By keeping mum on the killing of an Indian engineer in Kansas, President Donald Trump has "stoked" hate crime in America, a leading US daily has said, warning that his silence will "damage" the vitality and strength of the country.
"President Trump and his administration have not only tried to keep many immigrants and foreign visitors out of the country, they have done so by casting them as criminals, potential terrorists and trespassers, out to steal the jobs and threaten the lives of Americans," the New York Times said on Monday in its editorial 'Who Belongs in Trump's America?'
"Rather than tamp down hate, the President has stoked it," it said. "He has not said anything about the Kansas shooting," the paper added.
32-year-old Indian engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla, who was working in aviation systems for Olathe-based Garmin Ltd, died after he was shot by navy veteran Adam Purinton who, according to witnesses, yelled "get out of my country" and "terrorist" at a Kansas bar last Wednesday night before opening fire.
The NYT said while each act of hate is easily explained away as the work of a disturbed person, had these attacks been perpetrated by a Muslim or an undocumented immigrant, Trump would surely have claimed that he was right all along.
The editorial referred to the question "do we belong" posed by Srinivas Kuchibhotla's wife Sunayana Dumala after the killing of her husband.
The Trump administration has an "obligation" to convince people like Dumala that they do belong here, it said, adding that Dumala and millions of other members of minorities are "integral" to the US, which is almost entirely made up of immigrants and their descendants. "If Trump does nothing, he will enable the perpetrators of hate crimes and he will damage the vitality and strength of the country," it said.
The editorial slammed Trump for being "shockingly slow" to condemn acts of hate perpetrated across the country following his election, saying his "denunciations of and policies" targeting Mexicans, Muslims and others have "reawakened and energized the demons of bigotry." "... this history might not comfort marginalised groups who hear the administration's words and see what is happening in this country and wonder if it is safe to stay here, or come here," it said.
It said as hate crimes and other incidents of bias have flared up in Trump's America, Kuchibhotla's "murder" is one end of a continuum of hate and elsewhere, people have defiled or threatened violence at Jewish cemeteries and synagogues.
The NYT said Trump can learn from Ian Grillot, a 24-year-old who confronted the Kansas killer and was injured. In a video from his hospital bed, Grillot said: "I was just doing what anyone should have done for another human being. It's not about where he was from or his ethnicity."