.

The Czech connection in West remains strong; the Czech Republic may provide nearly $200,000 to aid recovery. That’s very helpful and kind; it’s greatly appreciated. I wonder, though, if Bangladesh provides something even better, a guide on how to handle preventable disasters — arrest the owners.

How many other extremely dangerous plants and chemical storage facilities continue to operate in similar fashion with such disregard for the workers, the community, and national security?

– Justin Gillenwater

Rep. Takano Statement on FAA Delaying Tower Closures

Editor’s Note: The below is a follow-up of “Rep. Takano Sends Letter to FAA Administrator To Keep Riverside Air Traffic Control Tower Open and Operating” from our 2012 endorsed candidate Mark Takano (CA-41).

Congressman Mark Takano

For Immediate Release
Friday, April 5, 2013
Contact: Brett Morrow
brett.morrow@mail.house.gov; (202) 225-2305

Rep. Takano Statement on FAA Delaying Tower Closures

Washington DC – Earlier today, Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside) released the following statement regarding the FAA’s decision to delay tower closures until June 15:

“Today’s decision by the Federal Aviation Administration to delay the closure of all 149 federal contract air traffic control towers, including the Riverside Air Traffic Control Tower until June 15 to review risk mitigations, is a step in the right direction.

“The risks of closing Riverside Air Traffic Control Tower are clear, as it is critical to air safety in Riverside County. The Riverside area conducts nearly 80,000 flying operations each year and has four active flight schools. Additionally, the Riverside Airport is only 12 miles away from March Air Reserve Base, which is home to multiple flying missions and aircraft. At the same time, several arrival routes into Los Angeles International Airport fly over Riverside.

“The close proximity of military air operations, flight training activities, and commercial flights increases the likelihood that air space will be shared and poses a serious safety hazard.

“My hope is that by June 15, the FAA will reconsider closing the Riverside Air Traffic Control Tower and determine the risk too great to our community.”

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