Bhangra lesson at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia (image by TimothyJ, used under CC license)
“The United States is stronger, not weaker, because of the creativity, culture and contributions of our immigrants and international students from India,” said an open letter that went up on LinkedIn on Sunday. “We welcome you to the US and ask that you not let hate win.” The letter, posted by Marie Whalen, Associate Director for International Admissions and Recruitment at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington, was a response to recent attacks on Indians in the US, and the resulting climate of fear and uncertainty. It was signed by 117 individuals from universities and organizations that help international students.
Among the educational institutions represented by the signatories were Albion College, Clark University, Creighton University, Harvard University, Millersville University, Monmouth University, New York University, Southern New Hampshire University, State University of New York, Temple University, University of California, University of Illinois, University of Michigan, University of North Carolina, Washington State University, Whitworth University, and Yale University.
The letter began with a reference to an attack in Kansas City in late February that left 32-year-old Garmin employee Srinivas Kuchibhotla dead. He was a Hyderabad native, and got a master’s degree in engineering at the University of Texas, El Paso. He was with his colleague Alok Madasani, a fellow-Hyderabadi who first went to the US for graduate studies at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. Madasani, who is also 32, was injured in the attack but survived. The alleged shooter, 51-year-old Adam Purinton, thought the Indian men were from the Middle East. The attack is being investigated as a hate crime because Purinton reportedly told his victims to “get out of my country”. Purinton now faces charges of murder and attempted murder.
The open letter noted that such attacks have “shocked not only the nation of India, but people across the United States. Those of us at US schools, colleges and universities, who work with students and colleagues from India, are horrified and sickened by these acts of violence.”
The letter added: “There is another part to this story, however: Ian Grillot, the 24-year-old American who willingly placed himself in harm’s way and took three bullets attempting to save the lives of two strangers. This part is important not only because of Grillot’s incredible bravery in the face of evil, but because his understanding of the value of all people, regardless of nationality or race, reflects the true nature of United States citizens; not the singular acts of hate by a tiny minority.”
The letter added that donations of over $735,000 to support the victims’ families were a clear message that Americans will stand up to hate. “The vast majority of people in the United States welcome the presence and contributions of immigrants, international professionals and students in their communities,” the letter said.
“Over the past month, that support has blossomed into powerful action across our nation… protests against discrimination and visa bans, rallies to support immigrants and refugees, and written statements from university presidents and chancellors to our international students to let them know that all are welcome here,” it added.
The letter noted that elected officials at the state and local levels, as well as judges, have acted successfully to stop executive orders that could negatively impact international students and immigrants.
The letter said, “We… work with Indian and other international students and colleagues. We visit India; we get to know and care about your students and families… We believe passionately in the value of international education as a bridge to peace and antidote to hate. We see this on a daily basis as we observe American, Indians and other international students interact. With this mutual interaction, fear and negative stereotypes break down, cultural exchange occurs, and understanding of our shared humanity results.”
It added: “We will redouble our efforts to highlight the beauty of Indian society in all of its diversity; to warmly welcome our Indian colleagues and students, and to make our institutions and communities places that are safe… We love you and we are proud that #YouBelongHere.”