The killing of Srinivas Kuchibhotla in Olathe, Kansas hit close to home for many of us. It’s tempting to assuage our concerns by labeling the shooting as an outlier incident in a conservative “red” state. But I keep coming back to two questions posed by Srinivas’s widow Sunayana in her poignant post on Facebook, where she asks, “Do we [Indians] belong here? Is this the same country we dreamed of, and is it still secure to raise our families and children here?”
Pay It Forward
My answer to Sunayana’s question of whether we belong here may seem to come from a “privileged” immigrant point of view of someone living in Silicon Valley, California; a place where the accomplishments and culture of nearly 100,000 Indian Americans is embraced and celebrated; where Google CEO Sundar Pichai, billionaire entrepreneur Vinod Khosla, House Representative Ro Khanna, and Senator Kamala Harris are our neighbors.
No matter where in India we hail from, or where we call home in the United States, as immigrants we personify the same drive and discipline to reach our highest potential. And subsequently, we do have a shared desire to give back to our adoptive country. We are part of an extraordinary community whose contributions continue to pave the way for America’s undisputed technological, financial and industrial leadership.
So yes, I believe we belong here. We have worked very hard to get here, and we are not resting on our laurels. And, we are paying our taxes and paying forward.
Prejudice Is Here To Stay
That brings me to Sunayana’s second question: Is it still safe for Indian Americans to raise our families and children here?
I believe we are no more or no less safe than before because this recent wave of racist incidents didn’t just come out of nowhere. America’s history has always been punctuated by periods of discrimination against ethnicities, communities and ideologies deemed “different” or “unamerican.” But this is not the case just in America. Bigotry borne of ignorance and fear of the unknown may not be as overt, but it exists everywhere. Our motherland has quite a checkered history of intolerance of Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, women, and towards those belonging to lower castes.
The only difference for us here and now is that Donald Trump’s rhetoric has granted carte blanche for blatant expressions of fear and hatred. And his what can only be called perfunctory “condemnation” of recent hate crimes has driven us to this climate of turmoil.
Trust In The Good
So, what do we do?
We make sure that our voices are heard at all levels – from our city councils and school boards, to our state, and ultimately federal government. We support organizations like the ACLU and Planned Parenthood so they can continue to fight on our behalf. We push back every time we experience ignorance and prejudice. It may be scary, but it’s the only way to eradicate ignorance and fear.
And finally, we have faith that there is a lot “more good” in this world than bad. When Adam Purinton shot Srinivas and his friend, Ian Grillot, a bystander, intervened, and was seriously injured. Asked why he did what he did, he said it was the right thing to do as a fellow human.
In her Facebook post, Sunayana recalled that whenever she would express doubts about their future in America, Srinivas would say, “if we think good [sic], be good, then good will happen to us and we will be safe.”
Let’s prove Srinivas right.
Vibeka is a well-intentioned mother, daughter and wife living in the Bay Area. She loves to write, sing, and express her opinions to whomsoever will listen.