ON MY MIND | What Immigrants Can Learn About Anti-Communism From the Civil Rights Movement

“The American dream has become something much more closely resembling a nightmare, on the private, domestic, and international levels.” — James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time
On page 12 of the standard N-400 Application for Naturalization, all foreign-born persons seeking U.S. citizenship are asked, “Have you EVER been a member of, or in any way associated (either directly or indirectly) with the Communist Party?” It is a yes or no question. Why is it there to begin with? Under Chapter 7 of its General Naturalization Requirements, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website explains that “current and previous membership” in organizations like the Communist Party “may indicate a lack of attachment to the Constitution and an indication that the applicant is not well disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States.” Consequently, an applicant “cannot naturalize” if they have been “affiliated with the Communist Party” or “advocated communism” within ten years preceding their filing for naturalization. Possible exemptions from this rule include applicants who establish that their prior membership or affiliation with the Communist Party was “involuntary”; “without awareness of the nature or aims of the organization”; or “necessary for purposes of obtaining employment, food rations, or other essentials of living.” Applicants who terminated their membership at the age of sixteen years-old or younger, or whose membership ended over ten years before filing for naturalization are likewise exempt. These clarifications, though helpful, leave the original question of why unanswered.

ON MY MIND | I Am Not Your American: Reviving James Baldwin’s Opposition to U.S. Empire

The figure of James Baldwin has been buoyed in recent years by a revival across the liberal wings of the United States’ political, cultural, and intellectual establishment. Most notably, during remarks given at the dedication ceremony of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in 2016, former President Barack Obama quoted from Baldwin’s short story “Sonny’s Blues.” That same year, Raoul Peck’s Oscar-nominated film I Am Not Your Negro enjoyed widespread critical acclaim over its solemn presentation of the Civil Rights-era writer’s saliency to the present-day (A. O. Scott of the New York Times dazzles readers with the headline “Review: ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ Will Make You Rethink Race”; Simran Hans in The Guardian remarks that “Baldwin’s words feel as urgent and articulate as ever”). In 2015, the Library of America published a volume of Baldwin’s later novels, which had “yet to receive the consideration given his earlier fiction.” This effort was mirrored in the academic sphere with the founding of an annual journal called the James Baldwin Review, dedicated uniquely to studies of Baldwin’s works of fiction, poetry, and non-fiction. The trend continues into 2018: Barry Jenkins, of Moonlight fame, has directed a highly anticipated film adaptation of Baldwin’s novel If Beale Street Could Talk that is set to release in theaters on November 30. Little Man, Little Man, a children’s book written by Baldwin in 1976 (his only venture into the genre), is currently back in circulation with a new edition being published by Duke University Press — at a time when, according to the New York Times, “children’s book authors and publishers are more frequently placing black and brown children at the center of narratives about everyday life.” In August, on what would have been the writer’s 94th birthday, social media feeds on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram were awash with Baldwin quotes and commemorative posts by ordinary and verified users alike — from the rapper/actor Common to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

ON MY MIND | Korean Americans, the U.S. Military Is Not Your Friend

This past Friday, June 27, 2018, marked the 65th anniversary of the Korean Armistice Agreement, a ceasefire agreement signed in 1953 between North Korea and the United States/United Nations that (1) did not officially end the Korean War, (2) established the Demilitarized Zone at the 38th parallel as the de jure border between North and South Korea, and (3) did not include the input or signatures of any South Koreans. The anniversary underscored what has been an exciting, albeit precarious period of swift developments in the triangulated relations between the governments of North Korea, South Korea, and the United States in recent months. April of this year saw South Korean president Moon Jae-In and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un meet at the historic 2018 Inter-Korean Summit at Panmunjom, out of which came a declaration affirming both countries’ commitments to working towards reunification, demilitarization, and peace on the peninsula. The North Korea-United States summit in Singapore followed soon after, with U.S. president Donald Trump breaking a 65-year tradition of presidential anti-diplomacy towards North Korea’s sitting leader—and going even further by agreeing to take unprecedented steps towards the normalization and de-escalation of DPRK-U.S. relations. For Korean Americans who are part of a larger diaspora scattered across the globe, these developments have elicited a mixed bag of reactions and responses.

ON MY MIND | What Americans Think (When They Do) About Korea

As of today’s date — Tuesday, May 1, 2018 — I am officially accepting applications from any and all individuals or entities interested in becoming founding members of Liberty in South Korea (LiSK). Serious inquiries may be sent to [email protected]. What is LiSK? We are a humanitarian organization committed to freeing the South Korean people from the twin terrors of US militarism and hypercapitalism. We have all heard the stories: massacres and imprisonment of dissidents, rampant rape and murder around US military bases, strings of puppet-dictators succeeded by nepotistic puppet-heads of state, corruption suffusing every level of economic activity, widespread disillusionment with the cutthroat education system, and the second-highest suicide rate in the developed world.

ON MY MIND | The Empty Promise of Academia

“Just because you fight for something doesn’t mean you have to have a philosophical justification for it.”

By what was then the twelfth week of this semester, I had grown accustomed to 98% of the inane phrases which were tossed casually — as casually as one might toss a molotov cocktail — into the collective consciousness of my English/Comp Lit seminar. The ratio of neural/motor energy devoted to jotting down whatever convoluted statements followed the words, “This is important,” from one of professors’ mouths (it’s one of those rare two-professor courses) versus scrolling through Facebook and answering emails had gradually shifted in disproportionate favor of the latter. But this sentence, uttered by an undergrad whose name I had not yet committed to memory (and probably never will), forced me to whip my head up in bewilderment and scan the room for any signs of incredulity which might mirror my own. Here, let me play it back for you:

“Just because you fight for something doesn’t mean you have to have a philosophical justification for it.”

My eyes flickered from the seated students to the professor standing at the front of the room. My professor paused, smiled, nodded, laughed, and agreed: “Yes, I guess you could say that.”

I wrote it down, appending seven question marks to the quotation.

ON MY MIND | ‘C’ Stands for Colonizer, and Also Cornell

“Colonialism imposed its control of the social production of wealth through military conquest and subsequent political dictatorship. But its most important area of domination was the mental universe of the colonised.” – Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Decolonising the Mind
Intra-Ivy League bickering aside, Cornell University is widely regarded as one of the top institutions of higher learning in the world. Students who graduate from our school go on to become world leaders in their industry of preference: from Wall Street and Capitol Hill to Hollywood and Silicon Valley. The design and administration of our medicine, our mortgages, our software, our textbooks, our food, our jobs, our cities and our homes all bear the mark of a Cornellian somewhere in the fine print. This is not a matter of opinion; it is a fact of our society.

ON MY MIND | In PyeongChang, a Vision of Korean Peace

I haven’t seen Black Panther yet, but I know enough of the story’s basic premise — what might an African nation, untouched by centuries of colonialism and the transatlantic slave trade, look like in the 20th/21st century? — to use it as a generative point of speculation within my own interests in the history of the Korean War and its aftermath. Thinking, then, along the lines of the Wakanda’s Afrofuturism, I’m prompted to ask a similar question as I watch the international spectacle and geopolitical maneuvering of the 2018 Winter Olympics unfold in Pyeongchang: what might the Korean peninsula look like today if it had never been invaded and brutalized by the United States? But wait, you might be asking, when did the United States ever invade Korea? Didn’t the U.S. military defend the South against the evil Communist regime of the North?


The following statement comes from a group of people from Islamic Alliance for Justice, Native American Students at Cornell (NASAC), Cornell DREAM Team, MEChA de Cornell and Asian Pacific Americans for Action (APAA) who were affected directly or indirectly by the events of this past week and decided to come together to organize. We’re a collective group of students, and this is our collective statement:

Over the past week, President Donald Trump issued a series of executive actions, some of which explicitly target marginalized communities including Muslims, refugees, undocumented peoples, Indigenous folx, Latinx folx, people who cannot access healthcare and working class people. One of these executive orders prohibits entry to the United States for citizens of seven Muslim-majority nations which include Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, Sudan and Syria. Since Trump has claimed that America’s shores are still open to Christian refugees from these countries, the ban rests on the presupposition that Muslims from these countries are terrorists and that Islam is an inherently violent religion. It is worth noting that each of these seven countries has either been directly bombed by the United States or hit with debilitating economic sanctions, and that their residents are being prevented from escaping the conditions created in these countries by US imperialism.

ON MY MIND | What We Saw from the People’s Streets: Scenes from #DisruptJ20 in Washington, D.C.

TW: Trump, misogyny, racism

We wake up at 9 am and immediately check Twitter for news of the day’s first protests. Blockades have already gone up at key entrance points around the city; Black Lives Matter, NoDAPL and other organizers have chained themselves to each other and to the ground. We sip coffee and don dark colors. We take our time putting the final touches on makeshift cardboard signs with sharpies. I debate over whether I should bring gloves or not.