By now, we have all heard the details of the case. Srinivas Kuchibhotla and his friend Alok Madasani were in a bar when a 55-year old Caucasian man, Adam Purinton, shouted racial slurs which included the epithet, “Go back to your country.” Purinton left the bar to return with a gun and shot at the engineers, believing that they were of Middle Eastern descent. Srinivas Kuchibhotla died in the incident, while his friend Alok was hospitalized and then released. A third man, Ian Grillot attempted to tackle Purinton to the ground before being shot. He is recovering in the hospital from a gunshot wound.
When Sean Spicer, the White House’s press secretary was asked about whether the President’s hateful rhetoric could be connected in any way with this incident, he replied, “To suggest that there’s any correlation, I think, is a bit absurd. So, I’m not going to go any further than that.”
Their words and actions match perfectly – say little, do little.
Hate speech is being treated with a wink and a nod. Former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos’s hateful rhetoric was lauded as free speech till he was caught in an old video talking casually about pedophilia, anti-Semitic actions go on without any denouncement, and chants of “Lock her up!” directed at Hillary Clinton at a Florida rally drew a benign smile from the President with no condemnation whatsoever.
The actions of the President’s team are very clear – what is not clear to me is – How are we going to respond?
The prevailing anti-Muslim sentiment within Hindu and Christian families found some South Asians supporting Trump before the election. “Oh, finally, there is one person who can stand up to Muslims,” was the oft-heard refrain.
What I said in response – “When a racist looks at you and me and our skin color, he does not know the difference between a Vaidhyanathan, a Cherian or a Mohammed,” fell on deaf ears. When hateful words are spoken by people in power, we can never ever predict how it will affect individuals in society is what I said then.
Amar, Akbar, Anthony – we are all the same.
A similar sentiment was expressed by Siva Sundaram of Harvard Medical School in hisstory.
Now, will we all stand up for everyone who is being targeted by this new government? Jews, blacks, Muslims, Hindus, Mexicans, Christians – we all count; we are all human.
Nirupama Vaidhyanathan is the current Managing Editor of India Currents magazine.