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September 2012
Letters from Readers

America doesn’t offer “best of both worlds”

I am responding to your editorial in the July issue (“Celebrating Our Freedoms in America”). Your praise of an immigrant’s life in the U.S. is puzzling at best given the recent anti-immigration laws passed in Arizona, Alabama, Texas, Florida, and Georgia. Most recently the anti-Sikh shootings in Wisconsin should give all Indian-Americans a wake-up call that the U.S. is not a “mecca for multiculturalism” as your article suggests.

Perhaps you are not as familiar with the history of apartheid in this country as you are with that of South Africa. Discrimination against people of color has been prevalent in this country since the genocide of the Native American population as well as the introduction of slavery here. Civil rights have not secured for us “a fairly level playing field” but only opened up other means by which immigrants and people of color are disenfranchised.

As a U.S-born mixed-race Bengali Indian my physical appearance makes me a target for most antiminority hatred. As a young adolescent visiting the pre-Civil Rights South, I was refused service in a restaurant because of the color of my skin regardless of the fact that I was not African-American. I fear being stopped by law enforcement because I can pass for a Latina.

You give your readers false hopes about their experience in this country. Yes, many have come here and been extremely successful but they were already successful in India and came here with education, job skills, and perhaps some economic resources. In addition, many had friends and families already established here who could offer support and guidance while acclimating to the area. Contrast this to many of the poor and jobless workers from Latin America who come here to escape crushing poverty in their countries only to find that their presence is not welcome, even though they are willing to work at menial jobs most Americans wouldn’t dream of doing.

Yes, perhaps Indians can come to this country and find their “mecca” but don’t think the U.S. is “close to perfect in allowing its minorities their unique identities, providing them with security, and ensuring them equity.” On the contrary, there will never be equity or security for immigrants in this country so long as the majority of the dominant culture continues to push policies that fuel hatred and division. I strongly suggest that you and your readers familiarize yourselves with not only the history of race relations but the present state of race relations in this country. Perhaps then you might find that the U.S. is not the “best of both worlds” as you or your readers envision it to be.

Beatriz Golden-Hayes
Atlanta, Georgia

 

Are Indians thriving in South Africa?

Archana Shah’s article, an excellent summary of South African history and a telling portrayal of the status of the Indian community, was especially meaningful to me on account of its similarities to Kenyan history.

Last summer, a wedding in the family took me to Kenya for the umpteenth time. From there I went to South Africa for the first time. It was a short five-day visit to Cape Town and its surroundings, but it confirmed Archana’s story about the Indian dilemma: to stay or to leave.

Our highly educated Muslim tour company owneroperator and his partners and the mainly Hindu senior management at the franchised upscale hotel in Cape Town had never been to India and didn’t know where their ancestors lived in India. These successful Indian professionals and entrepreneurs enjoy a good standard of living and see a bright future for their children. They could buy homes in formerly exclusive white residential areas, send their children to what were once segregated universities, and get corporate positions if they qualified. Merit and money overcame affirmative-action-based post-apartheid discrimination in most cases.

It was the marginalized who were willing to leave but lacked education, employability, or financial means to do so.

The situation in Kenya was similar. The heterogenous Indian communities in Kenyan townships, especially in Nairobi, Kisumu, and Mombasa, like their counterparts in Durban and Johannesburg, had weighed the climate of crime, discrimination, and harrassment, against their deep roots, their comfortable life, even behind their “fortress homes,” and new or more economic opportunities in the rapidly globalizing economy.

Both Kenya with its third-world infrastructure and first-world criminals and South Africa with its first-world characteristics offer what the author has ascribed to South Africa: “temperate weather, sunny days, stunning landscapes, a diverse culture.” They are worth visiting. Indian tourists, like all tourists, should exercise caution.

We do plan to visit South Africa again.

Nizar A. Motani
Atlanta, Georgia

 

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What’s on YOUR mind?

We welcome original, unpublished letters from our readers. You could either respond to a specific article in Khabar or write about issues relevant to our community. Letters may be edited for length and other considerations. Longer submissions by readers may be considered for the “My Turn” column.

Email: letters@khabar.com • Fax: (770) 234-6115.

Mail: Khabar, Inc. 3790 Holcomb Bridge Rd. Suite 101, Norcross, GA 30092.


Note: Views expressed in the Letters section do not necessarily represent those of the publication.


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