The Arrowhead

Op-ed: Divergence: Response to the Shooting of Srinivas Kuchibhotla

The 'City on a Hill' is crumbling around us as immigrants face oppression at the hands of those who seem to have forgotten how our nation came to be.

A+memorial+of+Srinivas%2C+who+was+shot+in+Kansas%2C+and+later+cremated+in+his+home+of+Hyderabad.%0ACredit%3A+Hindustan+Times
A memorial of Srinivas, who was shot in Kansas, and later cremated in his home of Hyderabad.
Credit: Hindustan Times

A memorial of Srinivas, who was shot in Kansas, and later cremated in his home of Hyderabad. Credit: Hindustan Times

A memorial of Srinivas, who was shot in Kansas, and later cremated in his home of Hyderabad. Credit: Hindustan Times

Neelay Trivedi, Staff Writer

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As a political journalist, I am acutely aware of the important role statistics play in making an article credible. However, today, I will not regard the shooting of Srinivas Kuchibhotla as another entry in the Department of Justice hate crime database. I will not talk about the rapid year by year uptick in the number of hate crimes in the United States. I will instead recount this incident as an American, deeply concerned about the divergence in how my fellow citizens perceive our country’s rich heritage built by immigrants.

As an Indian-American whose parents came to this country seeking a life of prosperity and freedom, my initial reaction to Kuchibhotla’s murder was one of anger and frustration. I was deeply disturbed by this senseless attack on a member of my community and my culture. In times like these, it is easy to regress to the relative comfort of a protectionist ideology, one that asserts America should close its borders to immigrants both for Americans’ sake and for the sake of immigrants like Kuchibhotla who might otherwise be the target of racism and violence. But an America closed to immigration is an America closed to innovation and ingenuity. An America closed to immigration is a hypocritical America. The same white supremacists who today confidently pursue a racist agenda against anyone they see as foreign or part of a minority forget that they too were immigrants once upon a time, seeking salvation in a land of freedom and acceptance.

The United States is not like other nations, which have built their sovereignty upon the storied traditions of a privileged religious or ethnic majority. The United States is a bold experiment, an exercise in political innovation, a testament to the power of hard work, a nation that owes its success to the success of its immigrants. We are a city upon a hill formed from the common belief that this will always be a place where there is enough opportunity to go around.

Lately, though, it feels like the hill is crumbling, falling into an ocean of complacency and conventionality that undermines America’s status as a safe-haven for those escaping oppression and seeking a better life. Empathy is often underestimated. A factory worker in Michigan or a retired naval officer who feel disenfranchised and left behind by a changing economy might resort to racism: ugly, devastating, deadly racism. But their voices cannot be silenced, their grievances cannot be ignored. I am aware of the society I live in, a society that has let down the shooter just as much as it let down Kuchibhotla, in more ways than one. I live in a society that denied the shooter, Adam Purinton, an outlet to voice his discontent, failed to address the signs of his hatred, and nurtured his racist ideology. The society I live in, and its failure to combat this ideology,  is ultimately responsible for Kuchibhotla’s death.

Ultimately, it is our responsibility as Americans to realize that Kuchibhotla’s death is not surprising at all. Rather, it is evidence of a gravely concerning transition in how Americans treat their recently immigrated counterparts. The pent up frustration of millions who watched silently as recent immigrants took their jobs and their livelihoods is finally manifesting itself as what it was destined to become: raw, unyielding violence of the worst kind. And it would be naive to treat Indian-Americans as the sole victim. It is becoming increasingly clear that harboring hate for a whole variety of ethnic groups not fortunate enough to enjoy the “benefits” of white skin and Christian faith is acceptable and encouraged. Trump’s election has shown that even the political mainstream is not immune from the “good graces” of this divergent nativism. And this change is perhaps the most concerning of them all.

 

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Op-ed: Divergence: Response to the Shooting of Srinivas Kuchibhotla