Hate Killings in America


While it is noteworthy that the FBI has announced its intention to investigate the case of murder of Srinivas Kuchibhotla as a hate crime, the reluctance of the local Olathe City Police Department to promptly prosecute it as such raises serious concerns. Any attempt by the authorities to limit prosecution to manslaughter in such a case would dangerously embolden racist and xenophobic elements in the society and make Mr Grillot's courageous intervention meaningless.

This is also a moment for Indian communities in the US to reflect, take stock, and prepare for the oncoming weeks and months of struggle against a rising tide of racism and xenophobia. While caution and care are important in the current American political environment, it is important that such caution not turn to defensiveness that emboldens white nationalists and racist bigots. In a recently released list of do's and don'ts, a prominent Indian-American community organization recommends behavioral changes such as not speaking in one's mother tongue in public. Even as Indian communities feel under siege and are scrambling to figure out ways to keep themselves and their families safe, Indians must ask themselves if the erasure of their very identities is not too high a price to pay for the presumed safety. In truth no amount of obedience and conformity to the rules of White supremacy will buy peace or dignity. Rather, such a voluntary surrender will only push back democratic rights of all immigrants and minorities. Speaking only English in public spaces will not make Browns 'White" nor give them any cover against racism. Instead, this is the moment for Indians to talk with others—especially other people of color and immigrants—in workspaces, in neighborhoods, and other public spaces.

Indians in America must get organized in broad coalitions with others who care and intend to defend immigrant minority rights: African-American, Asian-American, Latinx, White and other immigrant groups. This is the moment to research, locate and get involved with local immigrant civil or human rights organizations. Strength lies in recognition that most of the migrants are here as workers, whether they drive taxis in NYC or write code in the Bay area, and the only way forward is to build solidarity with other workers, regardless of where exactly they might be located on the economic ladder. That the US economy rewards each of these workers differently must not blind the people to the fact that they are all targets of racist discrimination. This recognition also binds Indian immigrants to the Mexican immigrant farmworkers in the tomato fields of Florida, and to the African-American worker doing overtime in the Detroit factory. When one hears white supremacist rhetoric about who rightfully belongs in the United States, there is every point to highlight that Garmin Corporation operates in 60 countries and that Goldman Sachs' capital circles the world everyday. When global capital has no barriers, why should the global worker? Immigrant workers have a right to be in the US; in other words, "We are here because you are there".

While working in solidarity and building community with others targeted by White supremacy is key to opposing the politics of hate inaugurated by the Trump administration, it is equally important that Indians examine their own attitudes to the politics of hate at 'home'. Narendra Modi and Amit Shah are not very different from Donald Trump and Steve Bannon; the Alt-Right and the Freedom Party not too distant from the RSS and the BJP. While people might voice opposition to being affected by US racism, too many of Indians remain silent on Hindu supremacist violence against minorities and Dalits in India, and about anti-blackness in the diaspora. It is crucial that Indians as immigrants commit themselves actively to anti-racist and anti-caste politics, and to ethnic and religious solidarity in both the US and India.

Vol. 49, No.39, April 2 - 8, 2017