This week marks the sixth annual Asian Pacific Islander Policy Summit in Sacramento, California. The conference is an opportunity for Asian American policymakers, activists, organizers and community groups to meet and discuss issues relevant to our communities. Sikh Coalition staff members this year are attending the conference as part of a special track that addresses civil rights issues. These issues range from hate crimes and discrimination to the Sikh community’s kirpan education bill.
Ravneet and I spent the day today in various workshops focused on the theme of “connect the dots.” We heard panelists talk about the need for the varied Asian communities to work together and across issue areas to push our agenda forward in Sacramento. We received skills trainings on how to lobby for legislation and how to incorporate budget concerns into our policy recommendations. We networked and traded ideas with community advocates from the Muslim, South Asian, and Southeast Asian communities.
We ended the day on a high note at the API gala banquet. There, we heard Gary Locke, the new Secretary of Commerce, talk about ending the culture of fear in America. Secretary Locke, the first Chinese American to hold a Cabinet position in the United States, stressed that Asian Americans know better than any other group that the ends cannot justify the means. Just as interning thousands of Japanese families in the wake of Pearl Harbor did nothing to keep our country safer, torture does not fulfill the national security needs identified by the last administration.
The same idea applies to the post-9/11 backlash and profiling of Sikhs, Muslims, Arabs & South Asians. Secretary Locke’s comments reminded us that this is not the first time an ethnic minority community is being made to pay the price for the perception of keeping our country safer. Yet, many of us are not doing enough to learn from the experiences of our Asian neighbors. What more can we be doing to work within the larger Asian American civil rights movement? If you have suggestions or outreach that you’d like to share, please feel free to email me at email@example.com.