Since the death of Srinivas Kuchibhotla, an Indian immigrant and one of the victims of the hate crime that took place in Kansas City last month, I have read multiple articles shared on Facebook by Barnumbia students about how Hindu Americans are not as safe as they originally thought. While I do not disagree with the anger over this blatant act of racism, the sudden push for solidarity now seems conveniently timed. Hindu Americans should not be showing solidarity because any brown person can be mistaken for Muslim—rather, we should be joining in solidarity simply because it is the right thing to do. In fact, we should have been showing solidarity years ago.
Hindu Americans have never been safe. The Republican Hindu Coalition can put on extravagant fundraisers and hire hotshot Bollywood celebrities, but no amount of money can protect black and brown bodies. Among the community, there is a misconception that whiteness can be bought. However, no salary or “respectable” job will equalize the racial divide. In fact, being a “model minority” may be exactly why the threat of “the other” is so prominent. Money, success, and faith didn’t protect Dr. Kaushal Saran or Navroze Mody, two of the victims during Jersey City Dotbuster travesties of the ’80s, and they didn’t protect Srinivas Kuchibhotla 30 years later. Those three attributes, in reality, seem to have made them more vulnerable.
It’s a popular opinion within the Hindu community that Indian Americans have “come a long way.” This is to say that, because of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Donald Trump’s newly budding friendship, the murders, hate crimes, stereotyping, and discrimination are all to be forgiven and forgotten.
To be more specific, I was recently told that my generation is too liberal and ungrateful; we weren’t witness to the fatal incidents during the Dotbuster movement or the discrimination our parents faced as they worked to climb the ranks. But there have been even more incidents reported since the murder of Kuchibhotla of hate crimes against South Asians. My generation is a witness to these atrocities and everything in between them. We are living our young adulthoods in Trump’s America and his insincere adoration for “Hindu” and “India” is not a magical shield against racism.
The racism and xenophobia Hindu Americans face is not the same as Islamophobia, but they are not mutually exclusive. We should not be fighting only when we are victims of mistaken identity, or when our community is personally attacked, but should be fighting anti-Islam rhetoric as a whole. Hindu Americans need to show solidarity with Muslims and other marginalized communities in the United States. Riding the coattails of othering Muslim Americans and joining an imaginary league of whiteness are two prime examples of the hypocrisy that will never allow Hindu Americans to truly achieve what many think we already have.
Unfortunately, the Hindu-Muslim animosity has roots so deep, prior to even British rule over India. It’s disappointing, but not surprising, that many Hindu Americans ignore the atrocities Muslim Americans are facing. Hindu Americans who continue to stand silent are an obstacle. Although aspects of racism are shared among other religious groups and are aspects of Desi-ness in general, I am done with the idealization of whiteness in my own community and the “don’t marry a Muslim or black person” rhetoric. And I have had more than enough of the lack of resistance to this presidency in a quest for white acceptance.
Silence is support. To not talk about issues like Islamophobia among our community encourages the detrimental structures of power that lead us to institutionalized racism and exclusionary government policies. The Desi Americans who choose to turn a blind eye in this trying time and decide to “become white” are not the people with which I want to associate my heritage and identification. Rather than remaining silent or supporting the presidency, we should be aligning ourselves with all minorities to fight back against systemic racism. This means practicing intersectional feminism, supporting the Movement for Black Lives, and fighting anti-Islamic sentiments.
To my fellow Desi liberals around the nation, and specifically of Barnumbia, who come home from anti-Trump protests and go on Facebook to write rants: The fight is not only in Spectator comments section or at the Low Steps protests where you call out Trump, his cronies, and his white followers. The fight continues at home.
The author is a Barnard sophomore studying economics. She is also a member of SGA, Columbia Bhangra, and has a Bollywood-hemed WBAR show Fridays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
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