How Red States See The Brown-Skinned Living Among Us

Went to dinner at a friend’s house last night.  Inevitably the pre-dinner chatter turned to the tragedy that is America, Donald Trump, and like nearly all D.C. residents, how much we despise him.  Trump received 3% of the city’s vote in the Presidential Election which speaks volumes about the character of us District of Columbia residents.   Living in America’s gayest and liberalest urban enclave that Trump describes as “a hell of violence and dysfunction,” we just don’t truck with Trump’s bullshit.  As a city, we will not only outlast Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Sebastian Gorka and Steve Miller, but in our resistance to everything that Trump stands for we will be stronger. 

My friend’s invitation to dinner was in payment for taking care of his dog for a week while he and his partner were out in Palm Springs for a family visit.  Dinner was a simple, down home repast (my friend is half Iranian, half Pakistani) and his delicious broiled salmon over a riotously seasoned rice and bean concoction - courtesy of his Mom’s spice daba - hit the perfect note to accompany four friends just enjoying each other’s company, conversation and friendship.  Here in your Nation’s Capital, we have not witnessed such a brazen attack on all things liberal since the Ronald Reagan Era back in the 1980’s.  My three younger friends did not live through this dark period but I remember it well but the feeling of being under attack only intensifies the close bonds we share.

Midway through dinner, as the conversation turned to Trump’s Muslim Ban and his Immigration Round-Up, it struck me that the four of us represented the kind of divide in America that Trump has exploited so brilliantly.  Two of us are inheritors of white privilege, me originally from upstate New York, the other privileged one from the South, while the other two members of our group are actually immigrants, one from Pakistan the other from India.   Two of us are nominal Christians, the Indian dude is Hindu and the Pakistani/Iranian extraction is Zoroastrian.   We did have a conversation around religion – Trump also engenders this kind of introspection – without resorting to the angry discharge of AR-15’s or the detonation of hand grenades. 

I raised the issue of how two of us will never be able to fully grasp or understand what it means to be a foreigner here in America.  Many of my friends trace their origins to other countries and it’s a conversation I’ve had with many of them before.  White Americans never have to think about being a stranger in a foreign country.  This fact is part of what makes up the theme of “white privilege.”  It’s cut from the same privilege cloth as is the fact that Whites never have to have “the conversation” with their kids, as every single African American family must, when it comes to interacting with police officers.  Feeling like a foreigner and feeling that cops are racist are not entries that appear on the menu that is White American Life. 

This morning, I ran across an article written by an Asian Indian graduate student at the University of Texas in Austin.  Now as you are probably aware, Austin is seen as an anomaly in the otherwise deep red state that is Texas, often described as a liberal enclave in a sea of conservatism.  (“Hotbed of anarchic liberal anti-Americanism” is how I’ve heard Rush describe UT Austin.)  Karan Mahajan is originally from Bangalore, India’s premier tech center, and his experiences in what one might call “casual racism” are instructive particularly when Red State America can’t seem to distinguish among Indians, Muslims, Arabs and Sikhs.  Now you might think that the recent shooting death of Srinivas Kuchibhotla at a bar in Olathe, Kansas, or the shooting of Sikh Indian American, 39 year old Deep Rai, shot outside his home by a partially-masked gunman who shouted "go back to your own country" is the extent to which we must pay attention to the treatment of people who look like “outsiders.”   But it’s not.  Not by a long shot.

Karan has been in the United States since 2001, lived in Austin since 2012 and although he might feel more threatened today given our current national climate, racist acts against him are not new.  When he first arrived in America to attend college, he responded to a Craig’s List ad for an apartment.  He got no response.  His white girlfriend then responded to the same ad and got an immediate response.  They went together to view the apartment and the owner cited “Karan’s angry e-mail” as the reason why he received no response.  This troubled Karan since he did not recall that his inquiry text was angry in tone or content.  Back home, he retrieved his e-mail.  This is what it said:

“The price, size and location of your place sound great — and the pictures are beautiful.”

So one can assume, and I don’t think illogically so, from this “anger-filled” text that the non-response came not from anything that Karan might have written, but to his name.  His foreign name.  His immediately identifiable non-American name.   But this isn’t the only example of “casual racism” that Karan Mahajan has experienced during his years of living in the United States.   No.  Here are few more examples of “casual racism” he describes:

Yet the first few times I parked my car on a permit-free street near campus, a middle-aged white man emerged from his Craftsman house, his cellphone at his ear, saying: “This the police? Yes, outsiders are parking here.” I believed this was racism and that I was in the right, but I worried he might damage the car I’d just bought. I eventually began walking to campus (though in car-obsessed Texas this felt like a kind of human revenge).

At the airport, I was selected one morning from an all-white line — on a day I hadn’t shaved — for a “random scan” of my hands and told I had tested positive for “explosive traces.” The next thing I knew I was in a private room being patted down by two agents while my bags were searched.

One day, driving to a mall in the suburbs with my mother, I was pulled over by a police officer from a long line of cars crawling at 50 in a 60-mile-per-hour zone. He chastised me for not knowing I was in a construction area with reduced speeds. Fair enough, but when I went to the municipal court to pay the ticket, the clerk saw the charges, laughed and dismissed them. “He didn’t even write the speed you were going at!” he said. I had suspected this. It had felt very much — from the tone, the pointed selection, the boredom — like harassment.

I guess my problem is that I hang around, in reality, have befriended, far too many non-Americans, immigrants, Muslims, Hindus, and other outsider folks who do not spring from my upstate New York working class upbringing or who do not have the advantage of exercising White Privilege either consciously or by unaware default.  But you know something?  Call me a liberal anarchist out to destroy America or a dumbass progressive who is unpatriotic and a traitor to America’s traditional ideals (as Rush does on a daily basis) but the truth is I’m quite happy living in my multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious and diverse world and Rush and Trump can do to hell.  Along with his Rust Belt voters. 

Bottom Line:  Karan Mahajan is not some illegal immigrant sucking up jobs and living off the public dole.  Nor is he eating lobster everyday while on welfare or some embedded Islamic Jihadist terrorist just waiting for the precise moment to take revenge on White America.  Karan is none of these things. 

What he is, who he is, is a citizen of the United States of America.  

His full article is here:  WHAT MY RED STATE SEES IN ME.

Take Care!  Racism - Casual or Otherwise - Exists! 


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