NEW YORK: Most Americans who read news of a racial attack in Peyton, Colorado, won’t know from which part of the world the victim is from, his religion, going by his first name: Saravanan. I can make out. So can probably all first generation Indians. Saravanan is from India, or at least his parents are, of Tamil-origin. He’s a Hindu.
The attack this past Sunday by unidentified perpetrators on Saravanan’s house (he chose to give only his first name in an interview to a local TV station, keeping his face covered) seemed planned on a war footing: dog feces smeared on the garage, some 40 eggs splattered, about 50 hate messages and racial slurs posted, sprayed all over his property. A bystander going past would be pardoned for thinking it was an abandoned house, vandalized beyond belief; interiors in smithereens.
The hate messages posted at Saravanan’s house are similar to racist fliers targeting Indian families in parts of Texas, communities in Norwalk, Connecticut. The gist of it: Brown people don’t belong in America. White people do. So, get out.
So, what should Brown people of all religions do? Should those who are ensconced in wealthy suburbs hope, pray that random hate attacks won’t target them? Should those who stay in middle class neighborhoods hope neighbors won’t turn against them, strangers won’t accost them? Hope against hope that most Americans understand Indians are peace-loving folks, from the land of Mahatma Gandhi. That they love America. Send mental telepathy waves: ‘please don’t hit and hurt us’.
It’s important to understand a crucial factor: White supremacists, racists don’t give a damn about what religion you’re from. Hindu. Muslim. Christian. Sikh. It doesn’t make any difference to them. They react purely to Brown or Black skin color (unless you are a Jew). White nationalists are petrified of Whites turning into a minority community.
One thing’s for sure: the recent wave of racial attacks and violence against the Indian community since the presidential elections of November, 2016, is shaping up to be another anxious time for the community, after the deadly attacks by the hate group Dotbusters in New Jersey for almost six years, beginning from the fall of 1987, and the post-9/11 era.
A group of Gujarati men, who were called collectively as the ‘Patels’, had even formed small groups to counter physically the Dotbusters after a spate of attacks on young Indian women and men, in Jersey City. The Dotbusters especially targeted women wearing bindis; even published their hate propaganda in a local newspaper in 1987, proclaiming: ‘If I’m walking down the street and I see a Hindu and the setting is right, I will hit him or her.’
A dastardly attack by Dotbusters took the life of a Parsi man, Navroze Mody. A few days after the attack on Mody, another Indian man, Kaushal Saran, was beaten into a coma. The first victim in the wake of 9/11 was a Sikh man: Balbir Singh Sodhi, a gas station owner in Mesa, Arizona. Since then, many Sikh men have been and continue to get attacked and bullied by racists who think they are acting out against Muslims. In December, 2012, a Hindu man, Sunando Sen, was pushed to his death on the path of an incoming track, on a subway station in Queens, New York, by a woman who later proclaimed that she hated Muslims.
Sikh lawyer, activist and documentary filmmaker Valarie Kaur, in an interview to CNN last year, explained that the threat of violence to the community seems to have become mainstreamed. And she could well have been speaking for the entire Indian community when she said: “Bigotry on the fringe has been cemented. The threat of hate and racism has become a part of our daily lives.”
Mr. Saravanan surely has his reason to try keep his name out of the spotlight. Keep his face masked, talking of the attack on his house. But the Indian community cannot do that, unless they want this wave of new attacks to come to their door next. It doesn’t matter whether one is Republican or a Democrat. If you voted for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.
What’s important is to condemn these racial attacks on the Indian community by sending letters and phone calls to local law enforcement, Congressmen and Senators, community leaders. Encourage them to talk of diversity and peace in schools and neighborhoods. Prevent violence.
Remember: prevention is better than cure.
For Sikhs, cure from racial attacks in the aftermath of 9/11 has been going on for the last 15 years, and counting.
(Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Write to him: firstname.lastname@example.org Follow him @SujeetRajan1)