(Editor’s note: This post first appeared on Suhas Kulkarni’s personal blog. It is reposted here with the author’s permission.)
By Suhas Kuklarni
The tragic events of the shooting in Milwaukee on August 5 have affected not only the Sikh-American community, nor only the communities of Hindus and Muslims who have come from India and Pakistan, but all immigrants into our country.
While we can super-analyze the reasons why we are in this situation, there is danger of more demagogy and less action. What needs to happen is much more for our future generations, and we have to be very strategic about the action we take.
I propose that the foundational reason why events like this take place is non-familiarity and fear of the unknown. This is not to take away from the socio-economic or psychological reasons, but there is less that an immigrant community can do about those factors. Some steps that we should take:
Inviting other communities in our midst is the fastest way to dispel myths and fears in all, about our faiths, cultures, languages and practices. In the wake of last week’s unfortunate event, we cannot retreat into our shells for safety and protection but pro-actively and judiciously reach out to educate and increase awareness. Thankfully, there is a large percentage of the population that is already aware and accepting, but we need to increase and reinforce our reach.
The other outcome we must aim for is to be more involved in our society, to participate, volunteer, contribute and prove that we are genuinely concerned about the welfare of the city and society we live in. Frequent and focused civic service activities will make us part of the mainstream without our comprising our individuality, but in fact spreading the richness of our culture and upbringing. Our faiths teach us to help others without expectation of return – we have a great opportunity to put our faiths into practice.
Slowly but surely we have to be able to influence decisions in all facets of life that affect us. We have the power of the vote no doubt, but being considered and thoughtful in our suggestions and making our opinions known will go a long way. We should not have to have events such as this tragedy occur before someone asks our opinion. The proof of our success will be when we are asked to serve on decision-making bodies – and that is not too far out to aim for.
Our gaining influence will be much faster if we do things together. We are much too fragmented to gather any real momentum. I pray that we can come together soon enough to make a difference. While it is true that “it takes many stars to light up the sky,” the impact is when we look at them TOGETHER.
Bottom line – unless we take deliberate steps in the right direction, we will remain in the same situation and subject to another heart-wrenching episode as August 5.
About Suhas Kulkarni: Suhas Kulkarni currently serves as the director of the Office for Globalization at Louisville Metro Government. A businessman who immigrated from India in 1986, Suhas has started and runs firms in the heavy equipment and information technology fields. A very active civic-minded individual, Suhas is the President of the Asia Institute, Chairman of the Indian Professional Council and serves on the boards of the World Trade Center, World Affairs Council, Interfaith Paths to Peace and Bernheim Arboretum.