Pointing that there has been a rise in racism and crimes against South Asian Americans since the November 2016 election of President Donald Trump, first Indian-origin US Senator Kamala Harris has called on Americans to stand united and speak the truth to deal with these issues.
Speaking at a gala organized by Pratham, one of India's largest non-governmental education organizations, in New York, last week, Harris made a strong call to Americans to stay united and fight collectively at a time when there are powerful voices that are "sowing hate and division among us."
Making a reference to the white nationalist rally that turned deadly in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, Harris said,
"Let's speak truth if Charlottesville didn't make it clear, if the statistics that we are familiar with don't make it clear (that) racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism are real in this country, let's speak that truth so that we can deal with it."
She said there is a need to speak the truth that "right now in the US, crimes against South Asian Americans since the election in the November of 2016 have increased by 45 percent. Let's speak that truth so we can deal with it, the California Senator said
Harris, whose mother is Indian and father Jamaican, said that African Americans are still the number one target for hate crimes in the US. Rejecting the premise that Americans are divided, Harris said she believes the vast majority of us have so much more in common than what separates us. Now is the time more than ever to hold on to that as a fact.
She said Americans have to, in a collective voice, speak the truth that ripping children from the arms of their parents is not about border security and that education is a human right that is a critical path to success.
"This is our collective fight, all of us as Americans have a stake in this fight and in the outcome. We are all in this together. I believe this is a collective fight when we know that one in five Indian-Americans has experienced discrimination in the workplace, she said.
Harris shared memories of her visits to India during her childhood and the profound influence her grandfather had on her, shaping her beliefs about democracy and freedom. Recalling trips to India during Diwali, Harris spoke about the festival's underlying message of bringing light where there is darkness.
"Years from now, when our children and grandchildren ask us where were you at that inflection moment in history, our answer will be what we did to participate, to give back, give forward, to bring lightness where there may be darkness, she said.
Over USD 3.6 million were raised for the organizations' various education programs during the Pratham Gala, attended by more than 600 prominent business and community leaders.
Pratham CEO Rukmini Banerji described the organizations' plans to bring communities across India together through its Hamara Gaon (our village) initiative. From California to the beaches in Chennai...to the hospital in Chandigarh...to the work we do...we truly are connected, she said. If you don't have a community which is strong, it will be very difficult to build long-term foundations of both productivity and equity.
Established in the slums of Mumbai in 1995, Pratham has changed the lives of more than 58 million underprivileged children in the past two decades. To achieve its mission of "every child in school and learning well," Pratham develops practical solutions to address gaps in the education system and works in collaboration with India's governments, communities, educators, and industry to increase learning outcomes and influence education policy.