“How dare you stand here and sully this campus knowing what you people have done?” “Don’t you think we would all be better off if you people went back home?”
Last week, a woman visiting campus stopped me from entering the Healey Family Student Center and repeatedly told me to go back home. Previously, during the last summer, an elderly couple decked in “Make America Great Again” propaganda said I should be grateful to have been allowed to remain in the United States and that the “browns” were properly rounded up and “dealt with.”
We Indian-Americans have always felt torn between two communities that never truly accepted us. It is not all that surprising that most of us have dealt with the usual comments ranging from mocking the Apu accent to brownface to bomb jokes. However, it was not until after the election that I realized that mockery had turned into murder. It became clear that being Indian-American meant a fresh bullseye on each of our backs.
In February, two Indian men — Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani — and a bystander, Ian Grillot, who spoke up to defend the victims, were shot at a bar in Kansas because the attacker mistook them to be Iranian. Last month, Deep Rai, an American Sikh man from Kensington, Wash., was shot in his driveway after a similar exchange, while Harnish Patel was fatally shot outside his home in South Carolina, after living in the United States for 14 years.
Up until now, I have handled biased encounters somewhat gracefully, but when that woman in the HFSC put her hands on me, my mind went blank. Fear took over and as her grip tightened, I thought back to recent attacks on Indians. We are told to be careful and stay safe, but the reality is that ignorance has reached a point where life and death are seemingly out of our control.
While many immigrant communities face discrimination, Indian-Americans are often told to brush it off, because at 1.25 percent of the American population, we are a minority even within other minorities. Hindus are in the singular position of having to fight without significant support from other disenfranchised communities, even though we are expected to stand with them. We are told that our fight is not as dire at the moment, and focusing on us would take away from more populated causes. But if it is not dire to be shot at a bar or outside one’s home solely for brown skin or a turban, then I do not know what is.
Frustratingly, many Indian-Americans themselves show a complete disregard for the importance of advocacy. They will “be brown” when convenient, but rarely prioritize events such as vigils or discussions that would often mean taking a hard look at the way they act. Our own rampant Islamophobia and Hinduphobia are not addressed.
I was fed up hearing disrespectful comments about Pakistan among fellow Indian-Americans and was almost kicked off of a WhatsApp group for saying so. Meanwhile, a Pakistani friend has heard family say Hindus deserve what is coming. If members of our community can make it a point to stand with the Black Lives Matter movement or the LGBTQ marches, they can do so for their own people as well.
For us to feel confident in our place in American society, we first need to come together and unify under common causes. Cultural appropriation and misrepresentation may seem trivial, but allowing us to showcase our heritage does wonders for our psyche and moral.
Our fight as a people and country is a long one and nothing will progress if we do not have the emotional bandwidth to keep it going. I will not apologize for being a proud American and will tell you that hiding behind your right to an opinion is hypocritical when it involves taking away the voices and rights of others. Ignorance may have won the election, but if we can recognize the importance of advocacy from those inside and outside the community, it will not win the war.
Karishma Trivedi is a junior in the School of Nursing and Health Studies.
Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.