By: Emon Johnson
Meet Fatima Iqbal-Zubair. She is running for state assembly, elections for which are being held on February 22, 2020 – March 3rd, 2020. Her campaign stands on the pillars of 1) clean air, food, and water for all, 2) affordable housing, healthcare, and college, and 3) the reformation of our public school system. By focusing on these needs, Fatima aims to #breakthechains of systemic racism, and inform millions of lower income families, unfortunately caught in the web of covert misleadings, perpetual wrongdoings, and inadvertent capitulation as a result of such tactics, of the stressors before them.
Originally from Dubai, Fatima spoke on her experience of immigrating to first, Canada, then New Jersey here in America. While in Dubai, she lived in an immigrant community. Being such, she had an early exposure to an array of cultures and people, and she noticed great income inequality amongst these groups. According to Fatima, although Dubai was a melting pot, similar to the US, many outsiders were unaware of the advantages subtly, but not so subtly, afforded to the Arabs. The same way many of us Americans recognize, but often, are not quite sure how to label, the inequality between our white Americans and our minorities.
When she was seven, her family immigrated to Canada to avoid conflicts of the Gulf War. As a child in Canada, most of her friends were Caucasion, and she recalls no significant instances of her race or human identity being overtly analyzed or judged. Acknowledging the fact she was a child, as well as from a middle class family, thus possibly ignorant to certain ways of the world or people’s disrespect to their fellow man, Fatima strongly distances herself from felt prejudice while there. As a high school student in New Jersey, however, she began noticing a difference in the way people perceived not only her race, but other minorities as well.
“I noticed that in the US, some people talked about people in a way that they shouldn’t,” Fatima stated in our interview. “Maybe I was young, but I noticed that race-relations weren’t very clear and were discrete.. I just knew I noticed the color of my skin more.” After finishing college in New Jersey, Fatima went to medical school in the Caribbean.
Her years of traveling and living in different cultures provided her an eye and ear of the people. Her time in the US, as well as her memories of the discrepancies between classes in Dubai, catalyzed and crystalyzed her nomadic, philanthropic personality, which projected her to launch her campaign. As a middle class citizen, Fatima believes she has certain privileges others may not have. Privileges like being able to pay for medical services, access to early behavioral interventions for her son with autism, and frankly, even the time and money to be able to run for state assembly. Most people have to work, she notes, and she is honored she has the ability to temporarily leave her job teaching in Watts, to instead dedicate her time to helping the people around her on a larger scale.
She believes it is her duty to act on behalf of the people who constantly have eyes on them and voices speaking ill of them, yet whose eyes often see little change and whose voices are often drowned out.
Fatima states, “While I worked as a teacher in Watts, I felt it. Not necessarily myself, but through knowing the students, their families, going into their homes, spending hours in the night with them, seeing how when Trump shut down the government they were actually worried about how they were going to put food on the table..these things don’t affect middle class families as much. That’s the importance of classism – it’s not about just being black or latino, it’s about being lower class.”
To combat this classism, she focuses on the pillars of her movement to redistribute privilege throughout California. Public schools, for example, can be negatively impacted by things like gerrymandering, she notes. Cutting off resources or access to different students even, stops the circulation and integration of different resources and people. This then leads to those with extra amenities like robotics or science programs to continually progress, while leaving those with failing students to perpetually climb uphill.
To challenge the increasing pressures of climate change, she has partnered with organizations like Watts Rising Collaborative and Sunrise Movement. Watts Rising Collaborative is an organization dedicated to reducing pollution, planting trees, improving housing, supplying energy-efficient retrofits like solar panels to neighborhoods, and ultimately, provide a healthier Watts for its residents. The organization was recently awarded a $35 million grant which they will use to begin their project. Similarly, Sunrise Movement, is an organization dedicated to fighting climate change by first starting conversations on its seriousness, and then selecting the right people in office to begin the long battle against it.
Receiving no corporate PAC money, she’s gained momentum by personally talking with several hundreds of citizens, and applied the resources she’s received from her endorsements, to expand her campaign and continuously learn what the people she hopes to serve truly need. Some organizations that support her are: Sunrise Los Angeles, Our Revolution Los Angeles, and Carson Alliance 4 Truth. In the coming weeks, Fatima will be working to win the primaries, which again open on February 22, 2020 and close on March 3, 2020. To follow her campaign or learn more about her movement and supporters, check out her website: fatimaforassembly.com.