We suspect, therefore we are – Part I

The long history of conflicts between the marginal groups to vie for each others’ blood is a well known one.

One of the major reasons behind the conquerors’ successes in sustained oppression has been not just to divide and rule, but also to create a sense of suspicion among the ruled groups.

Let’s go one step at a time. When Amrita and I came to live by the Kreeger Drive in Adelphi, Maryland since two years now, I was advised by my fellow Indian relatives and friends that it was not a good place to go to. And if we had no other choice, at least we had to be very careful so as not to venture out in evenings. Not to walk around in the market, rather to drive only (and even while driving, looking out for those people who cross the roads insanely).

Without paying any heed of course, we never drove here. Always walked, even in the evenings, asked the people drinking in front of our apartment to at least reduce the noise so that we could study. We knew that they were working class wage earners toiling hard in the days (even standing by the 7/11s in line to be picked up for work by any generous White man for the day) and relaxing a bit on Friday evenings with one of two best offering of capitalistic societies—Miller’s booze (the other, Church remains closed in the evenings). After few weeks they not only stopped the noises, they also changed the venue.

We even knocked the door of my immediate neighbor in the first week, just to know them, you know. The man in the family did not open the door, instead looked out of the window and asked “hmm?” I said, “Hi there, we are your new neighbors. Just wanted to get to know you.” The neighbor, an African-American man in his 40’s, immediately closed the window itself. After a couple of months he was gone. A Latino family now is our adjacent neighbor. They of course don’t converse in English.

The neighbor on the second floor, another Black man in this case, happened to be a taxi driver. He exchanged his number and asked me to contact him directly instead of the cab service since most of the time he is looking for people to give rides to. After few months, he told me when I called, that his cab was stolen. He said, “These Mexicans, they steal man. Brother you have to be careful. Don’t go out on the street in the evening.”

After a month, he knocked my door. I was about to open it, when he shouted, “I am your neighbor, the cab guy. I came here to….” I opened the door quick enough to listen to him directly rather than encouraging that suspicion trip. “Hello, how u doin? Hey man I have a favor to ask. Can you please keep my TV for a week at your place for me to pick it up later? I am moving from here since my room mate is leaving for Nigeria. If that’s not a lot of problem, I know I can trust you with it.” For sure, no problem in that, I said. I even went up to lend a hand in lifting that huge machine. Both of us could not manage it. “Don’t worry. I will get some of those Mexicans to do it. Thanks man, for agreeing to keep it at your place.” Next morning, he got four of “those Mexicans” to do the needful, probably paying a couple of dollars to them. Instead of 7 days, he came back after three weeks to take the TV back.

While he was taking it back, he was noticeably grateful that I had taken care of his 30 inch tv in my one bedroom apartment for so many days. “What do you do in the university?” Looking at my little library, he was in doubts. “I am a graduate student,” I said. He had obviously thought I was a part time worker at the university (which I was by the way, apart from being a student). But being a graduate student at an elite university like that, “Wow! I never knew that.” He said, before showering me with some compliments.

And after three months I suddenly noticed an Indian man in our community. He would park his car in front of the nearby building and open the doors and play Hindi music at full blast. Maybe to say, “hey you people out there. The Indian civilized smartass has arrived now! Listen to my music” Not just Jay-Z and Shakira, but also a punch of Bhangra. Well, not much to add about it except that he once stopped Amrita on her way back, to self-introduce as, “Hey I am from Indian.” (Read: since we are Indians and neighbors, we should logically trust each other, than trust those blacks and latinos there, you know)

Our Cab guy’s advice was in essence: “Be aware of the Mexicans, my man.” My Indian relatives advice: “Be aware of the Blacks.” So its time for some to say beware of both the Mexicans and the Blacks. Half the time I take cabs to the campus and every time I end up discussing race related issues with the drivers, all of them invariably Africans (not African-Americans) in this area and almost all of them Indians (recent Punjabi immigrants, not Asian Americans) little ahead in Greenbelt area.

If you are wondering if anyone (Blacks, Latinos, Indians) in these working class neighborhoods have ever asked me to be aware of the Whites, you bet, no one has. Not that I need to be cautioned about them. But what’s so very predictive in a shocking manner is the way the minorities are very eager to call each other names and create a sense of insecurity and/or fear among themselves basing on assumptions about each of the other groups.

Well, where does this lack of faith among them stem from?

I see it as a drastic failure emanating from an inability to unify. This is what my observation is towards the whole issue of Crash in the American multicultural salad bowl.

And the second precept is that they are intentionally being kept away from being unified so that they shall continue to nurture inter-group suspicions. Once they be united owing to their larger shared history….

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Author: Saswat Pattanayak

Journalist, Generalist, Atheist, Poet, Lover, Photographer, Communist, Third wave Feminist, LGBT ally, Black power comrade, Peacenik, Anti-capitalist, Critical media theorist, Radical film critic, Academic non-elite…

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