Trump's Harsh Words Are Encouraging Violent Racists

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Alok Madasani and his wife Reepthi Gangula during the Prayer Vigil that was held for the victims of the Austins Bar & Grill shooting on February 26, 2017 at the Ball Conference Center in Olathe, Kansas. Adam W. Purinton allegedly shot and killed Srinivas Kuchibhotla and wounded Alok Madasani, and an Austins Bar staff worker, Ian Grillot, in what's being investigated as a hate crime. Rasika Boice writes that the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, rejects any link between Trump’s policy agenda and the shooting. But that’s not true. Kyle Rivas/Getty

A 35-year-old woman walks down a street in Austin, Texas, headed toward a BBQ place. She's wearing a denim skirt with black tights, ankle boots with tasseled zippers at the sides, a slouchy knit winter hat and a lightweight moto jacket over a linen sweater. In other words, what she'd be wearing if she were back home in Manhattan, where she's a copy editor.

She and her husband, who's walking beside her in an equally New York uniform, are working up an appetite for some ribs and brisket, and taking full advantage of a rare kid-free weekend. Their baby girl, 15 months old, is in New Jersey with grandma.

Halfway to the BBQ place, the woman notices a man exit a bus. He makes eye contact, and it reminds the woman of the Southern "Hi! How ya doin'?" persona that was so foreign to her when she first arrived in Virginia for college. People around Boston, where she grew up, were not that friendly.

The man walks past the woman with her husband, but then at the end of the block, he stops. He turns around. Then he yells: "You don't belong here! Go home!" But he does not mean New York. Because the woman is brown.

My husband is white, but I am brown. I am Indian. So, no, by "home" he does not mean New York.

This happened on February 4, 2017. Earlier in the day, when I was looking up showtimes at a local movie theater, I read their open carry policy: "As a retailer of alcohol, long guns and unlicensed guns are prohibited on our property under the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission rules. Only concealed licensed handguns are allowed on our property." These were the rules for inside a movie theater. I am lucky not to know if that man, out in the open, had a gun.

Related: U.S. sees dramatic rise in anti-Muslim hate groups

Eighteen days later, on February 22, 2017, two guys very like us are not so lucky.

Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani are having an after-work drink, not in Austin but at Austins Bar and Grill in Olathe, Kansas. They grew up in India, studied in the U.S. and landed good jobs. They have wives and plan to start families. They are working and living here legally. There are aged 32.

Another man "asked us what visa are we currently on and whether we are staying here illegally," according to Madasani, who spoke to the New York Times. Then after the man is kicked out of the bar for harassing the two men, he returns and shoots them.

Kuchibhotla dies. Madasani is wounded, along with a third guy, Ian Grillot, who tries to stop the shooter. Witnesses say the man yelled, "Get out my country!" before opening fire. According to a 911 recording from the bartender at the location where the man fled to, the shooter told him he had shot two Iranians.

On December 3, 2016, the KKK held a parade in North Carolina to celebrate President Donald Trump's victory. During Trump's campaign, a leader of the Virginia KKK told a local TV reporter, "The reason a lot of Klan members like Donald Trump is because a lot of what he believes, we believe in."

Here's a lot of what the KKK believes in: "We say no to race-mixing!" And, "Our goal is to help restore America to a White Christian nation." But, "This does not mean that we want to see anything bad happen to the darker races...we simply want to live separate from them." Why am I not comforted?

Now I could list off all the direct quotes from Trump that would resonate with those beliefs. And I will list a couple: "There is great hatred towards Americans by large segments of the Muslim population," and, "When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best."

But without going any further, or even getting into the travel ban, the theme is clear, and perhaps summed up best by Trump's own words: "And some, I assume, are good people"—not most, not many, but some. The bad outweigh the good.

How else does one justify indefinitely barring Syrian refugees when zero US terrorist attacks have been committed by a Syrian refugee? Where others see desperate parents so in need of help they'll risk sending their toddlers into the ocean on flimsy boats, he sees a "Trojan horse."

And yet, the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, rejects any link between Trump's policy agenda and the shooting. But we all know, whether Republican or Democrat, that's not true.

The truth? These bad men emboldened by Trump are not representative of everyone who voted for Trump, the same way the Orlando nightclub shooter, a radicalized Muslim man born in New York, is not representative of all Muslims, and the Unabomber is not representative of the entire white race. These men are the actual minority.

But they do exist, and they must be condemned, to the same extent that a Muslim man would be condemned had he shot two white men in Kansas.

And I have to believe that the majority of our hearts break for the 32-year-old man who senselessly lost his life, for no other reason than being brown. I have to believe that the country we live in is not one where I'm justified in feeling like my daughter is safer walking down the street with my white husband than with me.

I have to believe that the majority does not feel like these events are a fair trade. I have to believe no true American wants to live in a country where innocent people are being targeted and hurt.

I have to believe that when Kuchibhotla's widow, Sunayana Dumala, says, "I need an answer from the government. Not just for my husband...but for everyone, all those people of any race," we all agree that denial is not the appropriate response.

I have to believe.

Rasika W. Boice is a copy editor in Manhattan's fashion industry.

Trump's Harsh Words Are Encouraging Violent Racists | Opinion
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