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Voices in Focus: Will Rutgers Verdict Cause a Collison of Gay and Immigrant Rights?

March 21, 2012 11:51 am Leave a comment By  | , , , A+ / A-

There was plenty to think about this morning out there in the community and ethnic media:

* In Colorlines, writer Rinku Sen raised an interesting question about the recent conviction of the Rutgers student Dharun Ravi on charges of spying, bias intimidation and lying to police and prosecutors. Ravi used a webcam to watch his roommate, Tyler Clementi, kiss a man in their dorm room, then Tweeted about it. Clementi committed suicide a few days later. Because Ravi is an immigrant from India and a green card holder, Sen points out that he may face the additional penalty of deportation after his conviction — and that such an outcome could put two rights movements in conflict.

“The potential for drawing divisive lines between the gay liberation and immigrant rights movements is enormous,” Sen writes, “and that would be another terrible outcome in an already horrible story.”

Some activists who have argued for the kind of hate crime laws that Ravi was convicted under now find themselves torn, Sen reports.

Deepa Iyer, the director of South Asian Americans Leading Together, supported federal hate crimes legislation as well as related state and local laws, but says the consequences have to be proportionate to the act. Iyer notes that the automatic deportation of people with convictions amounts to double punishment.

“When these incidents occur, it’s not just the individual that’s being assaulted, bullied or murdered, it’s the entire community that’s being victimized,” said Iyer. “At the same time, when it comes around to the court system, especially around sentencing, these cases and alleged perpetrators need to be assessed for whether the punishment fits the crime.” Deportation after a jail sentence—essentially exile for someone like Ravi, who was born in India but raised in the U.S.—constitutes double punishment in Iyer’s mind.

Eventually, Sen argues, it is up to the advocates from different movements to join forces and resist divisive tactics.

If we really want to stop bullying, though, we can’t just do it from the back end. We have to affirmatively, proactively expand the rights of LGBT people, immigrants, people of color and women. Victims need not just the right to get someone punished—to be victims—but also the ability to earn the pay they deserve, to marry the people they love, to move around the world without giving up control of their own labor.

And we can’t do everything through institutions. We have to be able to talk to each other. Activists in these movements have to model cross-issue, cross-identity relationships so that everyone else can see the effects of greater understanding.

* The Lo-Down’s “Morning Reads” linkfest was chock-full of juicy tidbits this morning.

First, they pointed us to the Business Insider‘s thorough take on the shark fin soup controversy, which includes a tasting of the shark fin soup on offer at Chinatown’s Golden Unicorn restaurant.

They took us to the gaming blog Kotaku for news that the fabled Chinatown Fair gaming arcade on Mott Street may reopen. The arcade, which has been the subject of not one but two documentaries, was a Chinatown institution that attracted serious gamers as well as being a haven for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender teens. It closed last year after three decades in operation.

And then they linked to the blog Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York for news that the much-loved neon signs from Jade Mountain Chinese restaurant on Second Avenue have been salvaged and may be restored.

Illustrations by Liana Finck will be on display tonight at the Museum at Eldridge Street (Art by Liana Finck via The Jewish Daily Forward)

* Lastly, the Jewish Daily Forward posted on Facebook news that an exhibition of the Bintel Briefs will open tonight at The Museum at Eldridge Street:

Artist Liana Finck presents original drawings from her debut graphic novel based on letters written to the Yiddish newspaper The Forverts’ beloved advice column. Finck’s vignettes bring to life the heartbreaking, absurd and at times humorous stories of Jewish immigrants trying to make their way in America.

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