Olathe. Kent. Lancaster. Three towns that were taken out of obscurity and thrust into the national spotlight after shooters senselessly targeted Indian Americans all across the country. By now, we’ve heard the names of the victims and read their stories, to the extent that we feel like we personally know them. Harnish Patel was shot dead in his front yard after closing the convenience store that he owned. Deep Rai was in his driveway working on his car, when a man yelled ‘go back to your country’ before taking aim. Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Reddy Madasani were enjoying an after work drink before they were questioned about their immigration status and before they were shot, all while the shooter yelled ‘get out of my country.’
All of these shootings were unprovoked. All of the victims were innocent of all crimes except for one, the crime of not being White and living in America. Because to the shooters, having colored skin is decidedly the most un-American thing that could ever be done. But ironically, the shooter in Olathe targeted two victims that were engaging in very All American pastimes – after-work happy hour and watching the game. The victim in Kent was innocuously fixing his car. The victim in Lancaster, after having achieved the American Dream of owning his own business, was returning home after an honest day of work. The only thing suspicious about the victims was the color of their skin. And yet all of the shooters wrongly believed they were Making America Great/Safe/White Again. When did the issue of National Security and Securing America’s Borders devolve into the unprovoked murdering of innocent civilians at point-blank range? Why does a certain portion of the population believe they have been given carte blanche to deal with the “immigrant problem” any way they see fit, even if that involves the loss of life? What will happen after all of the killing is done? What is the end goal?
Since Election Day 2016, there have been over 1,000 hate crimes all across America, targeting not only Indian Americans and the Jewish the Community, but basically every minority group in the country. These hate crimes have finally culminated into something worse. Four victims later, and now here we are. Somewhere I never thought we would be. Where it is normal for the President to witness the attack of an ethnic group and simply ignore it. The President took six days to finally acknowledge that the Kansas City shooting took place, let alone term the shooting a hate crime. And as of yet, the President has publicly failed to comment on the shootings that have taken place since. The President has even failed to tweet about any of the shootings, instead taking to twitter to accuse President Obama of wire-tapping Trump Tower during the election process.
President Trump’s silence, especially his silence on Twitter where he seems to tweet exactly what he’s thinking at the moment, speaks volumes.
President Trump’s silence, especially his silence on Twitter where he seems to tweet exactly what he’s thinking at the moment, speaks volumes. Not only is it insensitive and gauche (has President Trump even reached out to the families of the victims?), but it also sends a message. The message that the lives of Indian Americans don’t matter, that we are somehow expendable. And by not actively condemning the shooters, the President is condoning the use of force, leaving that specific portion of the population to believe that it is okay, even acceptable, to attack Indian Americans and other minority groups in America. It is obviously (or if recent events are any indication, maybe not so obviously) not okay.
In a time when I thought President Trump’s rampant xenophobia could not get any worse, I am constantly surprised. There has been an unprecedented amount of violence against minority groups in America, but President Trump has not even admitted that his xenophobic campaign rhetoric is the culprit for the increase. So again I ask, what is the end result? We won’t leave America; we won’t disappear into the night. The majority of Indian Americans are here legally and are either already citizens or on the legal path to citizenship. We are here to stay. Instead of placing blame, we need to transform this awful situation into an opportunity. We need to seize control of the narrative and alter the way Indian Americans are portrayed by the Trump administration. Instead of being perceived as hostile immigrants who come to America to steal jobs away from Americans, we need to demonstrate that despite our different backgrounds, we have the same desires and values as Americans do. We need to go out into our communities and educate our neighbors to ensure that such a tragedy does not strike the Indian American community again.
In the meantime, let us remember. Four victims, three separate incidents, happening in less than two weeks, but only one mention by President Trump. What will it take for President Trump to acknowledge and speak out against the violence? Indian Americans are waiting, and we are listening.
This Op-Ed previously appeared in the India Abroad.