RACIAL ATTACKS ON THE INDIAN COMMUNITY IN THE US IN TRUMP ERA

Manoj Kumar, Shipra Singh, Deepti Sharma, Sakshi Bali, Aashna Sethi

Escalation in hate-crimes and the Anti-Immigration policy of the Trump administration has raised concerns for the Indian American Community. Racism and xenophobia are the rhetoric of Americans in the Trump era. It’s time to wake up from the so-called ‘Chasing the American Dream’.

Can the Indian Community continue to remain safe in US in the backdrop of flurry of racial attacks on its diaspora in various parts of the country?

An Anti-Immigration website posted a video on SaveAmericanITJobs.com titled ‘Welcome to Columbus Ohio suburbs – Let’s take a walk to Indian Park,’ by a 66 year old computer programmer from Virginia called Steve Pushor. According to BuzzFeed.com Pushor could be heard saying, “The number of people from foreign countries blows my mind out here. You see this whole area is all Indian, amazing. It’s an amazing number of jobs have been taken away from the Americans. The Indian crowd has ravished the Midwest. It’s a takeover (sic).” He even went on to describe the park as a ‘Mini Mumbai’. It followed up subsequently with the killing of 32 years old Srinivas Kuchibhotla in a bar in Olathe, Kansas on 20th Feb by Adam Purinton, 51, who reportedly shouted “ Go back to your country” before opening fire on Srinivas and his friend Alok Madasani, both employees at tech company Garmin. They were having a drink in the bar when this man allegedly raised racist slurs at the duo and started unprovoked firing at them. Kuchibhotla died later in the hospital. Madasani and Ian Grillot, a man who had stepped in to defend them, were injured in the shootout. In another incident, a Sikh man Deep Rai was shot in the arm outside his Seattle home by a man who reportedly yelled the same, “Go back to your country!” the Seattle Times reported. The injured man is recovering in the hospital.

These incidents have sent shockwaves through India, which provides the US with some of its most skilled and highly educated workforce. The shooting sparked widespread concern among Indian parents who have children living in the US. Indian media extensively covered the Kansas shooting.

 India’s external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted (@sushmaSwaraj)

“I am shocked at the shooting incident in Kansas in which Srinivas Kuchibhotla has been killed. My heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family.” 

In another such incident, Harnish Patel, who lived in the US with his family for 14 years, was shot and killed outside his home in Lancaster, South Carolina, according to the Lancaster County Sheriff’s office. The Sheriff’s office is investigating the suspected motive for the attack and initial investigations have not yet ruled out the possibility that the attack was racially motivated.

Sangay K. Mishra, an assistant professor of political science at Drew University in New Jersey and author of “Desis Divided: The Political Lives of South Asian Americans” (University of Minnesota Press, 2016) states in his book that he examined the political lives of South Asian Americans – Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi. Since 9/11, the community has suffered from “security racializing.” All immigrants from across the broad region (and beyond, including Afghanistan and Middle East) are treated as potential, or even probable, terrorists. They feared being yelled at, called racial slurs or even physically attacked – which, in some cases, had indeed happened. He states that the people with whom he spoke, came from different nationalities and culture – but found themselves treated as similarly foreign and dangerous. In public spaces likes bars and airports, strangers and law enforcement officials were suspicious of their brown bodies.

How much of this can be attributed to the election of Donald Trump to the Oval Office?

The evidence is quite strong.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, the leading monitor of hate crimes in the US, recorded a surge in hate crimes across the country in the ten days after Trump was elected to the office of US President. Normally, the daily hate crime tally is in single digits. It surged to over 200

the day after his election and a total of 867 occurred in the nine days that followed. Many of the attackers in these incidents actually invoked Trump’s name. The New York Police Department also recorded similar spikes. Its chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said there was a 115% increase in bias crimes right after Trump’s election victory.

Trump has very strong views on immigration. He expects to curb both legal and illegal immigration. He has decided to scrap the H1-B visa which allows US companies to hire highly talented professionals temporarily.  He intends to do this in order to create more jobs for Americans. During the Presidential campaign and even at his oath taking speech, Trump has repeatedly reiterated his stance “Let’s make America great again.” His rhetoric on building a wall along Mexican border is also being seen as inward looking policy. This is igniting feelings of extreme nationalism in the Americans which is reflected in increased attacks on immigrants.

 

Father of Alok who was shot and injured in Kansas City Bar believes the United States isn’t a safe place after the election of President Trump, and has said parents should not send their children to the country. Madasani Jaganmohan Reddy, father of Alok Madasani, who lives in Chaitanyapuri in Hyderabad, said that he had urged his son, Alok, to quit his job and return home.

Can America really afford to do away with Immigrants?

Algernon Austin, Ph.D., who is an Economist at Demos and author of ‘American is Not Post-Racial: Xenophobia, Islamophobia, Racism and the 44th President’ posted an article on Huffpost on Feb 14, 2017 stated that Trump’s Anti-Immigration Policies are making America less great. He further quotes that much of America’s greatness is due to the contributions of immigrants. One of the founding fathers – Alexander Hamilton – was an immigrant from the Caribbean. Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, was the child of an immigrant from Syria. Oracle was co-founded by a child of an Iranian immigrant.  An analysis of the 2010 Fortune 500 – America’s 500 largest corporations – found that more than 40 percent of these companies were founded by an immigrant or a child of an immigrant.

Are Indian Immigrants reconsidering the American Dream?

 Moni Basu, in her article published on CNN on March 12, 2017 titled “After attacks, Indian immigrants rethink American Dream” stated that she broke down when she read the Facebook post of Sunayana Dumala, widow of Srinivas Kuchibothla who was shot dead in Kansas City Bar, the later wrote:

“Do we belong?” she asked. “Is this the same country we dreamed of and is it still secure to raise our families and children here?”

Basu wrote “I hadn’t before heard Indians voice these distressing concerns. Dumala’s words gave me pause for thought. I hope her question serves as a much-needed wake up call for a community that has not always been totally honest in looking inward.”

But now, under attack because of their identity, Indians see the dream fading away. According to Mithra Amaran, who also lives in Olathe where Srinivas was shot, “I can tell you a majority of Indian parents want their children back in India.”  Amaran has spent 35 years in the United States. She told Basu that she fears for the lives of her sons, both brown and raised in this country.

Will American President Donald Trump take serious note of the matter and act?

Given the recent spike in hate crimes against Indian-Americans and other minorities, influential US lawmakers sought to calm rattled nerves pledging their full support for all those affected by the hate crimes. They took out a vigil on the steps of the Capitol Hill. Speaking from the steps of the Capitol Hill, House Representatives Jayapal and Crowley said that they have introduced a Resolution in the House calling on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to dedicate robust resources for investigating and prosecuting ethnic attacks, urging President Trump to end his inflammatory rhetoric. They informed that they were garnering great response from the other representatives of the House.

“We have to make sure that these attacks are prosecuted as hate crimes. We have to make sure that we have the resources” to protect our communities, Jayapal declared at the vigil. “We have to make sure the rhetoric matches the actions. You can’t just say you oppose violence if through your policies and your words you are creating an environment where people feel that it is okay to do these things”, she said about President Trump’s actions.

“There is no question that there is a tie between policies that target immigrant communities and hate entire swaths of people as being terrorists or being foreigners who are taking American jobs or any of the stereotypes that have gone along with these executive orders”, she said. “So, it is the Muslim Ban, it is also the interior immigration enforcement order that has immigrants across our country terrified. This is not an isolated phenomenon. This is happening around the country”, she bemoaned.

In two of the recent incidents in which Indian-Americans were shot, the suspects reportedly yelled at them to go back to their country.

Congresswoman Jayapal lamented, “I have been told numerous times to go back to my country. America is my country”, she told the Capitol Hill gathering. “So, one of the messages I want to send to people out there who are listening is that America is your country. You belong here and we will stand up to protect your rights”, she pledged.

Crowley, who hosted a Congressional briefing on the surge of hate violence on the South Asian community, told activists and journalists at the vigil, “I feel very strongly there needs to be more acceptances, more tolerance”.

Bemoaning that “hate crimes are up overall”, he said, “We need our President to speak out much more strongly than he has so far, to take action beyond rhetoric, to ensure that people have safety, be they Sikh, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu. We need to see our government protecting all Americans, not just a few”. The lawmaker underscored, “An attack against one is an attack against all of us”.

He noted, “Americans do listen to the President. They are looking for tolerance, they are looking for acceptance and when they don’t see that they think they can take actions in their own hands. That is exactly what happened in Kansas and we see happening elsewhere as well”.

At the Capitol Hill vigil, Congressman Crowley said, “The attack in Kansas sent a shiver down my spine because I know that this is something that has developed because of hate rhetoric and hate speech. It started during the campaign and has continued afterwards. President Trump not only has to speak out against this, he has to take action against this as well, commit resources to ensure that the South Asian community in the US is protected. Much of this is directed because of anti-Muslim rhetoric in particular, and people assuming that people from South Asia must all be Muslim. Regardless of what the motivation is, it needs to stop, it needs to end”.

It is quite evident that sentiments have been deeply hurt and the Indian American Community is terrified but at the same time stands united to face this unprecedented challenge. They expect it as their right that the Trump administration will up the ante and take strong actions against those who are guilty of these nasty hate crimes so that it acts as a strong deterrent.

When the President Donald Trump says, “Let’s make America great again”, he needs to carefully fathom exactly what constitutes America and for what the country has always stood for. Presumably he needs to take a leaf out of his predecessors’ definition of the United States of America.

 

 

 

                                        References

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