Indian American lawmakers back reforms for police accountability

From left: Reps. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Raja Krishnamurthy (D-Wash.) and Ami Bera (D-Calif.).

Call for change in the name of countless black victims of hatred and racism.

By Revathi Siva Kumar

With the nationwide George Floyd protests against police brutality and racism gaining momentum, all five Indian origin Democratic lawmakers, have come out in complete solidarity with a reenergized Black Lives matter movement.

The protests — with some looting and vandalism — sparked by the May 26 death of Floyd, a 46-year-old black man in police custody a day after a white police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes, are finding an echo around the world.

However, critics of the Indian American community often called a “model minority” for having made it big in the nation of immigrants, have found fault with them for not going far enough in showing solidarity with African Americans.

Indian Americans, they say seem to overlook that they owe a lot of their privileges to policies sparked off by the civil rights movement, which in turn took inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi.

RELATED: A message to the Southeast Asian community regarding the Black Lives Matter movement (June 2, 2020)

But saying “the power of this movement cannot be denied,” the lone Indian American senator, Kamala Harris introduced a bill Monday with “the Congressional Black Caucus to hold police accountable for misconduct.”

“The Justice in Policing Act is the first step to ensure that those who wear a badge and carry a gun face accountability and consequence for misconduct,” tweeted the daughter of a Tamil mother and a Jamaican father.

“My Justice in Policing Act,” she wrote, “will: Set a national standard for use of force; Expand independent investigations into police misconduct; Establish a national police misconduct registry; Require states to report use of force incidents; Ban ‘no knock’ warrants in drug cases.”

“The time for change is now,” tweeted the former Democratic presidential aspirant earlier. “Change in the name of George Floyd.”

“Change in the name of Ahmaud Arbery. Change in the name of Breonna Taylor,” wrote Harris. “And change in the name of the countless other Black Americans who have died at the hands of hatred and racism.”

Also adding his voice to the growing movement, the longest serving Indian American Congressman Ami Bera said Floyd’s “unconscionable” killing had revealed the nation’s “systemic racism and inequities” to the American conscience.

“Please know that your voice is important, and you are heard,” he called out to African-Americans vowing to continuously engage with “Congress and the Congressional Black Caucus” to push for federal legislation that could address police violence.

Conversations about race and inequality need to be “open, honest, and uncomfortable” and steps should be taken for lasting change and healing the wounds of racial injustice, wrote the House member since 2013.

Ro Khanna, another Indian American Representative from California, also called for ushering in police reform legislation noting that black men are 21 times more likely to be killed by the police in the US.

Calling it a “national pandemic,” he said “I stand with the peaceful protesters all across America demanding reform. Congress must act. Now.”

Strongly opposing President Donald Trump’s threat to call in the army to control the riots, Khanna noted that “Peaceful protests [are] the hallmark of democracy.”

“Sit down and talk with the peaceful protesters. Don’t send in the military,” he called. “Enough. Black lives are not expendable. Police officers should be held accountable for their deadly force.”

“What we are witnessing is the boiling over of simmering anger and understandable rage,” rued Pramila Jayapal, the first Indian-American woman in the House, “the result of a long, tragic history of white supremacy, racism and anti-Blackness…”

The first Asian American to represent Washington state also voiced her anger at the white supremacy unleashed not only in these moments but in entire systems that disrespect Black lives.

The oppression still continues, she lamented, in even simple policies such as the housing and finance systems and the patently unjust Justice system, that is designed to “discriminate and invisibilize” Blacks.

Subramanian Raja Krishnamoorthi, Indian American House member from Illinois, agreed that it is not enough to just support the Black Lives Matter movement. But it was also important to move forward and understand the factors contributing to systemic and institutionalized racism.

Peaceful protestors are just not able to hold anyone accountable, he said stressing the need for “comprehensive reform for how our police use force. “Which is why I am proud to co-sponsor the Justice in Policing Act of 2020.”

While the powerful voices of Indian American lawmakers have lent strength to the historic movement, there is need for more support from the Indian-American community to give it impetus for lasting change.


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