Coverage of California’s upcoming election has focused mostly on the gubernatorial recall, but there’s another part of the ballot that our community needs to be aware of.
Proposition 54 is a dangerous new initiative that would substantially prevent the State of California from collecting or using information about race, ethnicity, or national origin. This would have devastating effects on our community, as it would hamper existing efforts to address issues like hate crimes, job discrimination, and public health.
After 9/11, our community has been targeted by a wave of violent hate crimes. Collecting data about these crimes helps law enforcement and social service agencies protect us. Prop. 54 would make it difficult for these agencies to do their duties. In fact, many agencies wouldn’t even be allowed to ask victims of hate crimes about their race, or that of the perpetrators!
In 2000, over 27,000 reports of employment discrimination were filed in California. We’re not immune. Prop. 54 would make it more difficult for state agencies to track and work to end racial discrimination on the job.
Doctors track and use information about disease patterns in different groups to better serve their patients. For example, desi men have higher rates of heart disease than other Americans; racially targeted public health programs can help address issues like this. Prop. 54 would make this work difficult to do—which is why virtually every medical and public health association in California opposes Prop. 54.
As election day approaches, South Asians and other Californians should not be tricked into voting for an initiative that would set us back decades. Please join desi doctors, lawyers, and community members in voting “no” on Proposition 54.
Anirvan Chatterjee, via e-mail
PROP. 54 WILL IMPAIR HEALTH PROGRAMS
Ward Connerly’s Proposition 54: Classification by Race, Ethnicity, Color, or National Origin Initiative (CRENO) has wide-ranging health implications, especially for minority communities. If passed, 54 will prevent state and local agencies, such as law enforcement and county health departments from collecting critical information about an individual’s racial and ethnic background. Prop. 54 will stifle the collection of racial and ethnic data, which are vital for planning effective programs and public services for all Californians.
An individual’s health is influenced by his or her racial and ethnic background, which may dictate cultural practices and behaviors, which affect health and also may influence access to health information, programs, and services. For example, chewing paan after meals is a long-standing Indian tradition. Data suggests that this practice leads to cancers of the mouth, esophagus, and pharynx. Furthermore, certain diseases uniquely affect different racial and ethnic groups. For example, the Indian-American population is disproportionately affected with higher rates of heart disease than the general population. Similarly, we are also at a higher risk of developing diabetes. Prop. 54 would prevent health professionals from uncovering these patterns, which in turn, would impair the creation of necessary health programs targeted at specific racial or ethnic communities such as our own.
Several Asian-American organizations including the Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum, the South Asian Bar Association, and the Asian Pacific Islander Wellness Center oppose 54. I strongly urge Californians, especially Indian-Americans, to take part in the political process and vote against this deceptive, misleading proposition on Oct. 7.
Punam Parikh, Irvine, CA
FOR THE RECORD
In her article “A Step in the Right Direction” (IC June 2003), Meera Srinivasan refers to Aga Khan as “leader of the Bhora and Aga Khani Muslims.” Aga Khan is the spiritual leader of Nizari Ismaili Muslims, not of Bohra Ismailis. The two communities, while Shia and known collectively as Ismailis, separated over a dispute over accession to the Imamate many centuries ago.
It is also incorrect to refer to the Ismailis as Aga Khanis, even though this nomenclature can be found in the print media occasionally.
Nazim Karim, via e-mail
NAMASTE PRIME MINISTER SHARON
Prime Minister Sharon’s visit to India was the culmination of great diplomatic efforts and convergence of interests by the two countries.
This visit, coinciding with the second anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy, speaks loudly and clearly about the commitment of both India and Israel to fighting terror. It sends an unequivocal message to Islamic terrorists that these three great democracies—India, Israel and U.S. (Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rocca was in India about the same time)—will work together with the goal of defeating terrorism.
Gaurang Desai, Fremont, CA
How much do you truly know about Israel’s occupation of Palestine? India is a great nation, and we should do our best to discourage and terminate terrorism, but not with the help of another form of terrorist, that is Israel!
Robin Kumar, via the Internet
AMERICAN DEMOCRATIC IDEALS
In his letter (IC Aug. 2003), Gary Waltrip states that the war in Iraq was justified due to murders committed on the Cole, the U.S. embassies and the World Trade Center disaster. This ignorant statement is contradicted by Robert Mueller, chief of FBI, as well as the congressional committee on the investigation of 9/11, both of which have been unable to define a connection between 9/11 or other aforementioned tragedies to Iraq. The supposed meeting between Mohd. Atta and Iraqi officials in the Czech republic was contradicted clearly by the New York Times. In a state-ment to the press on Sept. 16, Donald Rumsfeld, stated that he could not connect Iraq to 9/11.
Waltrip insists on enforcing democracy in Iraq, a fine concept, except that it lacks foresight. Who does Waltrip think will be the “democratic choice” of the Shiite majority—where fundamentalist mullahs have a tremendous following? Do we want another “Afghanistan” in Iraq, where al-Qaeda, previously non-existent in Iraq, will now gain a foothold in a new extremist anti-U.S post-war Iraq? So far, more than 7,000 Iraqi civilians (CBC news statistic) and hundreds of U.S. soldiers have been killed, but there is zero evidence of democracy, zero WMDs, zero Saddam, and zero connections to 9/11.
Lastly, Waltrip accuses Jagjit Singh (Letters, IC July 2003) and Sarita Sarvate (“Where are the Women?” IC July 2003) of using an “anti-American tone.” On the contrary, it is very American to exercise the constitutional right to speak your mind. The “monarchial form of patriotism,” as described contemptuously by Mark Twain, that the “king can do no harm” is nothing short of a contradiction of America’s democratic ideals.
Sandhya Roy, Pleasanton, CA
It’s been three years since I was last in Mumbai and Suchi Rudra’s article (“Mouth-watering Magic,” IC Sept. 2003) awakens an appetite to return. I’ve yet to find a restaurant or recipe to match the multi-adventure of eating on the streets of the port of spice.
Justin Josephnek Kloer, via the Internet