July 20, 2019 | 85° F

THURAVIL: America wrongly sees ethnicity over skill

Opinions Column: Sip on Your Chai

On Feb. 22, Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani were the victims of a racially charged attack and were shot at by Adam Purinton. Purinton, under the impression that the two were Iranians, threw out slurs and was removed from the bar before returning with a gun and opening fire. While Madasani and another patron named Ian Grillot who jumped in were only wounded, Kuchibhotla was fatally shot, and his murder has enormous implications for not just those of us who are immigrants, but those of us who are American-born people of color as well.

Let’s break this down — a white man was under the impression that he had the right to tell Indian men, who were legal immigrants, to get out of “his” country, all the while acting under the assumption that they were Iranians.

The fact that Purinton felt such a burning hatred and a need for violence for people who did not share his religion, skin tone or nationality is absolutely horrifying — but it seems to be a growing rhetoric in America today. Since President Donald J. Trump’s election, there has been a documented rise in hate crimes against non-white, non-Christian and non-straight communities and groups. The Southern Poverty Law Center recorded the largest surge in anti-immigrant hate crimes. It is terrifying to know that where you come from is now considered a basis for violence and attack, and that it is all perpetuated by the leader of the United States and his bandwagon of followers.

The irony, of course, is seen by the Native Americans, who saw themselves prosecuted and ostracized by immigrants on their own land.

The entire idea of hostility toward immigrants and foreign-born citizens and workers is baffling to me. Most people in this country, except for Native Americans, is either an immigrant or has at least one ancestor that was an immigrant. Immigration is inevitably tied to all of us and, more importantly, immigrants do not always have to have more melanin in their skin than you do. Moreover, immigrants who come to the United States do not arrive with the intentions of “stealing American jobs.” They come looking for jobs that either nobody else wants to do, or jobs that suit their skill sets and compensate as such where the country that they come from doesn’t. There is nothing criminal about how they obtain jobs and, frankly, if you wanted jobs to be distributed amongst Americans only, then, well, we’d have to find some kind of regulation with the help of the government.

And in the capitalistic American dream, we can’t have that, can we?

Look, America is not a perfect country. Not every single person educated in America is automatically qualified to obtain any job they want (if we’re chasing that ideal, we’d need to increase spending for public education as well, but not a lot of people seem to be on board with that). Sometimes, especially for specialized jobs, it’s great to have outside help — people who are skilled enough to do what others cannot, or people who are willing to work what others will not.

So as long as we live in the age of capitalism and free markets, opportunities will never be handed to us on a silver platter, and competition is necessary. We’re all competing for the best jobs and the best opportunities, and those of us who have the skills, the luck and the tools necessary will get them. Nothing is “stolen,” only achieved.

And all of this, I think, is part of a grander scheme that goes far beyond one’s country of origin. Ryerson University and the University of Toronto conducted a study where people with names of Asian origin were 28 percent less likely to get called in for an interview than those with Western, more Anglo names. In this case, it wouldn’t matter where the person with the Asian name came from, be it from Los Angeles or from Chennai: They would face discrimination. The problem begins when people start looking at one’s ethnicity over the skills on one’s resume, when one looks physically different than the ideal image of a “normal” American — straight, white, Christian and male.

As a college student gearing up to be set loose in a crippled, ultra-competitive job market in 2017, this is disheartening news. But I believe we can get through it, as long as we realize that a job is just a job, and that the person performing it has no bearing on the end result.

And, after this, if you feel like you’re still entitled to a job, I hear Trump’s contractor for the wall is hiring.

Neeharika Thuravil is a School of Arts and Sciences freshman majoring in computer science and astrophysics. Her column, "Sip on Your Chai," runs on alternate Tuesdays.

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Neeharika Thuravil

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