By Dr. Sastry Putcha
It is has become routine for Indian-Americans today to excel and dominate in almost all fields of human endeavors in our country, the US. But does this ideal behavior of extreme passion for excellence and tolerance by one set of immigrants (in this case the Indian ethnicity) transfer itself as the ideal to emulate by certain other sections caught up in the bigotry fever? Maybe not. Yet an open dialogue should always be possible but requires a strategy.
But why this topic at this time?
While the US-skies are shining so brilliantly over Indian ethnic, some may ask, why should the Indian immigrant care? For one thing the Sun may not always shine over this ethnic or any ethnic at this time. Also, it is the moral and ethical responsibility of every ethnic group to contribute its share of spiritual strength without any theatrics to the society at large.
This discussion all started when a friend nudged me to use communications for practical use in these troubled times. I agreed. Within no time it occurred to me that this subject is valid now while current extremities poison the atmosphere.
Does it matter if you are born and raised here and even if you are a mover and shaker like a Steve Jobs? No. These days filled with bigotry fever would remind your immigrant background as inevitably as your mortality. But we all need to listen President Obama’s recent advice: “enough mopping”. Communications in earnestness mixed with pertinent historic, folkloric events all should engage and treat the irrational immigrant phobia.
It is obviously meaningless to approach the fervent anti-immigrant philosophy I and lecture like: “Hey, both US and India are democracies” etc. Glances and glares from the audience would shout at you and shut you down.
Self-deprecating, folkloric approach.
You start: “Hey, you think our ethnic label is a mess? Think again about the name of our country, America! Labels that hurt us are similar to those of our adopted country.” And you continue with your story in folkloric style.
Name confusion of America, is really true. This is named after an Italian explorer, Amerigo Vespucci who never set foot on the American soil. His voyages to South America in 1499 were documented by himself and became best sellers in those times. But what happened to the real explorer of North America, Christopher Columbus, the first Italian landed in North America in 1492?
Firs of all, even in 1499, seven years after Columbus, Amerigo did not land on the North American soil. But Amerigo acquired both continents (North America and South America) under his belt! Columbus returned home with big loot of wealth and possibly with a curse from the Natives that his name should not stick to their land.
How did this happen in the first place? History teaches us that a German maker of maps and charts Martin Wardseemüller seems was so impressed by Amerigo’s questionable voyages that Martin labeled the new continent “America” in 1507 and the name got stuck.
Columbus — Vespucci-Indian Immigrants: Folklore to treat bigotry fever
Historical accident may be; but there is an undeniable link between “Indians” and “Americans.” Columbus in his ignorance thought the land he set foot is India and labeled the Natives as Indians around 1492. The India-Indian immigrants would take 500 more years to land here but already they have been labeled and the label has been floating around.
So, you continue to talk. Since the late 1960s, as the waves of Indians poured into America, our label-status mess became worse. From so called first generation, foreign returned, second generation born and raised in the US. More iterations of us: Expatriate Indians/Overseas Indians. As if Indian-American identification is not enough, Non-Resident-Indian (the much maligned NRI) label has been stuck protruding out like a sore thumb. Another phrase, Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) has been floating around. The name saga continues till today.
The ethnic society has marked their kids born and raised here as American Born Confused Desi (ABCD); the newly arrived have been called by the demeaning Fresh of the Boat (FOB).
As you continue in this fashion, hopefully bigotry chuckles and willing to talk. That’s all we can hope for.
(Dr. Sastry Putcha has undergraduate and graduate engineering degrees from Indian Institute of Technology, Madras and Ph.D. from North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC. He is frequent contributor to India Tribune and lives in Dallas, Texas. Dr. Putcha can be reached at email@example.com)