Harsh reminder that ‘model minority’ myth won’t protect Indian Americans in Trump’s America
At a bar in Olathe, Kansas, on Feb. 22, a 51-year-old white man named Adam Purinton, a Navy veteran, began hurling racial slurs at two engineers who were immigrants from India. He left the bar, returned with a handgun, yelled “get out of my country” and began firing. One of the Indian men, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, 32, died from his injuries.
This incident sent shockwaves through the Indian diaspora community, becoming the first hate crime against an Indian American publicized to an international degree. Still, the murder was a part of a disturbing trend, not an isolated incident.
Purinton’s actions cannot be directly connected with the hateful rhetoric of Donald Trump, but it is difficult to deny that there is an implicit link between the two. Trump’s xenophobic rhetoric and actions have empowered white supremacist bullies in the U.S.
Though Trump himself has never personally attacked the Indian American community, he has cultivated a mass-fear of Arab Muslims. Because Indian Americans are commonly mistaken for Arab Muslims, they too are at risk in this changed climate. As evidence, authorities learned that Purinton fled to an Applebee’s 82 miles from the bar where the murder took place and told the bartender he had just “killed two Middle Eastern men.”
Clearly, Trump’s Islamophobic rhetoric is dangerous for all minorities. But even as Trump targets Mexicans and Muslims, the Indian community has enjoyed a false sense of security, under the impression that Trump isn’t talking about them and they are safe because most are well-educated and contributing to the nation’s prosperity in the way Kuchibhotla was.
But making this assumption is a huge mistake. White supremacy groups and neo-Nazis have openly supported Trump and have grown more brazen about their visions of a white, Christian and patriarchal America after Trump’s election.
With low violent crime rates, a higher proportion of college degrees and higher-than-average incomes within the Indian American community, there is an ill-informed notion that their “model minority” status prevents them from the effects of race-based violence here.
The model minority, in the eyes of the greater American society, is privileged and therefore cannot experience the same type of racism as minority groups who generally are not as affluent.
But just because Indians do not experience the same level of socioeconomic hardship or government-sanctioned discrimination as other groups, it does not mean that they are immune to the prejudices that are held by xenophobes.
And even though Trump claimed on the campaign trail that the Indian American community would “have a true friend in the White House,” his little blurb explaining his reasoning should have clearly shown them that he was doing little more than spewing more nonsense. When Trump began pandering to Indian Americans, he did so in an almost insulting way. His entire basis on why Indian Americans should vote for him was that he “loved India” and “loved Hindus,” showing his admiration for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Trump’s classification of all Indians as Hindus clearly shows that he has no understanding of the diversity in Indian culture, which includes dozens of different religions and subcultures, such as Sikhs and Jains.
Furthermore, Trump, through these actions, showed that he views the Indian American community not as Americans but as a homogenous bloc of foreigners. Instead of showing them what their lives in the United States would be like under his presidency, he opted to ramble on about a country that many Indian Americans, especially those born here, view to be completely foreign. Additionally, he never addressed the fact that 10 percent of Indian Americans are Muslims, the main target of his diatribes.
Simply put, minorities in America must stand up for one another, setting aside colorblind metrics of success. Doing this would make every person of color in the U.S. that much safer.
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