After what happened in Charlottesville recently, it would not be far-fetched to say that race relations in the USA today have hit a low point, something which has not been seen since the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964. Right-wing ultra-nationalists organised a demonstration protesting the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in mid-August, where they were chanting slogans like “White Lives Matter” and “Blood and Soil” among other fascist slogans. When anti-racist counter-demonstrations were organised the following week, a speeding car ran over the protestors, killing one and injuring over twenty people. The driver was later arrested and was charged with second-degree murder.
While this event has done enough to give birth to an international controversy, eliciting a response even from President Donald Trump, whose comments resulted in exacerbating the situation rather than cooling it down; it is not exactly news to the minorities, including those of an Indian origin (despite this ethnic group being the most well-off according to a recent official survey), who have been subject to racial violence since Lyndon Johnson’s 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act allowed them inside the USA.
While one can always claim that one of the worst times for an Indian (especially for a Sikh) in the USA was right after the 9/11 attacks, the Indians living in the USA feel that they are being subject to unprecedented hostility since Donald Trump began his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in mid-2015.
The racial violence reached a peak in February 2017, when a string of attacks on Indian-Americans were made, beginning in Kansas, where an engineer from Hyderabad, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, was shot dead in a bar by a man (who happens to be a US Navy veteran) screaming, “terrorist” and “get out of my country”, and other xenophobic things. It was followed by a few racially-motivated attacks in Washington and other states, sending the Indian-American community in the USA into a state of fear and caution.
To worsen the state of things, an immigration-reform advocacy website called SaveAmericanITJobs.org, released a video of Indian families relaxing in a park in suburban Columbus, Ohio, with the cameraman, Steve Pushor, saying things like, “You see this whole area is all Indian, amazing. The Indian crowd has ravished the Midwest. It’s crazy.” This has added to an atmosphere of dread which had already been created in mid-2015, when the Trump campaign took off.
Although many right-leaning Hindus, those who support the current government led by Narendra Modi in India, have extended their support, in the form of endorsements and cash donations, to Donald Trump’s campaign of petty xenophobia and fear-mongering, the fact remains that Trump’s supporters on the grass-root level remain blissfully ignorant of the ethnic and cultural differences between Indians and those coming from middle-eastern Muslim countries, like Egypt and Iraq.
Another issue the Indian-Americans face in the USA today is a lack of adequate political representation from within the community, something which they enjoy in the UK. Apart from a few governors (who come from the conservative side of the political spectrum and are elected to office in conservative southern states) and a few federal level representatives, the Indian community does not have a politically-motivated vanguard defending its interests in the political arena in the USA today. No wonder many Indian-Americans are asking the question, “Do we belong here?’, in the aftermath of all this racial violence.