Need a Fresh Look.

     It is time for all Indians and people of our kind to take a fresh look at our status, to reevaluate our perception, and make amendments as needed based on each one’s assumptions. It has happened in many countries and as much as we believed that it will never happen here, we must be cognizant of the present, precarious plight of many of us in this country, who have a different shade of skin color, an atypical accent, diverse social habits or food preference than the mainstream of ‘Americans’. We are first generation immigrants and our descendants who are born and brought up here. We are all legal residents or natural citizens. Yet. But we live in troubled times.
     The statement may be cliché, but our concern is real and out of fear of ongoing developments. It is recent, acute, and authentic, as we seem to be at the clemency of some of the ‘so-called real Americans’ who have been given clearance to rampage against those who they despise, malicious with their racist bias and hatred.
     The unique status of America as the greatest nation on earth owes it to the original settlers from Europe, the white Anglo-Saxons, and the slaves they brought in who toiled over for centuries in building this republic. But in the last several decades, the influx of the bright, elite intellectuals from the East with professional training, played a substantial role in helping this country with education, healthcare, computer technology, engineering, and the like. Such skilled contributions are undeniably relevant and crucially inimitable in the progress of any country, and the immigrants from Asia have to be acknowledged and admired without reservation.
     Qualified professionals in several fields like physicians, engineers, computer specialists, scientists, researchers, accountants, nurses and such who came in from the sixties and seventies contributed in big ways to create the new wave of progress here. Being a land of immigrants, America has benefited and prospered from such help from foreigners and the brain drain from their motherland. It is noteworthy that neither did we leave India from its oppressive regimes, nor due to its political atrocities. We just looked out for greener and prosperous pastures to graze, against the interest of the country that trained us. We toiled hard, we rose through the ranks, we succeeded in our vocations, and we earned many laurels. We raised families, built homes, took vacations and our life, in general, was cozy and rewarding. We created several religious, philanthropic, cultural and political organizations, our arts, music and culinary treats appealing to the mainstream. We brought in our unique, ethnic customs and traditions to this ‘melting pot’, and we contributed to enrich and enhance the already vivid and kaleidoscopic culture of America. As we thrived and prospered, we have become the most educated and most affluent ethnic community in this country.
     There is another salient reality about many of the foreign professionals who opted to come to America. India has substantially devoted its resources in training us with a purpose that we would serve the needs of that country and its people. But we left India (we may have a million reasons why) and spent the rest of our professional career in the USA, contributing to the benefit of this country. Our input and service to the United States were done as compliments from the educational system of India, from her resources, at the expense of the people there who should have received that benefit, and against the intent with which such establishments were set up there. The United States and its progress owe us a great deal and are immensely indebted to India and several such countries for the generosity that is seldom recognized and appreciated. And most of us who benefited from such free training and chose to migrate for better comforts in life remain oblivious, and often ungrateful to our mother countries.
     But suddenly, the situation here seems to be changing and hence such a concern. With the current commotions about immigration, attacks on people who look ‘different’ with shades of brown skin, wearing sarees or with dots on their forehead, strange accents, food habits, and social customs, we are forced to reevaluate our status and situation here, in the land we adopted to domicile. It is an imperative action for our future generations as well. Even though it is from a minuscule minority, some ‘opinionated Americans’ see ‘our kind’ as unwanted, inferior, and worthless to live here. The recent incidents of hate crimes, harassment at schools and workplaces, random accusations and insults, shooting and killing innocent people may all be consequent to the xenophobic rhetoric of some irresponsible authorities.
     If the killing of Kuchibotla in Kansas City is the worst expression of hate, there are many such sporadic incidents, obviously perpetrated by the new ranking of and consequent gaze at immigrants here. The plight of the two Indian neurologists Drs. Satija and Ummat in Houston, should alert and prepare many of us who may face the same predicament. Whether they were targets of the perverse pride of the immigration department or were overstepping the legal boundaries by illegally occupying the space is not the issue. It is obvious that some of the fearmongering authorities seem to be on a rampage to evict our sort of people who they consider undeserving to belong here. The United Air episode against the Vietnamese doctor is a blatant case of discrimination. Several such incidents may ensue against worthy, productive and reputable professionals who have already proved their mettle or are waiting to be regularized. It is quite understandable if the inflow of immigrants is limited to suit our needs here, but discrimination against the already working professionals is injustice, bias, prejudice. It is totally wrong.
     The hate perpetrators seem to have no clue about our contributions or commitment in this country. The level of their education or prejudicial upbringing limits their ability to realize that many of us are assets keeping America great. They do not care to accept that most of us are much more productive than average citizens here, that we are law abiding, family oriented, tax paying, peaceful, loyal members who have put in more than we have taken out. And we did not sneak in to grab the place unlawfully; we were accepted as qualified professionals.
     What can we do about it, or what should we do about it? The reality is that we came to stay here, and here we are. Our children and future generations are bound to be living here. As hard as we chose to leave our native motherland, as much as we struggled to get established here, we have certain imposing responsibility to meet and adjust to pressing demands as they arise. Each of us as individuals and the several organizations that we created have a role to protect us from such plights. We need to educate our people to follow the lawful guidelines if they desire to stay here, and collectively such instructions have to be dispersed in our communities and by the various organizations. We should also be vigilant, taking robust measures to stand up to atrocities committed against our kind by hateful and loutish racists, who resort to violence.
     Refining the ignorant and humanizing the racists should be a fundamental and essential step. And for that, sincere understanding, sympathy and commitment from caring, sensible citizens of this country have to come through. We could work with ‘the real Americans’ who could help educate the uninformed, the misguided and the prejudiced ones about the reality about migrants like us. They should realize the fact that when their drunken son crashes his car and is taken into the ER, the doctor who saves his life on the operating table may have brown skin under the mask; the college professor who lectures to their daughter in the chemistry class may have an accent but is well qualified; many of the experts who designed their phone or laptop are very likely to have strange last names but are experts in their fields. The several professionals who came from outside are tirelessly involved in research in laboratories, hospitals, universities, corporations, computer industry, aeronautics, financial institutions and such, intent to improve the comforts in life or inventing cures to prolong precious lives. Several such people may look or act different, but they donate ‘in big ways’, to help ‘keep America great’.
     Troubled times can and must be handled by increasing awareness, improved precautions, explicit instructions, and adopting appropriate measures as relevant as required.

Author: Dr. Venugopal Menon

Was born and raised in a loving family in pre-independent India, became a doctor, served Indian army, got married, then came over to America with wife and a daughter, established as a successful Allergist, raised a family of three children, was involved in many social establishments, retired, and wrote memoirs, 'My Mother Called Me Unni, A Doctor's Tale of Migration'.

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