A Midwestern medical student on Indian Americans’ ‘failures in solidarity’

The World
A survivor of the Olathe shooting at a vigil

On Wednesday, two Indian immigrants were shot, one fatally, in a bar in Olathe, a suburb of Kansas City. A bystander was injured trying to defend them.

The attack has prompted anger and dismay across both the US and India, in part because reports suggest that the perpetrator targeted the victims for their appearance, and may have assumed they were Middle Eastern.

Siva Sundaram is a medical student at Harvard University. He grew up in nearby Illinois, the son of Indian immigrants. He says that too many Indian Americans are prejudiced against other people of color and against Muslims. He points to some Hindu Americans' support for Donald Trump and anti-Muslim policies, though most Hindus in the country lean Democrat according to Pew Research.

But, Sundaram says, Indian Americans cannot afford prejudice.

Here's an excerpt from an essay Sundaram wrote for USA Today after the shooting in Olathe.

I grew my first beard after college. An otherwise baby-faced Harvard graduate, I wanted to seem mature and rugged to the teenagers I worked with as a wilderness therapy guide. My father, a Hindu Indian immigrant, encouraged me to shave. These are dangerous times to be mistaken for a Muslim, he said.

Later, when a shopkeeper and then a Pakistani flight attendant greeted me in Urdu, a language spoken by many South Asian Muslims, I grinned. My father wasn’t wrong: I did look Muslim. But where was the danger in that?

Last week, an Indian-born engineer named Srinivas Kuchibhotla was killed in Olathe, Kansas by a man who apparently thought he was “Middle Eastern." I felt the deadly gunshots reverberate here in Boston, where I train to save lives at Harvard Medical School.

As an aspiring psychiatrist, I wondered whether the shooter, reportedly a veteran with PTSD, had adequate mental health care. As a political activist, I wondered if better gun control could have saved Kuchibhotla’s life. But as the son of another Indian-born engineer, I soon found my mind leaping from Kansas to nearby Illinois, where my family still lives.

Read the rest of Siva's story at USA Today.

Siva Sundaram and his family
The Sundaram family: Sivaraman (top), Usha (left), Ganesh (right), and Siva (center).Siva Sundaram
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