On June 6, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national South Asian racial justice and civil rights organization, participated in a critical hate crimes forum facilitated by the US Department of Justice Community Relations Service in Kansas. Representatives from government agencies, diverse community leaders, and advocacy organizations gathered at the Hindu Temple and Cultural Center of Kansas City to examine and address the bigotry and hate violence targeting communities nationwide.
The Kansas community is still reeling from the February killing of Srinivas Kuchibhotla by a gunman who screamed “Get out of my country” before opening fire. This attack was neither the beginning nor the end of the epidemic of hate violence targeting South Asian, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, and interfaith communities across the country.
The United States was founded on religious liberty, yet our country is flooding with hatred and violence explicitly targeting communities based on their religion, race, nationality, and perceived identity,” stated Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT. “The President’s [Trump] responses to the tragedy in Kansas along with many others have been deeply problematic. Multiple attempts at a ‘Muslim Ban’, careless words or complete silence following attacks on our communities, and his failure to name white supremacy as a clear and present danger to our country all combine to signal the lack of necessary interest, will, and leadership to address these fundamental issues.”
SAALT’s latest report, “Power, Pain, Potential,” documented 207 incidents of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric aimed at South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Arab, and Middle Eastern American communities during the divisive 2016 elections. While we know this number accounts for only a fraction of actual incidents aimed at our communities, 95% of the incidents documented were motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment.
Successive waves of hate continue to crash against our communities. On June 10ACT for America, a noted hate group, is hosting a series of multi-city anti-Muslim rallies to manufacture fear and hatred of our communities. SAALT and our partners call on all national, state, and local leaders to denounce fear-mongering and xenophobia as unacceptable and demand the vigorous enforcement of our civil rights and liberties. These responsibilities are not optional.
With tragedy upon tragedy accumulating rapidly in our national memory, the time for our leaders to respond must be now.