There is a myth perpetuated by many that being a part of a “model” minority automatically ensures you safety and privileges not afforded to the rest of the population.
Generally comprised of high-earning, well-educated professionals who don’t get in trouble with the law, residents of the United States with roots in India fit the definition of a model minority perfectly.
Lately, the myth of a special safe status has proved to be fatally flawed.
It began with the murder last month of Indian engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla in Olathe, Kan. According to reports, former Navy seaman Adam Purinton, mistaking Kuchibhotla as Iranian, screamed “get out of my country” before fatally shooting him and injuring two others (including a white man named Ian Grillot who put his life on the line attempting to save the fallen engineer).
Kuchibhotla’s wife came out to condemn the violence and urge peace and compassion. Her words assured us that this tragedy was a horrible exception and not the norm.
And so, when, only a few weeks later, law-abiding convenience store owner Harnish Patel was murdered while closing up shop in South Carolina after 14 years of peacefully living in this country without even a speeding ticket, we shrugged it off as another terrible exception.
Within a short span of time, Deep Rai (a U.S. citizen of Indian origin) joined the list of victims of attacks perpetuated against Indians, when a lone white man reportedly screamed at him to go back to his own country before shooting at him. Thankfully, Rai survived, but not without sustaining serious injuries. Notably, Rai is a practicing Sikh who wears a turban out of devotion. Since 9/11, there have been an increased number of hate crimes against Sikhs after assailants assumed them to be Muslim.
Just days ago in Florida, an elderly white man attempted to set fire to an Indian couple’s convenience store after mistaking them as being of Middle Eastern descent, authorities said.
The terror isn’t just limited to blatant violence. A video recently posted to an anti-immigration website called SaveAmericanITJobs.com features a white man stalking Indian American families relaxing at a park in Columbus, Ohio, claiming that wealthy and educated Indian families are displacing the American workforce.
My white friends and fellow Indian-Americans tell me not to worry. In fact, they tell me all Indians should be fine. As a model minority, we are typically well-educated and law-abiding. We respect the institutions of America; we may celebrate our culture but we assimilate within the U.S. populace with ease and don’t want to change the American justice system to reflect Indian values.
They remind me (very rightly) of the inherent goodness of most Americans. Most Americans don’t go around killing their Indian-American neighbors, screaming at them to “go back” or stalking them. Most Americans are kind, friendly and more welcoming than any other people on the planet.
And yet, I can’t help shake the feeling that I, and other Indians living in the U.S., are in danger.
I can’t shake the feeling that we are at risk through no fault of our own.
I can’t shake the feeling that unless we put a stop to this culture of hysteria and hate early on, our beloved country will be forever changed.
Ria Chakraborty lives in Farmington.