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Do Crimes Against Immigrants Deserve More Attention?

The coverage of recent shootings of Indian Americans was muted compared to terrorist attacks

My 20-something nephew from India is thinking of canceling his planned summer trip to the U.S. because, as he explained to me, "of all the Indians getting killed in America."Love Trumps Hatealisdare1 via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

He was referring to the three recent shootings — two fatal — of Indians in America. The first one, in Kansas, involved a white army veteran, Adam Purinton, who allegedly opened fire on two Indian tech workers in a bar, killing one and injuring another, while shouting, "Go back to your country." The second shooting involved a Sikh man in a Seattle suburb who was injured in his driveway after a gunman opened fire, allegedly yelling the same thing. And in the third case, a South Carolina Speedie Mart owner who'd been in the country for 14 years was gunned down outside his house. The motive is still unclear.

The wall-to-wall coverage of these incidents in the Indian press has spooked Indians, even leading to calls that the Indian government issue a travel advisory for America. Social media and newspapers have issued purple condemnations of President Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric, which many Indians assume to be driving the spate of killings. "Long years of struggle lie ahead, for the damage Trump has inflicted on the United States' most cherished values will, almost certainly, outlast his years in office," lamented an editorial by the Indian Express, one of the nation's biggest publications.

Meanwhile, the coverage in American papers has been relatively muted.

India's blanket coverage is irrational, but understandable. America's apparent blissful ignorance is rational but less understandable.

National hate crime data is notoriously unreliable. The Southern Poverty Law Center's stats, which are cited frequently, use a rather elastic definition of hate crimes, and are little more than a loose collection of anecdotes culled from media accounts and subjective self reports. The FBI dataset, which is based on a more objective metric of "prosecutable" hate crimes, depends on voluntary reports by local police departments and hence is hopelessly incomplete. Still, after many years of decline, the FBI registered a 6.8 percent uptick in hate crimes in 2015, the last year for which data is available. A bit more than half of these attacks were racially motivated against blacks. Meanwhile, crimes against Muslims spiked by 67 percent — although they still constitute a small percentage of the total. Hate crimes against Asians were just 3.3 percent of the total.

Even if it turns out that these numbers have gone up significantly since President Trump's election, it would still likely be the case that Indian Americans (and other minorities), on the whole, are less likely to be targeted by a fellow American than, say, Muslims are by fellow Indians in majority-Hindu India. And Muslims in India are less likely to be targeted than Hindus in majority-Muslim Pakistan (all of which I pointed out to my nephew!).

A country's record of protecting its minorities gets better as we move farther across the liberal democracy continuum.

But people don't form their threat perception through statistics and data. After just one terrorist attack on 9/11, America launched a 17-year-and-still-counting war on terrorism, invaded countries and toppled regimes, spent trillions of dollars in homeland security, and subjected travelers — domestic and international — to onerous TSA checks for a minuscule increase in safety given that the odds of an American getting killed by a terrorist attack are already lower than getting struck by lightning.

But Indian Americans, like other people of color who look remotely like they may be Muslim, face a triple threat: They face the same odds as other Americans of being targeted in a terrorist attack. In addition, they are vulnerable to hate crimes (post-9/11, there was a definite spike in attacks against Indian Americans, especially Sikhs, who wear a turban). And they experience racial profiling by authorities. (I usually have my white American husband in the driver's seat for the border stop when we drive from Detroit, near where we live, to Canada, to lower the odds of a full car inspection) So it is understandable that the Indian press — given the large diaspora in America — should follow the plight of Indian Americans closely.

The question is why hasn't the American press devoted more attention to these shootings? The vast majority of Americans probably don't even know about these attacks.

At first blush, maybe this makes sense. A few killings — one of which may have been a random act — don't a newsworthy pattern make. But as Barkha Dutt, a popular news anchor in India asked in The Washington Post, would Americans have reacted with the same nonchalance if the perpetrator wasn't a white guy named Adam but a Muslim named Akbar? And instead of yelling "Get out of my country" he had chanted Allah hu Akbar? Furthermore, what if the victim had been a white (or black) American rather than an Indian American with an unpronounceable name? "Can you imagine the hell that would have broken loose?"

America's political scheme counts on a robust press – not censorship -- to counter incendiary political rhetoric, even by high officials who ought to know better. Hence such incidents are teachable moments to keep the forces of vitriol from growing. In this case, it would have been useful in showing that all brown people are not Muslims (and not all Muslims are terrorists). If the press must err, it is on the side of more coverage, not less. It is regrettable that in this case the American press fell on the job.

A version of this column originally appeared in The Week

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  • Longtorso, Johnny||

  • ||

    (post-9/11, there was a definite spike in attacks against Indian Americans, especially Sikhs, who wear a turban).

    Post-11/7 there was a definite spike in anti-Nazi and anti-fascist rhetoric. No word on whether the victims/targets of the attack were wearing swastikas or not.

  • Eman||

    Why doesn't anyone ever think of the Nazis?

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Are you negging Shikha in an attempt to pick her up, Johnny?

  • DanO.||

    Shut up Weigel.

  • WakaWaka||

    Meanwhile at Vox.com, the commentators miss their resident idiot

  • Rich||

    folks who look like Muslims

    RACIST!

  • Rich||

    other people of color who look remotely like they may be Muslim

    I understand what you're trying to say, Shikha.

  • Diane Merriam||

    That actually happened to a friend of mine in 1980, during the Iran hostage crisis. He was Indian, but got beat up by a bunch of guys calling him an Iranian.

  • ||

    RACIST!

    Yup.

    At least, I can't find any other way to justify/rationalize this (exceedingly probable lie);

    (I usually have my white American husband in the driver's seat for the border stop when we drive from Detroit, near where we live, to Canada, to lower the odds of a full car inspection)
  • WakaWaka||

    'My husband usually rolls his eyes at my request'

  • Free Society||

    He married Shikha, so I suspect that he's almost as hyperbolic and retarded as she is.

  • Free Society||

    men*

  • ||

    "I usually have my black African-American wife dress slutty when we go to the clubs to lower the odds of being stopped at the door."

    "I usually have my yellow Vietnamese friend order for me at the massage parlor to lower the odds of getting a sub-par happy ending."

    "I usually have my white Jewish relative do my taxes to lower the odds of an audit."

    Other than yes/no or too drunk/tired do people/couples actually talk about who's going to drive when? It seems like the overwhelming amount of discussions about who's going to drive that I had involved singular declaratives if even that.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    "I usually have my white American husband in the driver's seat for the border stop when we drive from Detroit, near where we live, to Canada, to lower the odds of a full car inspection"

    Because all Americans in the border patrol are white and love to harass people who are not white. RACIST!

  • Detroit Linguist||

    As someone who lives in the same city as Shikha, and works with many folks who routinely cross that border every day I can assure you this is not a 'lie'.
    Brown-colored people are indeed much more likely to be stopped and detained for arbitrary lengths of time.
    Two of my colleagues who lived in Windsor and worked in my office now no longer work there because of some arbitrary and stupid decision bya random border guard. One was Rumanian, the other Egyptian in origin (both Canadian citizens, incidentally) on H1B visas.
    Many other friends and colleagues endure this all the time (including citizens).
    This shit happens all the time. The only time I've ever been stopped was when I had my wife's passport, and they detained me for twenty minutes. But I'm white.

  • ||

    One was Rumanian

    I'm gonna need more convincing that this person isn't white. My wife's extended family traces back to "Romania" and the racial diversity there extends all the way from Austria-Hungarian to actual Caucasians.

    The off-the-boat Romanian I worked with (also on an H1B) consistently started some of the most 'incidentally' racist conversations of my life. He had every ounce of the subtlety and social grace of Borat, except he came by it honestly.

  • John||

    A bit more than half of these attacks were racially motivated against blacks.

    If people want to start playing the "hate crime" card, then how can you then complain when the Alt right trots out the appalling numbers of black on white crime in this country? I think crime is crime and the race of the two parties are irrelevant. If Shika doesn't agree with that, fine. But she should then be honest about what such crime looks like instead of pretending only brown people can be victims of hate crimes, whatever those are.

  • buybuydandavis||

    In all things, it's only evil when Whitey does it.

  • No Yards Penalty||

    Good to see you two hillbillies take time out to express support for the oppressed white man.

  • John||

    The first one, in Kansas, involved a white army veteran,

    What difference to the larger point does it make that he was a veteran?

    And in the third case, a South Carolina Speedie Mart owner who'd been in the country for 14 years was gunned down outside his house. The motive is still unclear.

    Then we don't know it was racially motivated.

  • OldMexican Blankety Blank||

    Re: John,

    What difference to the larger point does it make that he was a veteran?


    That maybe he was mentally disturbed? Crazy? Deranged? Psychotic? Maybe due to psychological scars after active duty?

  • John||

    Veterans are less likely to suffer such things than the general population. But good to know that you are ignorant and think otherwise. You really haven't taken the election well have you? I still remember you and Hazel Meade on here claiming Trump wouldn't win a state. You just so sure. God that was funny. It really will never get old.

  • DanO.||

    I do love these cripple fights. More!

  • Social Darwinist||

    The motive is still unclear but the inclusion of it indicates there is a belief that race was the motive. There seems to be only one scenario of an Indian being killed where the perpetrator is automatically assumed to be racially/hate motivated. Which of the following would the media immediately proclaim as a possible hate crime?
    Southeast Asian kills Indian
    American Indian (native American) kills asian Indian
    Muslim Indian kills Hindu Indian
    Black kills Indian
    Hispanic/Latino kills Indian
    Eskimo/Inuit kills Indian
    Polynesian kills Indian
    White kills Indian

  • buybuydandavis||

    Whitey is the Devil!

  • OldMexican Blankety Blank||

    After just one terrorist attack on 9/11, America launched a 17-year-and-still-counting war on terrorism, invaded countries and toppled regimes, spent trillions of dollars in homeland security, and subjected travelers — domestic and international — to onerous TSA checks for a minuscule increase in safety [...]


    "The tyrant will always find an excuse to justify his acts."

    Aesop.

  • Social Darwinist||

    Shikha, you're making 9-11 sound like an incident on the level of a single shooting. While the war on terrorism has gone way beyond the scope of killing or capturing those responsible for the attack, 9-11 was a huge attack not just in the number of deaths but in the manner in which it was performed, the targets, the methods, and the goals. I guess if you were a reporter/columnist during the 1940's you'd have decried the U.S. getting into WWII after just one attack on 12-7.

  • OldMexican Blankety Blank||

    Re: Social Darwinist,

    Shikha, you're making 9-11 sound like an incident on the level of a single shooting


    Even if she did and she would be mistaken if she did, thaf does not mean that 9/11 justifies "a 17-year-and-still-counting war on terrorism, invading countries and toppled regimes, spending trillions of dollars in homeland security, and subject travelers — domestic and international — to onerous TSA checks for a minuscule increase in safety," or does it???

  • Free Society||

    Even if she did and she would be mistaken if she did

    "just one terrorist attack"

  • OldMexican Blankety Blank||

    How many more were there????? It was ONE coordinated attack, by Saudis. Did the US
    declare war on Saudi Arabia?

    No, it invaded Iraq. For some reason. And subjected every traveler to sexual assaults just for daring gstting on an airplane.

  • Free Society||

    How many more were there?????

    Don't be intentionally dense, for once. You know damn well no one is disputing the numerical value aspect of that description. As stated above in a post that you actually quoted and responded to, the issue is that in describing 9/11 as "just one terrorist attack", she's characterizing the largest and deadliest terrorist attack in modern recorded history as though it were a stabbing at a mall in Minneapolis. The thing is, you don't need to grossly downplay the severity and scale of 9/11 to argue that 17 years of war and occupation was not the appropriate response. Is being intellectually honest really that hard?

  • BYODB||


    Is being intellectually honest really that hard?

    It's Dalmia, so yes. I don't even know why I bother clicking her articles, it just means that Reason will continue to publish their resident click-baiter.

  • Social Darwinist||

    Maybe you missed the part where I said "the war on terrorism has gone way beyond the scope of killing or capturing those responsible for the attack." Do you think we shouldn't have gone after those responsible? I'm not for indefinite engagements, a growing theatre of operations, new or growing surveillance groups, limiting civil rights, etc., but I do believe it was necessary for us to ferret out and eliminate those responsible for the attack.

  • ||

    Even if she did and she would be mistaken if she did, thaf does not mean that 9/11 justifies "a 17-year-and-still-counting war on terrorism, invading countries and toppled regimes, spending trillions of dollars in homeland security, and subject travelers — domestic and international — to onerous TSA checks for a minuscule increase in safety," or does it???

    OM,

    You're seriously becoming unhinged. First, Social Darwinist explicitly said that the war on terror has crept well out of scope for exactly this reason. Moreover, the fact that he mentioned it, you expounded on it, and Shikha (almost) completely avoided it only serves to advance his point and counter hers.

  • OldMexican Blankety Blank||

    Oh and, by the way, the Japanese declared war on the US simultaneously and then attacked the air bases in the Philippines on 12/8/41. But I guess you forgot about that.

  • Social Darwinist||

    What's your point? It was 12-8 in Japan but it was 12-7 in Washington DC but after the attack on Pearl Harbor when Japan declared war on the US. Those international date lines are such a pesky thing.

    In the lead up to 9-11, there were multiple attacks on US interests inside and outside the country with limited success but nothing compared to 9-11's carnage. We had embassies, war and merchant ships, tourists, journalists, business people, students, corporations and their assets, etc. attacked for years by various muslim oriented terrorist organizations. Even the twin towers were attacked in the 90's. You could make the case that we, as a country, have been being attacked by these groups going back to 1801 (or prior) with the Barbary Pirates.

  • Diane Merriam||

    And by other terrorist organizations and by homegrown terrorists and by ....

    Terrorism isn't a new thing and it's been used by plenty of people and groups other than Muslims. They're just the ones doing most of it right now. Down the road it will be some other group. It's about the only way there is to attack America and Americans. No country's going to start a shooting war with us, that's for sure.

  • GamerFromJump||

    Before Islamic terrorism took the spotlight, most terrorism in America was either green (ecoterrorism) or red (communist/SLA-type leftists). That still happens, but to a somewhat lesser degree nowadays.

  • Rhywun||

    I said everything I wanted to say the last time this post went up.

  • DanO.||

    Yes but Shikha tweeted something once.

  • Free Society||

    If the press must err, it is on the side of more coverage, not less. It is regrettable that in this case the American press fell on the job.

    You just decried the SPLC's relibility for leaning heavily on anecdotal media accounts and then go on to say the media failed for not providing more out-of-context anecdotal accounts.

    After just one terrorist attack on 9/11, America launched a 17-year-and-still-counting war on terrorism,

    We shouldn't downplay the destructive stupidity of that 17 year war, but also it's kind of ridiculous to refer to 9/11, probably the largest and most successful terrorist attack in history as "just one terrorist attack". "Just one terrorist attack" is how one might properly describe a stabbing at a kebab stand.

  • Rhywun||

    Yeah, I didn't know it was America's responsibility to make every single "hate crime" national news. I hope nothing else happens, because we just ran out of space to cover anything else.

  • GamerFromJump||

    I guess it could be called "just one" attack.

    If you're the sort of person whose historical draw distance is shorter than a Nintendo 64. 9/11 was simply the latest of the long chain of Islamic attacks.

  • WhatAboutBob||

    National hate crime data is notoriously unreliable. The Southern Poverty Law Center's stats, which are cited frequently, use a rather elastic definition of hate crimes...

    Their definition is that it's only a hate crime if a white commits a crime against a minority.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Hey, I thought illegals were a net plus on the USA?
    illegals dropping food stamps

    This and raping and killing immigrants is really hurt America's position to limit immigration and visitor visas.

  • buybuydandavis||

    I thought illegals weren't supposed to be eligible for welfare programs?

    Doesn't Reason tell us that every other day?

  • MattFC||

    "Adam Purinton, who allegedly opened fire on two Indian tech workers in a bar, killing one and injuring another"

    He injured two others. The other one was a local white dude who intervened on behalf of the Indian nationals. Why would you omit this? I get that the story is about Indians being targeted, but the fact that someone put their life on the line to help perfect strangers is just as critical to "environment for Indians in America" as was the guy who brought a gun in the first place. Who by the way, thought he was shooting Iranians, reportedly.

  • Governor Squid||

    "...would Americans have reacted with the same nonchalance if the perpetrator wasn't a white guy named Adam but a Muslim named Akbar?"

    Probably, but Americans have a sample size larger than 2 from which to form an opinion of attackers shouting Aloha Snackbar. On the other hand, if the perpetrator were a Youth Of No Discernible Appearance named Shaezlong who killed another Youth Of No Discernible Appearance named Taequondo, the event wouldn't even warrant a mention on the local news.

    A trend of 2 is not enough to be remarkable. A trend of 20,000 is so routine as to be unremarkable. Somewhere in between, you'll hit the perfect number for breathless wall-to-wall coverage. (It wouldn't hurt if you could get your attacker to wear a MAGA hat. That widens the range considerably!)

  • damikesc||

    Do they deserve more coverage?

    No.

    What a patently idiotic question.

  • BambiB||

    Yeah... I think the allah hakbar guy would get more attention primarily because of the 3000+ killed on 9/11. We don't have a similar tally for Indians in America. Against the 3,000, we have... 3?

  • No Yards Penalty||

    This post isn't going over well with the contarded fake-libertarians who have migrated over here from the Federalist and Brietbart.

  • JonnyQ||

    Every country has problems with tolerance. Since ancient times there were people, who hated others because of skin color, religion ets. But nowadays we can see positive dynamics of tolerance level increasing. Some time ago Christians and Muslims couldn't even imagine to live in the same street. People just need time to stop to hate each other. You can read an interesting essay about crimes against migrants in other countries on http://essay-scorer.tripod.com/. I hope that in few years we'll never read about such crimes.

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