Dear Desis, We Don’t End Up Winning This

Dear Desis,
Judging from Indian-heritage-focused news sources, a sizable number of us think making common cause with Donald Trump against Muslims is a desirable strategy.

India itself has a large problem with Islamic terrorism including state-sponsored Islamic terrorism. It’s fought bloody wars with Islamic countries, and its birth was accompanied by a massive and deadly partitioning of the country largely based on religion.

So, if anyone sees value in the idea of banning Muslims, it is Indians. Indeed, I have heard this idea and more punitive ones on and off throughout my lifetime. And I’ve read about the violence visited upon India by terrorists and felt the draw of the opinion.

But ideas are implemented by people. And this idea fail spectacularly as a result.

The men who are on the front lines of this—those who managed to get their GEDs and those who did not—are not living their dreams. They find their pride in their imagined Americanness because they have nothing else of which to be proud. Lacking accomplishments, they suckle on identity. Powerless to nudge their own fates, they grasp for any smidgen of power over others whether it be pawing at your crotch as a TSA scanner or giving you nasty looks when they see you doing…anything, really.

These people have gone to school but have gained no education. They have no understanding about India, Indians, Muslims, Islam, or the relationships among them. To them, these are just a set of muddled concepts loosely tied together and labeled as foreign and dangerous. The script of their play does not include you as a good guy. Real Americans are. Yes, they know you have an American passport. You know who they mean though.

Any anti-Muslim policy in America will necessarily become anti-Indian and anti-Hindu in practice once it is turned over to the buffoonery of those who implement policy. Consider your lived experience and see its truth. The intentions of those who initially propose the policies will be irrelevant.

This disappointing story is well known, but:

Purinton allegedly told a bartender in Clinton that he had killed two Middle Eastern men, The Star has learned.

He reportedly told the bartender that he needed a place to hide out.

Two of the shooting victims were employees of the Aviation Systems Engineering team at Garmin, headquartered in Olathe.

In an email to employees, Garmin officials identified the fatal victim as employee Srinivas Kuchibhotla. Alok Madasani was injured, the email said.

Adam Purinton mug shotTake note of the accused shooter. He’s a longtime Navy veteran having worked on the Navy’s first nuclear-powered surface warship. He had no federal or state criminal records. He had a pilot’s license and worked as an air traffic controller. In other words, he has worked as part of the state’s apparatus and had been entrusted to care for the lives of many others. And its worth noting that he thought he could trust the bartender.

It’d be a mistake to say everyone who serves in any capacity would do the same thing as he. But it’s still a fact that he has extensive service without any issues that we know of having been discovered. He did well enough to be entrusted with tremendous responsibility over a period of decades. And none of this required him to be able to tell the difference between two Indian engineers and Middle Eastern men of his imagination.


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Vikram Bath is the pseudonym of a former business school professor living in the United States with his wife, daughter, and dog. (Dog pictured.) His current interests include amateur philosophy of science, business, and economics. Tweet at him at @vikrambath1. ...more →

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57 thoughts on “Dear Desis, We Don’t End Up Winning This

  1. Any anti-Muslim policy in America will necessarily become anti-Indian and anti-Hindu in practice once it is turned over to the buffoonery of those who implement policy.

    A terrible insight.

    The main thing that constantly trips me up whenever I find myself attracted to some technocratic policy is the beauty of the thing when it sits on the whiteboard… and then I start thinking about how we need to train people who have never read Kafka to implement it on a national scale.

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  2. Any anti-Muslim policy in America will necessarily become anti-Indian and anti-Hindu in practice once it is turned over to the buffoonery of those who implement policy.

    Why do you assume that?

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  3. Well, at least Trumps not being blamed……yet.

    It’s likely that we’ll find out that this altercation was the capstone of some difficulties this guy was having, and not out of a deep racial hatred for “brown dudes who look muslim”. But maybe not. Odds are the guy was illegally carrying concealed too, so he may not have been a poster child for righteous living.

    But Vikram, you bring up and interesting question. How DOES one differentiate between a muslim pakistani and and indian hindi?

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  4. The narrative that I have been seeing pushed on this story is that the shooter had personal problems and therefore racism and/or bigotry had nothing to do with it: move right along, nothing to see. This is a fairly standard response to white-on-not-white violence.

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    • It’s certainly possible that it was racism. Among the other possibles are:

      Job loss due to being replaced by “foreigners”
      Job loss due to personal / mental issues that he took out on the first avail person.
      That the guy is really a closet white supremacist.
      …….

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          • I’m not sure how much weight we should put on the precise different between “racism” and “xenophobia” and “religious intolerance” and so on. I mean, if you’re argument is “He hated foreigners enough to murder two of them, but gosh at least he wasn’t racist” — I mean I don’t know what to tell you.

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              • — The point is, they have equal moral weight. The problem is not the distinction. It is acting as if the distinction changes our evaluation of the people involved.

                Basically, there is a movement of white nationalism right now, which combines various forms of racism, xenophobia, and religious intolerance under one banner — with a fare amount of hatred of LGBTQ people in the mix. This event is, I expect, a manifestation of that, as were the recent murders in Quebec City.

                And yes, “Trumpism” is related to this. So here we are.

                So if someone shouts, “But he wasn’t a racist!”

                Well perhaps not. But he was exactly a flavor of “angry white guy with guns who believes paranoid right wing bullshit” — and that is what should concern us.

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                • This is a late stage of the progression of “racism” in American discourse. The right has–at least in its own mind–achieved that happy state wherein nothing short of standing on street corners screaming the N word constitutes racism. Since few even in the right do that nowadays, to logically follows that racism is vanishingly rare, so we can congratulate ourselves on a problem solved and go back to business as normal.

                  Hence the imperative to find something other than “racism” to explain this guy. Sure, this guy shot some random person of color, but so long as it wasn’t “racism” there is still the ability to dismiss out of hand any suggestion that perhaps that problem wasn’t solved quite so completely as is imagined.

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                  • He’s not hateful towards people with brown skin, he just doesn’t like people who aren’t American.

                    How’d he know they weren’t American?
                    They had brown skin.

                    As snarky as this sounds, its actually, I believe, closer to the truth than the simple charge of “racism”.

                    He may very likely be one of these guys who “has a black friend”.
                    But there is a tremendous amount of fear and anxiety among white American males about the changing world, where the old aristocracy of class and color are crumbling.

                    The “economic anxiety” of the Trump voter isn’t separable from the racism of the Trump voter.

                    Its one thing to fear competition from an Indian guy who you consider to be your peer and equal.

                    Its another thing, infinitely more enraging and confusing, to fear someone you consider beneath you.

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                    • How’d he know they weren’t American?
                      They had brown skin.

                      IIRC, he actually talked to them beforehand, so he would have been able to tell from their accents. On the other hand, it’s probably not purely by chance that this never happens to English immigrants, so racism seems like a pretty reasonable explanation.

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                        • Sure. There are a number of regional American accents, all of which are easily distinguishable from any of the various accents peculiar to Indian immigrants to the US. To the best of my knowledge, Indian Americans born in the US, or who immigrate to the US as children, virtually always speak English with an American accent.

                          I have an Indian friend who immigrated to the US at the age of seven, and you’d never guess from his voice that he wasn’t born here. Since he started shaving his head, he’s often mistaken for black, even by actual black people.

                          Do you know of any counterexamples?

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                        • That would require a degree of pre-planning not in evidence here. It’s not as though it’s unheard of for people to kill their managers or HR reps after being fired or laid off, but I think they usually just go for the people they have easy access to.

                          Anyway, it’s not like we have a huge sample size. In a typical year, there are fewer than ten homicides in the US reported as hate crimes. Dylann Roof alone committed half of the bias-motivated homicides reported to the FBI in 2015, and even without him, 9 would have been unusually high for one year.

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                  • The right has–at least in its own mind–achieved that happy state wherein nothing short of standing on street corners screaming the N word constitutes racism.

                    Of course, this is a BSDI thing. The left has—at least in its own mind—achieved that happy state where four black people torturing a white person while screaming “F___ white people!” isn’t racist because “racism is prejudice plus power.”

                    Accusations of racism have become a political weapon, so people are fighting to control how that weapon can be used.

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                • Please define “paranoid right wing bullshit”.

                  I’m a white guy and often angry. I have guns. I can afford to buy more guns. I’ve made racists and insensitive comments in the past (hasn’t everyone?) Are you concerned about me?

                  If not, please draw that I have to cross to get you concerned.

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                  • — “Paranoid right wing bullshit” is a spectrum of belief that includes things like “pizzagate” and “white genocide” and the belief that contemporary blacks are better off (as a population) than contemporary whites. It includes fear of a UN takeover, black helicopters, “buy gold”, etc.

                    Which, I’m not going to draw bright lines, any more than I can say exactly what “Jazz” is — in such a way that will give you a precise bright-line answer about whether this-or-that contemporary band plays “Jazz.”

                    But we know its general contours.

                    In any case, there is a right wing media ecosystem. It is weird, paranoid, and deeply allergic to truth. Todd has been writing about it for a while now. It’s pretty easy to see.

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                    • So if I have or do buy, gold, I’m on the list? If not, how many of those things do I have to participate in to get on the list?

                      Maybe I think “pizzagate probably isn’t a thing” but I’m not convinced it’s NOT a thing? Am I on the list now?

                      Maybe I think King was right that people should be judged by their actions not the color of their skin and we’ve gone too far away from that? Am I on the list now?

                      Maybe I do think that UN wants to be at the top of a one world gov’t, and given the some of the wacko stuff coming out of it (us small arms trade) might need to be reigned in. Am I on the list now?

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                      • veronica doesn’t have an actual list.
                        We do have a list, and you aren’t on it (because you aren’t Paranoid and Stupid and Gullible). [List is only to be used in the event the US Gov’t goes FUBAR, of course]

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                      • Wow, that was a brilliantly disingenuous deke.

                        Which, I’m not going to draw bright lines, any more than I can say exactly what “Jazz” is — in such a way that will give you a precise bright-line answer about whether this-or-that contemporary band plays “Jazz.”

                        But we know its general contours.

                        “Oh, so you’re saying every band that has a snare drum is jazz.”

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            • As Kim said below. Frankly, I don’t know, and we don’t know, all the particulars. When folks get angry, they don’t necessarily think straight, but they often say things to be hurtful that may or may not be related to the confrontation under discussion. I was speculating that there’s lots of reasons this guy could have been set off, not suggesting excuses. Time will tell that the real dealeo is.

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            • Are you going to claim racism when I express my murderous hatred of hipsters and Bronies?

              I wasn’t excusing his actions or explaining them away. I was offering alternative reasons why some guy who’s previously demonstrated zero problems suddenly “goes off”.

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              • Are you going to claim racism when I express my murderous hatred of hipsters and Bronies?

                Honestly, no, but I think there is a spectrum of intolerance where religious intolerance and xenophobia look a lot like racism and where smug-snooty culture stuff does not.

                For example, I don’t categorize the whole “coastal elites” thing as “racist.” It’s just — not like racism, whereas the hatred of Muslims does seem a lot like racism.

                Just look, has anyone murdered a brony for being a brony in some anti-brony purge? Is it surprising to you that the “white populism” movement seems to combine xenophobia, racism, and religious intolerance the way they do?

                Here’s the point: we oppose racism not only because it is irrational, but because it is widespread, culturally ingrained, literally murderous. Likewise for xenophobia. Likewise for religious intolerance. (And may I add homophobia and transphobia.)

                There is a reason we talk about these things together.

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      • Officer Krupke, you’re really a square;
        This boy don’t need a judge, he needs an analyst’s care!
        It’s just his neurosis that oughta be curbed.
        He’s psychologic’ly disturbed!

        Officer Krupke, you’re really a slob.
        This boy don’t need a doctor, just a good honest job.
        Society’s played him a terrible trick,
        And sociologic’ly he’s sick!

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  5. I’ll just leave here that back in the late 80s/early 90s I had a number of friends who were either immigrants from, or children of immigrants from, India.

    They took a fair amount of crap for being who they were. In some cases it was probably a skin-color thing. In other cases I strongly suspect it was some kind of inferiority-complex thing in the white people who were harassing them – they were good students and were poised to achieve a lot with their life, and that seems to be a common “positive stereotype” of people from India. I vaguely remember one case of what was probably a hate crime against an Indian student (not someone I knew; it was a big campus) at my undergrad university. They were beaten up and a slur that was clearly anti-Hindu/anti-Indian culture was used. (Some of you may know which one; I’m not going to repeat it)

    So the “brown skinned person with accent is Other” thing isn’t new, though it may be increasing over time.

    I fully expect to see the Othering get worse before it gets better. And not just of people with “not white” skin – lots of different people who fit into lots of different groups.

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    • What makes you think Othering is going to get better after it gets worse? First, I don’t see how you can measure it meaningfully. Second, do you believe that humanity is on an overall trend away from Othering, and if so, why? I sometimes think that Othering sickens people on the right and the left equally, but surprises people on the left more. People on the right don’t expect human nature to change without supernatural intervention.

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      • People on the right don’t expect human nature to change without supernatural intervention.

        There are plenty of areas in which both left and right expect people to rise above themselves one some moral scale or other, and when they carve out a “well, human nature, what can you do” exception, it’s tipping a hand. For example, when liberals oppose abstinence-only sex ed with “You can’t stop teens from having sex, be realistic” (with the implication that teen culture itself is incapable of change here), they’re indicating, without wanting to say so, they they have a much lower level of concern over teens having sex than do conservatives.

        I think othering is a universal problem that all political stripes and subcultures need to work on. (Of course, I think Those People have more of a problem with it than My People do… you know how it is with them.)

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