These are the facts:
Last Wednesday, Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani – two Indian-born engineers living and working in the US – stepped into Austin’s Bar & Grill in Olathe, Kansas. As they had done so many times before, they ordered drinks and unwound after a long day of work. On this particular evening however, Kuchibhotla and Madasani were approached by another patron, Adam Purinton, who began to shout racial slurs at the two men and demanded to know “Which country are you from? Are you here illegally?”, before shouting “Get out of my country!”
Purinton was thrown out of the bar, only to return with a gun, opening fire on Kuchibhotla and Madasani. Kuchibhotla was killed and Madasani was injured, along with twenty-four year old patron Ian Grillot, who attempted to subdue Purinton. Purinton fled on foot, and was next seen five hours later at an Applebees across the state line. Purinton claimed openly to having killed “two Middle-Eastern men.” Purinton was promptly arrested and extradited from Missouri back to Kansas, where he has been charged with first-degree murder, bail set at two-million dollars.
Once again, these are the facts.
What follows is the tricky part.
How do I write about this – any of this – without devolving into incoherent rage? After all these tragedies over all these years, have we gotten any closer to make sense of the senseless?
Perhaps I could write about how Indians and Sikhs have repeatedly been the targets of hatred intended for Arabs and Muslims. How ever since 9/11, an entire group of people who have done nothing – nothing – to harm the US have been harassed, belittled, and even murdered.
But I can’t talk about that. Not because it isn’t true, but because it wouldn’t have made a difference. In the minds of bigots, there’s no distinction between Arab and Indian, between Muslim and Sikh.
Perhaps I could write about that instead.
After all, it’s familiar territory. Anyone who has followed this blog fro even a little while knows my and my co-author’s stance on racially accurate casting. This wouldn’t be the first time I’ve railed on Hollywood and TV for lazily casting Indian actors in Arab roles, believing all brown people to be interchangeable.
…But that would be talking about the symptom, not the cause. Adam Purintam did not murder Srinivas Kuchibhotla because he believed Kuchibhotla was Arab, he murdered him because he feared and hated the very sight of him. Once again, and with sickening irony, bigotry is not discriminating.
And perhaps I could write about that.
Bigotry doesn’t care if someone’s Arab or Indian and, by that same token, it doesn’t care if you’re a born-in-the-USA Hispanic-American or an illegal immigrant.
This feels especially poignant as conservatives rush to support the Trump administration the wake of this attack:
I’ve heard other conservatives boast about this same declaration – that they, unlike liberals – measure every individual as an individual, not in the context of their racial, religious, national, or economic background.
Which is, of course, absolute nonsense. If such a metric was actually being used, then there wouldn’t be repeated attempts at banning (legal) travelers from seven largely Muslim countries. If such a metric was actually being used, then people wouldn’t rally behind (often fabricated) examples terror attacks in other countries. Because every man, woman, and child would be judged by their actions and their character, not the actions of others.
And while I’d confront conservatives of all stripes with this dissonance, I especially want to hear from the small-yet-vocal racial and religious-minority Republicans. The “Latinos-for-Trump”…
…The administration’s Sikh supporters…
…black Republicans like Tim Scott, or Indian-Americans like Trump Administration UN ambassador Nikki Haley…
…How do you reconcile your fiery rhetoric on individualism with support for policies that treat people as everything but individuals? This spiteful bigotry is not – no matter how much you might wish it otherwise – relegated to a handful of fringe racists. This past election saw celebrated right-wing author and pundit Anne Coulter called for the deportation of Nikki Haley.
It didn’t matter that Haley was a popular and long-standing governor of South Carolina. It didn’t matter that Haley was born in the US. It didn’t matter that Haley took her own hardline stance on immigration and a host of conservative issues.
What mattered is that Haley is brown.
Lest anyone think that this was just some a one-off, Coulter would go on to attack Haley as a “second-generation immigrant“, tellingly using the term as an accusation. This, paired with Michelle Malkin’s defense of the interment of Japanese-Americans, Cliven Bundy’s speculation that black folks were “better off as slaves“, demonstrates the fundamental problem that Purinton shrieked:
“Get out of my country!”
I guess my question would be – what makes you think you’d be any different? What makes you think that if you salute the flag, love bald eagles, and address your Christmas letters to Ronald Reagan that you’ll be spared the same indignities, suspicion, and even violence that so many others live in fear of?
Though perhaps what I should really be asking is what makes any of us imagine that we’ll be spared. Don’t get me wrong – I would really and truly love to get a response from minority-group Republicans on how they can possibly
And as much as I’d hope to get an answer from minority-group Republicans, that’s a question we all need to be asking ourselves. What makes us imagine that such a thing could never happen to us?
Do we think our citizenship, our political views, our spotless criminal records, our good grades – any of it is going to make a difference? With rhetoric, then legislation, and now murderous violence, what’s it going to take for us to realize that none of us are exempt? How many people have to be killed before this is considered something more than an anomaly? How many times do Indian-Americans, Arab-Americans, Muslim-Americans, and Sikh-Americans need to be the victims of deadly violence before the US responds with the same righteous anger and resources it uses to combat fundamentalist violence? I know I’m not breaking any new ground here. All these questions have been asked before, time and time again. But until we have answers, we need to keep asking them.
There is no middle ground. There is no tolerable level of this toxic mentality. It falls to each and every one of us with a shred of decency to take a stand against it.