3 secrets of the Sureshbhai Patel case every Desi needs to know

Anirvan Chatterjee
Feb 14, 2015 · 4 min read
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1) Why was Sureshbhai Patel attacked?

Civil rights activist Shaun King explained what happened…

This is the heart of the story: Sureshbhai Patel was left paralyzed because his neighbor thought he was a suspicious Black man, and the police were primed to believe the same — though officers had figured out he was “an older Indian male” by the time he was laying on the ground bleeding from his face.

The Hindu American Foundation says they’re responding to the case by This fails to address the root cause: Mr. Patel’s white neighbor asked the .

Patel wasn’t attacked because he was Indian, or a Hindu — he was attacked because of anti-Black racism, compounded by utter disrespect for those with limited English proficiency.

2) What’s different about the Sureshbhai Patel case?

Shaun King continues…

After the attack on Sureshbhai Patel:

  1. One of the assaulting police officers was
  2. The FBI started an
  3. Patel’s family has 0 to support his recovery
  4. India to Alabama, and has been in communication with the US government
  5. The to the Indian government

Every victim of unjust racist police violence deserves this kind of response. But this is an exceptional response. Most victims and their families don’t get to see guilty officers fired or charged, the FBI brought in, outside nations showing concern, or governors apologizing. While this is just one case, this response is linked to Patel’s Indian citizenship and correlates with the fact that Indians generally sit higher up on America’s racial and wealth ladder than African Americans.

I’ve signed petitions and written letters in support of Sureshbhai Patel. But I hope for more than just a better outcome for Mr. Patel — I hope we can permanently stop incidents like this from ever happening in the first place.

3. How can we prevent this from happening again?

South Asians and African Americans have been standing up for each other for over 100 years. I spent the last month researching these histories for a new blog called :

  • while speaking to White American audiences in 1900
  • Indian feminist traveled through the South during World War II, making it a point to stay only with African American families, and sharing those stories with Indian media
  • Pakistani Professor Mirza Hamid Kizilbash worked to desegregate Jackson, Mississippi in 1964, despite being attacked by white vigilantes

And it goes both ways:

  • , best known as an advisor to Martin Luther King Jr., founded the Free India Committee in 1945 to advocate for Indian independence
  • , founder of the National Council of Negro Women, was a fierce advocate for her friend, Indian freedom fighter Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit
  • . Before 1965, racist white politicians allowed only 100 immigrants per year from nations like India. The Civil Rights Movement forced the end of racist immigration laws, allowing South Asians into the United States.

Sureshbhai Patel didn’t have a choice when he was victimized.

But we can choose how to respond:

  • Will we assume that Sureshbhai Patel would have been spared if only the police officer had known more about Hinduism?
  • Or will we follow the tradition of Vivekananda and confront anti-Black racism, to protect ourselves and our Black neighbors?

And we have the freedom to choose our allies:

  • Will we treat this as a unique attack, which we have to fight by ourselves?
  • Or will we see this as part of a larger pattern, and work with other ethnic and linguistic minorities to fight for policies protecting all of us?

The choice is ours to make.


Want to go deeper?

  1. Discover the
  2. For the short term, support
  3. For the long term, support groups like (), a national South Asian American civil rights group fighting hate by building alliances

Read more about the 100 year history of African Americans and South Asians at

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Thanks to Jaideep Singh, , and for helpful feedback.

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