Srinivas Kuchibhotla killed in Kansas shooting: Why Trumpism will continue to fuel racial violence

Under the current circumstances, why are we so shocked that an Indian was killed in a deliberate "get out of my country" exhibition of gratuitous violence by an elderly American in Olathe, Kansas?

Would the possible hate crime be any less significant if Srinivas Kuchibhotla – an Indian engineer killed in the attack – was Middle Eastern, Mexican or Indonesian?; or if his name was Juan, Rudi or Umaid? As long as he was not 'white', he was fair game.

Isn’t this exactly the sentiment incessantly expressed on TV, radio and newspapers by US President Donald Trump? It seems that the wild and woolly west is back. The killer would've believed in his heart that he was getting rid of the brown, black and yellow vermin plaguing his nation, doing his newly elected hero in the White House a favour.

Srinivas Kuchibhotla was killed in the Kansas shootout. Twitter/@SikhProf

Srinivas Kuchibhotla was killed in the Kansas shootout. Twitter/@SikhProf

After all, if you live in 'hinterland US', you don’t care about the fact that killing people in cold blood is not an option. But then, as an army veteran and the sort of lower-middle class American who has shot up coloured people, and sees them as the enemy, this is exactly how this segment of the most powerful nation in the world has responded, through the ages.

For immigrants – like the Irish who were termed as black, the Chinese who were called locusts, the Italians who were interned at Ellis Island as rats being led by the Pied Piper – the history of this country is full of prejudice. In 1919, the US had a ‘closed gate’ policy promulgated and a literacy test put in place, so this approach towards immigration is not a novel Trumpism. They decimated the native Indians, enslaved and sold African-Americans and set up internment camps for Japanese-Americans after Pearl Harbour. All in the name of security.

Ironically, it is these very immigrants – who were treated badly in the past – who are allowing others to be treated so now.

In all fairness, if you spend the whole day being brainwashed by such hostility by your media and if your IQ is below average, then why would you not be susceptible to pick up guns and, with a little bit of liquid courage, go on a rampage.

In your mind, you are doing a service to your country and for that, your President would be grateful. This is where Trump has erred in whipping up racial sentiment. He believed that the public he was riling up would be able to see the intrinsic difference between illegals, criminals, drug lords, and those who wished the US harm and between anyone who was not white but added great value to the nation’s common wealth – be it a student, a practitioner of medicine, an IT specialist, a businessman or any of a hundred other professions, including serving in uniform.

But sadly, they do not know the difference. All they know is the message. That brown, black, yellow; those who dress different and don’t speak English, are the reason behind all your ills and problems.

And now, even as authorities diddle with canned statements of investigating Kuchibhotla's death, the fear has become real. Because, just like Adam Purinton, the assailant, there are thousands of other citizens who are ready to join the lynch mob and 'string 'em up'.

We, the rest of the world, believe so strongly in the Hollywood packaging of America that we tend to overlook the fact that kooks and nut jobs exist in their society, just as much as anywhere else.

The world sees US through a prism of Will Smith, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, the silver-tongued Obamas, the Simpsons and the Modern Families, and the great American dream; the triumph of good over evil, the dedicated survivor and law and order – all the 'good' in the world. Hence, we never acknowledge the dark underbelly of the country, unless something unspeakable happens.

When a president starts stirring the embers of racial categories and makes it clear that there are 'them' and 'us' – even if he uses crime and legal precedents as his defence – by the time the media has spread the word and a hundred spin-offs of the Ku Klux Klan have catapulted the gospel of loathing through social platforms, the vigilante in the American DNA is up and ready to ‘defend’ his turf.

This is just the beginning. The first of many such deaths to come. Now that the evil genii are out of the bottle, can anyone put them back?

Do the millions of non-whites run to their homes, fall upon their knees and call upon their gods to intermit this plague... for out there somewhere is another Purinton, cocking his rifle.

Twenty years from now, Purinton will probably still be on death row, fighting for clemency, while the Kuchibhotla family will be looking for closure.

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Updated Date: Feb 25, 2017 15:44:11 IST

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