OPINION: The choice for the community is one of moving forward, or sliding back.
Editor’s note: The writer, a Washington area lawyer, is a co-founder of the newly launched Indian Americans for Hillary Clinton.
By Devang Shah
WASHINGTON, DC: As Indian Americans we have proudly and unitedly faced down each and every threat to our advancement and achievement in these United States. Our work ethic and clear-eyed vision of the great American future we are building for our families has been a rising tide of growth and opportunity that has integrated us and lifted the economic boats of not only for ourselves, but for all Americans.
We have made remarkable gains, but our progress is at a crossroads now. This November, once again, we will be called upon to unite and overcome a clear and grave challenge to realizing the hard-won fruit of our relentless efforts to fashion our own future and economic opportunities we have earned. The choice we have is one of moving forward, or sliding back. The choice we have is one of inclusion and empowerment, or labeling and limits. The choice we have is one of advancement and pride in our Chief Executive with President Hillary Clinton, or excuses, embarrassment and a return to the past with President Donald Trump.
Our voices as Indian Americans and as an electorate got an enormous boost just last week as a nationwide organization of Indian Americans supporting Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign — Indian Americans for Hillary Clinton (IAFHC) — was launched, committed to our continuing our ascension and progress. Our voice is committed to securing Hillary Clinton as our next President.
And what do the Republican’s think of our years of struggle to integrate and contribute to society engagement in a robust and beautifully diverse dialogue to the better us all? Nothing. Nada. Zero. Speaking at the inaugural event of IAFHC, National Campaign Chair John Podesta recounted Donald Trump’s mocking the accent of Indian call center workers.
In and of itself, Trump’s insults might be brushed aside as an unfortunate lapse on the speaking circuit. (See, for example, “punishment” for abortion, shooting people on 5th Avenue and any utterance of Pope Francis.) But it’s not. His is identify politics that is pervasive throughout the Republican Party, for just a week earlier, Maine Governor Paul LePage pandered to and parroted Trump’s bigoted stereotypes, with their “go to” slur — mocking Indian call-center accents. It’s no surprise that LePage is a Trump delegate. And his disrespect is part and parcel of the presumptive Republican nominee’s disdain that’s been directed not only at us, but at all minority groups. His campaign is identity politics at its very worst and is the centerpiece of a party seeking to advance on bigotry and division. Could the danger signs be more clear?
While candidate Trump has rightfully generated appeal campaigning to “make America Great Again,” he has yet to answer at what point, exactly, was his America “great.” Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric and that of his supporters suggest America was a great nation when bigotry, racial hatred and intolerance was not only the sentiment, but the law of the land. My fellow Indian American’s that time was just one generation ago. Just ask your Mom or Dad.
My father immigrated to the United States in 1961 to obtain his Ph.D in Chemistry. That’s right. A doctorate. In Chemistry. In the land of opportunity. Yet just a generation ago, he arrived in a world where Indian Americans were lawfully segregated for public facilities, lawfully denied job opportunities and lawfully denied permanent resident status in the United States. The core values of America at that time included bigotry, racial hatred and intolerance. This story is not an isolated one — it is a common and shared and shameful experience that befell virtually all our families.
Only through the work of progressive legislators and visionary Presidents did our country change. Millions of people, then, voted for a future (our now) where we would be able to embrace diversity and be welcoming all minority groups. But what do we hear now? We hear about building walls and registries.
What we need is to build commonality and to do so we need committed leadership. Hillary Clinton has demonstrated that leadership and has been at the center of the politics of inclusion. As first lady, long ago, she proffered that “it takes a village” to raise the best of the next generation. She’s right. And it takes our village as Indian Americans to have our voice heard to help her breaking down the continual walls being erected against all minorities. That voice is clear and powerful and right, and won’t be mocked in any accent. It will be heard.