Amongst major TV news anchors in America, CNN’s Don Lemon is unique. He is black. Lemon has a habit of pontificating. He expresses faux outrage at anything rightwing. You could say that he has a Jesus complex. He can say no wrong.
Lemon was interviewing two of his Asian-American colleagues in the wake of the Atlanta shootings where six Asian women were slaughtered. Both of Lemon’s colleagues emphasized their Americanness, that they were born and raised in America, so they were as American as anyone else and so why should anyone target them.
I live in a hotel where many Asians–Chinese, Korean, Japanese tourists–come and go. They are not Asian-Americans. They are simply Asians visiting America. Is it anybody’s contention that just because they were not born and raised in America, they should be targeted more freely than Asians born and raised in America?
This born and raised thing in America I can never understand. I am a naturalized American citizen, but I am always considered Indian in America. Not once in living 25 years in America has anyone even once asked me if I was American. I put the words US Citizen right at the top of my resume in big, bold letters, but even senior professors from MIT and Harvard ignore them and say that I am an Indian citizen who needs a visa to live in the US.
Kamala Harris is a much more famous figure than Don Lemon. She is the vice president of the United States of America. She was visiting Atlanta recently along with US President Joe Biden to mourn the Atlanta shootings. She got to make a speech. She said that no one should be questioned about their Americanness, that no one should be made to feel the ‘other’.
Once again I thought that the mass murder of the Asian women in Atlanta was somehow being confused with being American. More stress was being laid on the lives of Asian women born and raised in America than those not born and raised in America. But Asian women born and raised in America pretty much look the same as Asian women not born and raised in America. The Atlanta shooter was apparently targeting Asian women. It didn’t matter to him where they were born and raised. Why does it matter so much to Harris and Lemon and his Asian-American colleagues?
Harris is a case in point. Raised by her Hindu Indian mother, she barely ever mentions her father who hails from Jamaica and who unlike her mother, is still alive. Harris says that her mother realized early on that her daughter would be perceived as black in America, so she raised her as black and Christian, effacing any of her Hindu identity and most of her Indian identity.
Harris has given an interview to Mindy Kaling, an Indian-American actress who appears in the American TV show, The Office. Kaling has been caught in real life and on-camera mocking the Hindu festival of Diwali. It’s not clear whether Kaling interviewed Harris before her mockery or afterward, but Harris doesn’t seem to have said a word about it.
The message should go out loud and clear to Harris, Lemon & Co. All lives are precious. There is no tiered structure in place: that those born and raised in America are in any way more precious and superior than those not born and raised in America. The killer in Atlanta certainly made no distinction between the two groups. Why do Harris, Lemon & Co. do so?
Americans are strange in that they keep blabbering about how open to immigrants they are, yet they keep ‘otherizing’ them. In my younger days, I spent a year studying in France. My French is relatively fluent. I cannot tell you the number of times French people, after hearing me speak in French, ask me if I am French. My English is many times better than my French. Yet in America or the UK, no one, respectively, asks me if I am American or British.
The Americans and the British make it out to be that the French are very touchy about their language. I have discovered otherwise. The Americans and the British hate you if you speak English better than them. The French applaud you and accept you if you speak even broken French.
I consider myself very Indian even though France will always retain a special place in my heart. What would Harris, Lemon & Co. say if I was shot dead in America? That just because I was not born and raised in America, my life was less precious. Actually I don’t need to be shot dead to be reminded of that. I am reminded of that each and every day I live in America.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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