By Michael Castaneda
Published: October 31st, 2018
On May 14th, 1940 a family friend of mine boarded the SS Bodegraven, escaping Nazi Germany. She was one of 74. These boats were known as Kindertransport. Eventually, she came to New York with nothing: no education, no money, nothing at all. She took any job she could get. It was unbelievably difficult, but such is the life of a refugee.
Switzerland had a border wall in the 1940’s. It kept Jewish refugees out of Switzerland and in Nazi Germany to face a near-certain death. The Swiss Military was deployed there, much like ours is deployed at the United States’s southern border. Another friend’s grandfather stood outside looking for his German wife. It looked like no one would help, until finally one soldier took pity and picked up this friend’s grandmother and lifted her over the wall. Stories like these are common among Jewish people and others in the Flatbush area and Brooklyn College.
Recently, it has come to light that Rohit Parikh, a computer science professor at Brooklyn College, made a public statement on his Facebook page promoting the idea that “Hispanics” are not a desirable population to have in the United States, going further to make a spurious comparison between Indians and Hispanics.
We have seen this in the United States before with the Irish famine. Millions of people died, but Americans felt that the Irish were undesirable and designed immigration laws against Catholics to keep the Irish out, leaving them to starve. Go to Ireland and see if they ever forgot. Jews were also unable to leave Europe in World War II because they were deemed undesirable.
This is hate. As much as Professor Parikh tries to rationalize it, it is still hate. As much as he tries to ameliorate it, it is still hate. Professor Yedidyah Langsam refers to this as conservatism, but it is not. Conservatism is an American political tradition that does not expound hate. I doubt that William H. Buckley who attended University in Mexico City and worked in the Mexico City CIA office would agree with either Professor Parikh or Langsam on this issue.
I agree that the statements of Professor Parikh does encourage violence on people who are thought to be Hispanic. In reality, there is no such common set of attributes that makes up a Hispanic. A Hispanic is someone who has any connection to Latin America; one can be any color out there or of any religion. It’s almost an entire hemisphere. Since people who commit random acts of race-related violence don’t normally do their homework, it puts anyone who fits a simple profile at risk. Good luck if you are dark and have straight black hair.
It also encourages violence against Indians. Since Professor Parikh is not white, he will be singled out for being Indian, and those with a similar, simple thought-process as him will assign those angry feelings to all Indians. The same rules of impunity of white racism don’t apply to minorities, Professor Parikh.
This is not a freedom of speech issue.
I don’t think that Professor Parikh should be fired. In America, you are free to hate. It is not too much to ask from our faculty to never publicly air their negative personal musings that could potentially land on the cover of the New York Times, but here we are.