Empathy and Proper Recognition – thoughts from an immigrant

There is talk of rising intolerance in the US towards immigrants, persons of color, and the Jewish community since Donald J. Trump was elected in November. There are documented cases of threatening calls to Jewish centers and synagogues, as well as the defacement of Jewish cemeteries and other religious debasement on the part of yet unknown parties. Tragically, we have also seen this bigotry result in the targeted shooting of two Indian engineers in a case of cultural ignorance, as well as a good Samaritan who intervened. The reason? One deluded fool’s belief in his ability to choose who gets to live here.

Being an immigrant from India, the shooting does hit close to home. It is a tragic and unfortunate event that I wish never happened, like any act of senseless violence. I hope the family of the deceased pulls through and is able to deal with this terrible loss, and that God can give the injured a speedy recovery. There are however a few observations that I have arrived at, since this tragic incident that I would like to share with you.

One thing the media is failing to cover justly, in favor of tongue lashing the Trump administration and sexy headlines about a hate crime, are the heroics of Ian Grillot – an everyday American who chose to intervene rather than allow for the gunman to continue. Both the US and Indian media instead, seem to be pushing a thinly veiled trope, alluding that this is yet further evidence that people who voted for Donald Trump are filled with hate and responsible for violence like this. Now, I personally know a good number of people who voted for President Trump, and I for one will not give into the fear-mongering that is being pushed on them.

I have been lucky enough to travel quite a bit in this country, through huge parts of the South, Midwest, the ‘Rust Belt’, some parts of the East Coast, and the West. I have met and interacted with all kinds of people. I have stayed in the homes of Trump supporters, enjoyed dinner, wine, conversation, and political disagreement (mostly over tariffs and infrastructure plans). We’ve drank beer and shot guns together, jammed out to music, gone off-roading, and even lit up the BBQ for them when they were struggling. The important takeaway from my observations is that many of these maligned Americans are good, decent people. They in turn recognize good human beings, whom they enjoy spending time with, regardless of ethnicity or race. Their only crime is voting for one of the two least popular Presidential candidates in American History.

I will be honest with you, through my time in the United states, I have experienced little prejudice. And the prejudice I did experience, were from the people I least expected. Of course, I mean prejudice in for the color of my skin or my ethnicity, not for the color of my politics and belief in free markets because oh boy – that’s a whole different story.

Another interesting observation is people’s compulsive desire to express their empathy to me after this tragedy. And really, if your empathy is sincere, I am fine with and appreciate it. However, I really do not appreciate media narratives and people trying to make political outreach to me by using the “guy who looks like you got shot and you should be afraid” card – It’s quite disgusting and pathetic. If you look at some reporting, they make it seem like this was the first time an Indian immigrant has been killed in the United States due to mistaken cultural identity, which couldn’t be further from the truth. There have been multiple instances of deaths due to mistaken cultural identity that persons of Indian origin have endured over the years, under the presidencies of Bill Clinton, George Bush, and Barack Obama.

Of 330+ million folks who live in this nation, I am sure there are a few people who do not want to see a person that looks like me walking around. But I refuse to live my life in fear, or engage in fear mongering and gross over-generalizations. To those in the larger Indian immigrant community who are fearful: hold your head up. Work hard and continue to build opportunities for yourself and your families. And never forget to live free, you do own yourself, and isn’t that part of the reason we chose to come to the United States to begin with? There is absolutely nothing to gain from living in an atmosphere of artificially generated fear, enhanced by isolated incidents that are sensationalized to fit political narratives.

PS: If you really feel threatened, that’s precisely why the Second Amendment exists. Get trained, stay armed, remain vigilant, and refuse to be a victim.

Questions, comments, gripes or complaints?