Tag Archives: Srinivas Kuchibhotla

Amar, Akbar, Anthony – We are all the same

Kevin Yoder, Republican Congressman has invited Sunayana Damala to attend the State of the Union address by President Trump this evening. His Twitter message reads, “I asked Sunayana to be my guest as a recognition for her tireless efforts to promote peace, and as a message to the Indian community that the United States is a nation of immigrants and they are welcome here.” As we get ready for the State of the Union address this evening, we republish an article that we published last year when Srinivas Kuchibhotla was gunned down in Kansas.

The following article was first published on February 28, 2017. 

In the wake of the senseless killing of Srinivas Kuchibhotla we, at India Currents, strongly condemn the silence of President Donald Trump. This weekend alone, Trump has tweeted about the Oscars, about the “failing” New York Times, missing the White House Correspondents’ Dinner – but, not a single word about the hate crime that took the life of the Indian American engineer.

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 his story. 

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. 

Indian Americans, Do We Belong?

Indian Americans, Do We Belong?

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.