Some of the last words Srinivas Kuchibhotla ever heard were “get out of my country.”
Then he, along with two other men, one of whom was also Indian-American, was shot in what can only be called a hate crime. We are horrified by the shooting, but unfortunately unsurprised at its occurrence.
That lack of surprise at violence perpetrated against immigrants should be startling. As a country that prides itself on multiculturalism, how in the world did we end up here? Leading up to and following the presidential election last November, a wave of hate crimes has swept the country—1,094 incidents in the month following the election alone. Many of the crimes were motivated by racist anti-immigrant sentiments. And while racism—thing might cause someone to shoot a person just because of the pigment of their skin—is nothing new, its resurgence raises important questions about unity and minority safety in the United States under a President Donald Trump.
Trump’s name has played a large role in the resurgence. Just last Tuesday, Duke hosted two leaders of the Southern Poverty Law Center to discuss the very issue. Richard Cohen, the group’s president, stated that Trump’s rhetoric and association with Stephen Bannon had energized the alt-right, spurring on white nationalist sentiment. Trump, through intermediaries, has of course denied that. His press secretary, Sean Spicer, when asked about Trump’s responsibility in the shooting, responded that “to suggest that there’s any correlation…is a bit absurd.” We find the Trump administration’s response to be absurd itself. To run a campaign on angry slogans of “taking our country back” and returning America to its olden days and then claim that fanatics acting on those slogans were not inspired by them is more than a bit disingenuous.
Of equal importance though are the words Trump and his team have failed to say. In the days following the shooting, he has not said nor tweeted anything about it. Trump has never been a president who has shied away from controversy, so we are left to believe that perhaps his silence is a manifestation of the blindness he has developed towards people and causes he deems unworthy of his Twitter feed. Christians in the Middle East and “Chicago needs help!” exclamations make the cut, but brown-skinned victims of hate crimes in Kansas do not. That should not be so: a president’s job is to care for all citizens, even ones not in his voting coalition.
As troubled as we are by Trump’s unwillingness to address hate in the United States, we do not intend the takeaway from this editorial to be a list of reasons to berate him. Instead, we prefer it to be a lesson about how citizens should respond. Without a doubt, the vast majority of Trump supporters care about protecting their fellow citizens from murder. They did not vote for racism and despise its existence. But they did vote for a president who has inspired racism, and as such it is critical for them to take a stand and force our president to speak up. For those who do not count themselves as Trump supporters, it is easy to abdicate personal responsibility by claiming that their job was over after they cast votes on Nov. 8. That cannot be further from the truth. Just because Donald Trump will not acknowledge the shooting of three innocent men in Kansas or recognize the increases in hate crimes across the country, it does not mean others should not. In fact, it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that these events are not forgotten or erased from the public consciousness. It is our job to stand up for and stand behind all of our fellow Americans, foreign-born or not.
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