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Off the Beat

HariniShyamsundar_online

I remember the exact moment I got the news alert.

I was staggering out the door of my apartment, late to my 11 a.m. class. Holding a slightly burnt bagel between my teeth, I closed the front door and locked it. As I began hobbling down the apartment corridor in my half-untied sneakers, I saw my phone flash with the familiar news app logo. I glanced down at the alert — updates on a shooting in Olathe, Kansas from the previous evening.

Normally, I would have screenshotted the alert as a reminder to look it up later, but the words “hate crime” and “Indian” in the title held me rooted to the spot for several seconds. Finally, giving up on making it to class on time, I swiped right on the alert and unlocked my iPhone to scan the article.

I scrolled through the article until I found the name of the victim: Srinivas Kuchibhotla, a 32-year-old Indian engineer. My stomach twisted into a knot — but not in the pleasant, familiar way it does when Indian names crop up in my textbooks and on television. I scrolled down further and found Kuchibhotla’s photograph, and my heart gave a dull ache. I had never known this man but, in that moment, everything about him seemed familiar.

In the days after the Kansas shooting, follow-up coverage poured in. Kuchibhotla’s widow, Sunayana Dumala, spoke out, demanding answers from the government about how it addresses hate crimes. President Donald Trump condemned the shooting Feb. 28 — nearly a week after it happened.

Eyewitnesses alleged that the gunman had told the victim to “get out of (his) country” before shooting him. And this, for me, was the worst blow.

I was five when I learned that my parents were immigrants. I was 10 when I understood what that meant. I was privileged to grow up in Santa Clara County — in the heart of Silicon Valley — which has the highest immigrant population of California’s 58 counties. Many of my school friends’ parents and even some of my friends are immigrants. The idea of immigrating to the United States never struck me as something remotely controversial in my childhood.

Reports of hate crimes and mass shootings have clogged up my newsfeed in the past several years, each as horrifying as the next, but the shooting in Kansas — although it happened more than 1,800 miles away — hit particularly close to home.

My father — an engineer like Kuchibhotla — immigrated to the United States from India in 1984 on a student visa. His first several months in Pennsylvania consisted mostly of being told to speak more slowly and repeat himself, which he did without complaint. Despite coming from money, my dad didn’t accept a cent from back home, buying American groceries and paying his American rent entirely with his American graduate-student salary. More than three decades later, my dad has given more to the United States than to the country he was born in. His Indian citizenship is gone, along with 60 percent of his accent.

He does his taxes on time. He tips generously at restaurants, and he makes it a point to tell the manager how great his meal was. He watches football as avidly as he watches cricket. He constantly worries about me and my future, so I don’t have to. And when I submitted my statement of intent to register at UC Berkeley, he was so excited that you’d have thought he was the one going to college that fall.

Kuchibhotla’s friend Alok Madasani, who was also shot that evening in Kansas, said in February that he believed the shooting “doesn’t reflect the true spirit” of the United States. And despite the current political climate, I’m inclined to agree. Hundreds attended a vigil for the victims of the Olathe shooting in Kansas. After the shooting, Dumala made a public Facebook post that has garnered almost 8,000 comments expressing condolences and support.

Dumala closed her Facebook post with a question to readers: “DO WE BELONG HERE?”

Tell me Kuchibhotla didn’t belong in this country. Tell me Dumala doesn’t belong in this country. Tell me my dad — who has played by every rule, who has done everything right — doesn’t belong in this country.

Tell me that more than a tenth of this country doesn’t belong here. I dare you.

“Off the Beat” columns are written by Daily Cal staff members until the spring semester’s regular opinion writers have been selected. Contact the opinion desk at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter @dailycalopinion.

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  • Man with Axe

    Anyone admitted to the country legally who is willing to adopt the American creed, respect the Constitution, and love the country belongs here as much as anyone else.

  • California Defender

    Curiously, how does one “immigrate” to the US on a student visa?

    By definition, a visa is a temporary entry permit that expires after a set time. Although, we know that many people illegally immigrate using student visas. If that is the case, no, they don’t belong here. It doesn’t take a dare to state the obvious.

    If you are asking a broader question, do children of illegal aliens belong here, that’s a bigger question. But India already answered it: NO.

    In fact, in India, one parent must be a citizen and the other must have legal status (not an illegal alien) for their children born in India to be citizens. We should learn from India, don’t you think?

  • D.Plorable

    What makes blanket condemnations like this a bit hard to take are things like the fact that Indian is now the top ethnic group in both income and educational attainment. Jews, Taiwanese, and Filipino being the others at the top of the income statistics

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ethnic_groups_in_the_United_States_by_household_income

    The crime referred to here was national news. But many other crimes relevant to immigration issues aren’t, like this one:

    http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Plumber-found-guilty-in-slaughter-of-San-12422237.php

    India is the second-worst offender behind China for refusing to issue return documents when US authorities attempt to deport convicted felons. You never read anything about this because it isn’t covered in the “news”. Look how you have to read to the bottom of the above story to even find out he was an (illegal) immigrant. When you contribute to a political atmosphere when anybody who even complains about crimes by illegals is labeled “anti-immigrant” and even “racist” you are asking for trouble.

    Crimes against Indian and other immigrant shopkeepers is an issue. No rational person has any problem with these people who work hard at a job that provides a public service and is one of the higher-risk occupations. California has seen a terrible trend of crimes against these people but again the Alleged News Media inflicts a politically-selective edit depending on who the criminals are; numerous crimes like these are covered locally in Sacramento, Stockton, Modesto and Fresno (the latter two have been serious hot spots for this in recent years) but the typical “perp” is a local gang-banger and all-too-often an illegal, which in today’s crazed political atmosphere gives them some kind of double-secret-identity protection. But look at this recent outrage

    http://www.yourcentralvalley.com/news/arrest-made-in-madera-tackle-box-murder-sheriff-says/858104862

    relevant to immigration politics, the oft-cited statistic about immigrants committing less crime than “US natives” has a curious footnote: their citizen-born children immediately begin offending at the same rate as everybody else. If this is what getting “Americanized” has become, something has gone seriously wrong.

  • Tim

    This seems like it would be more fitting as a post on your private Facebook instead of in the school paper. No one else really cares.

    • s randall

      You don’t care.

      • lspanker

        As if you care, other than to make your usual virtue-signaling comment.

        • s randall

          Yeah. I speak up when people are bullied. You on the other hand seem to get off on being a bully.

          • lspanker

            Your definition of “bully” is quite distorted, given that the majority of bullying in Berkeley over the last year has been from left-wing loonies who beat people up and break things when they can’t silence the viewpoints of others…

          • s randall

            By anyone’s definition you are a bully.

          • California Defender

            Anyone?

            Bully was one of Teddy Roosevelt’s favorite exclamations meaning great, fantastic, or grand.

          • s randall

            Sure. Bully during the “Gay 90s.”