Who is "us" in Trump's U.S.?

2017/02/28 13:53
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“I have a question in my mind,” Sunayana Dumala said after her husband, an Indian engineer, was shot dead last week in a Kansas bar. “Do we belong?”

USviewer: There is no satisfying response to her concern, which is widely shared. The gunman reportedly yelled “get out of my country” before killing Ms. Dumala’s husband, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, as he was having a glass of whiskey after work with a friend, who was wounded.

 

President Trump and his administration have not only tried to keep many immigrants and foreign visitors out of the country, they have done so by casting them as criminals, potential terrorists and trespassers, out to steal the jobs and threaten the lives of Americans.

 

Ms. Dumala and millions of other members of minorities are integral to the United States, which is almost entirely made up of immigrants and their descendants. But this history might not comfort marginalized groups who hear the administration’s words and see what is happening in this country and wonder if it is safe to stay here, or come here.

 

Mr. Trump’s denunciations of and policies targeting Mexicans, Muslims and others have reawakened and energized the demons of bigotry. Hate crimes and other incidents of bias have flared up, as documented by many news organizations. Mr. Kuchibhotla’s murder is one end of a continuum of hate. Elsewhere, people have defiled or threatened violence at Jewish cemeteries and synagogues.

 

Mr. Trump has been shockingly slow to condemn these acts of hate. When asked about anti-Semitic threats on Feb. 15, he talked about his election victory. The next day he told a Jewish reporter who asked a similar question to sit down. It was not until last week that Mr. Trump called the rise of anti-Semitism “horrible.” He has not said anything about the Kansas shooting. The White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, initially dismissed as “absurd” any link between it and Mr. Trump’s rhetoric, but on Monday called the anti-Semitic attacks and the Kansas shooting “equally disturbing.” Each act of hate is easily explained away as the work of a disturbed person. Yet, had these attacks been perpetrated by a Muslim or an undocumented immigrant, the president would surely have claimed that he was right all along.

 

Rather than tamp down hate, the president has stoked it. He has given immigration officials greater discretion to deport otherwise law-abiding undocumented immigrants and to harass travelers with valid papers. Some foreigners are avoiding the United States, and immigrants already here say they are not going abroad, to avoid being hassled at the border on their return.

 

One Oscar winner, the Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, refused to collect his award in protest of Mr. Trump’s executive order banning travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries, which was stayed by federal courts. “Dividing the world into the ‘us’ and ‘our enemies’ categories creates fears — a deceitful justification for aggression and war,” Mr. Farhadi said in a statement.

 

The administration has an obligation to convince people like Ms. Dumala that they do belong. If Mr. Trump does nothing, he will enable the perpetrators of hate crimes and he will damage the vitality and strength of the country. Science magazine recently reported that applications by international students to graduate engineering programs were down by as much as 30 percent at some schools because of fear that the United States is closing its doors. Some Indian parents now say they are advising their children not to study or work in this country.

 

Perhaps Mr. Trump can learn from Ian Grillot, a 24-year-old who confronted the Kansas killer and was shot. In a video from his hospital bed, Mr. Grillot said: “I was just doing what anyone should have done for another human being. It’s not about where he was from or his ethnicity.”

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