Councilmember Sawant’s Statement on Recent Violence Against South Asian Community

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Councilmember Kshama Sawant (District 3, Central Seattle) participated in a weekend vigil to mourn and condemn recent hate-based violent attacks against members of the South Asian community.  Councilmember Sawant issued the following statement in response to the recent fatal shooting of an India-born Kansas resident and last Friday’s incident of India-born Deep Rai, who was allegedly told “go back to your own country” before being shot in his Kent driveway:

“Yesterday afternoon I joined in solidarity with the South Asian immigrant community – my community – to honor the life of Kansas resident Srinivas Kuchibhotla, who was brutally murdered in a racially-biased hate crime.  We also stood in support of our Sikh brother in Kent, Deep Rai, who was shot in his own driveway last Friday after being told, ‘go back to your own country.’  Those who were wounded after courageously standing up for Kuchibhotla reflect the best in humanity, and remind us that we are all capable of acts of selflessness.

“We must reject the idea that hate crimes against South Asian immigrants are horrific because we are doctors or engineers, or professors.  Hate crimes are horrific, period, regardless of which human they target, regardless of ethnicity, of education, profession, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

“Friday’s shooting death of a South Asian immigrant was personal to me on many levels, but largely because I’m a South Asian immigrant.  I believe that our specific responsibility as South Asians is to actively reject the idea of so called ‘model minorities’, or model immigrant communities.  We must say instead: An injury to one is an injury to all.

“We will not be able to fight this hate and bigotry, let alone eliminate it, on a case-by-case basis.  Because, like it happened to Srinivas and Deep, we will never be able to predict the future. And staying at home in fear is not an option.

“So what do we do?  We must build a powerful movement.  And it starts on Wednesday, March 8, which is International Women’s Day, at 6:00 p.m. at Westlake Plaza in Seattle downtown. And let’s continue the fight and make May 1, which is International Workers’ Day, a historic day of strikes and protests. Let’s have a historic contingent of South Asian protestors in the Seattle area.

“The mass peaceful civil disobedience of hundreds of thousands of people shutting down airports helped defeat Trump’s attempted Muslim ban.  We should take inspiration from such victories.

“It is crucial to remember that there is nothing automatic or all-pervasive about bigotry in any society.  It is societal conditions that determine it, and, in particular, political conditions.   And it was mass movements of ordinary working people that has enabled the strides in women’s rights – the right to vote, the right to reproductive and workplace rights.

“It was the activism of the LBGTQ community that is helping transform American society.  Unfortunately, this time, the election of Donald Trump, a racist and bigot, is unleashing the current of racism and hatred, even though it does not represent the viewpoint of the majority of America.

“The only way we will be able to protect ourselves and our families is if we fight collectively for a different kind of society.”