I would watch in anger my colleagues and friends of Indian heritage as they stood at the side-lines because they felt that the cop-on-black violence was the fault of the black people more so as the people who it seemed to happen to were not professionals like them. The death of Srinivas Kuchibhotla, shot to death last month in a Kansas bar and another Indian man, Deep Rai shot outside his home in Kent, Washington has brought it closer home to them. The changes in the H1B Visa program which brought in a lot of them have made them also see that the job threats Americans felt they faced was not limited to the Hispanic community. Now for the first time, Indians are thinking about race and what black people went through in this country and are still going through with Hispanics in the country they call home.
The Indian-Americans have subscribed to the notion of the “model minority” immune from racism because typically many of them in the US are successful entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers, professors and techies or people in high-earning profession. They lived in comfortable middle-class white neighbourhoods with other high-earning individuals with their biggest problem being getting their kids into Stanford, MIT or Harvard. This insulated them and gave them the false security that were a cut-above the racism issue. I know that the high socioeconomic status of most of these Indian-American have brainwashed them into thinking their skin colour does not matter, even going as far as making a lot of them identify more with the white people. It goes as far as Indian-Americans getting upset with you if you confuse them with Arabs or people from Muslim countries because they considered themselves quasi white.
The early Indian migrants did not have it easy when they came to America. They were treated as 2nd class citizens, couldn’t own properties, were not allowed a path to citizenship so could not vote. President Harry Truman as part of the Immigration Act of 1946, gave Indians the right to citizenship, own property and vote. However the other side of the law was that it also established a quota system where only 100 Indians were allowed into America every year. This was reversed by the 1965 Immigration Act which opened the way for the present day migration of Indians that we have now in the US. In 1960, only 12,000 Indian immigrants lived in America but that number has grown to more than 2.4 million. This number does not include the ones arriving with temporary work visas. It is estimated that 70% of the 85,000 H1B visas handed out annually to highly skilled workers in the US go to Indians but that may change with the new changes outlined in the Trump’s administration Immigration act.
Before, the dream of most graduates of engineering or computer science in India was to come to America to work or those already schooling in America to get good jobs to stay back after graduation. Now, most Indian families want their children to return home after graduation. I now hear friends and colleagues talk about friends and family happy that their children have returned home or relieved that they have chosen a college in Europe or the Middle East, instead of America. That is the new reality for these Indians – Post Obama.
I am sad at the death of Srinivas whose only crime was the “wrong” skin colour but there is a saying in my Igbo dialect that translates to “what happened to me should happen to someone else so they will know”. The death and racial threats to Indian Americans have made them see that you are either white or not white – there is no quasi white, pseudo white or half white.
We should always have in mind the words of Martin Niemoller –
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Indian- Americans, it is time to finally speak up and stand with other minorities that have faced racism now that there is still someone to speak and stand with you.
Article – courtesy of NKA.