There can be no rational explanation of why Adam Purinton walked into a Kansas bar and shot dead Srinivas Kuchibhotla, a man he had never until that moment laid eyes upon or had any particular reason to hate: Racism is, at its core, a form of insanity. For that very reason, President Donald Trump and his political allies, who fanned the red-hot coals of white nationalist tendencies in the United States through the course of their election campaign, must answer questions raised by this murder. “Get out of my country,” Purinton shouted at Kuchibhotla and his friend, Alok Madasani, who was injured in the shooting, mistaking them for West Asian Muslims; that is precisely the message President Trump has been broadcasting for many months. In the first 10 days after Trump’s election alone, the Southern Poverty Law Centre documented more than 1,000 reports of hate incidents — almost a fifth of the entire number reported in 2016. The number of groups targeting immigrants, Muslims, Jews, blacks and other minorities has grown dramatically, with white nationalists taking inspiration from the president’s appointment of far-right ideologue Stephen Bannon as White House chief strategist.
President Trump’s silence in the face of the hate he has unleashed is the real cause for concern. After all, Sikhs were attacked after 9/11, and blacks subjected to violence by police and white extremist groups through the tenure of President Barack Obama. Not since the end of the Second World War, though, has a president equivocated so deeply in the face of demonstrable racism. President Trump’s Holocaust Day statement conspicuously omitted mention of Jews; his hyperactive Twitter feed was studiously silent on the bombing of a mosque in Quebec; he said nothing on threats to Jewish centres until his daughter, Ivanka Trump, herself Jewish, went public on the issue. For Hindu nationalist groups in the United States, who have cheered on Trump’s anti-Muslim politics, Kuchibhotla’s killing should be a moment of awakening: Racism is a beast with a voracious appetite.
There’s little doubt that a genuine, deep civic decency still binds together America: The story of Ian Grillot, who was injured in a selfless effort to try to save Kuchibhotla, is an anti-thesis to the gunman’s psychopathic racism. The thousands of small donations that have flowed into a crowd-funded effort to pay for Grillot’s treatment and rehabilitation show just how much support the values he has come to represent have. It will take more than individual acts of courage, though, to beat back the white nationalist forces President Trump’s government has unleashed. Long years of struggle lie ahead, for the damage Trump has inflicted on the United States’ most cherished values will, almost certainly, outlast his years in office.