Lalita Uppala is a past president of India Association (www.iaww.org) and currently the director of Community program for the association. Here is her commentary:
For decades, they have come to America. They are Fulbright scholars, doctors, engineers, educators, biochemists and more. Some are success stories from the Indian education system, and some misfits there, but we all had in common—this thirst to work hard, live simply and raise our children here in an open, diverse, healthy society with an education system very different from ours.
Breathing clean air, learning how to cook spaghetti right and love the turkey for Thanksgiving, we have slowly assimilated yet in a unique way by assimilating Seattle in our festivals and our colors.
We did all of the above, studied the nights away, saved every penny, walked instead of drove and celebrated small victories with friends who became family. We lived oceans away from our culture but we cherished the soccer leagues, basketball games, spelling bees and swim meets for our children. We found jobs because we had the right skills and we had worked hard acquiring those, sacrificed much to get there.
Work, marriage, children and onward, the road has been drenched with our tears missing home, experiencing gut wrenching pain at losses of parents in India (and almost everyone of us never get there on time) yet we have persevered because American has humbled us.
We have discovered our love for our parks and trails, our libraries and our schools and we volunteer in all and we give to all. We have made long lasting friendships with our local friends and among all immigrant communities too. We have taken hundreds of our family visitors to Pike Place and Boeing plant. I have found myself crying watching an almost finished AIr India plane in the Everett hangar - my two loves India and America physically present in one place.
Yet, this November, my community and many other immigrant communities have found ourselves at a crossroads. Identity, allegiances and belonging gets questioned. Something has awakened in those that do not identify with us immigrants with a darker skin color. At the India Associations Community Program in North Bellevue Community Center, I run a pop-up Community Center on Thursday 9 am to 9 pm. IAWW has a resource and referral desk where we have been receiving several complaints from community members about cases that are not classic 'hate crimes' but are in the grey area - drivers rolling down windows and calling racial slurs, road rage and cutting off while yelling despicable names when children are present in the car, kids at school being called 'brownies', 'knickers' and more to simply cutting your place in the gas station and laughing. I can keep going on this but it has to stop somewhere. We got questions on if these are crimes and if not then what is the next step. There is valid fear, anger and disillusionment.
Hence, we have brought back the Hate Crime Info Session Workshops - this time with U.S. Attorney's office, the Bellevue police, a psychologist and a wellness instructor. Our plan is to have attendees go through several scenarios in this workshop to learn coping tools when they are confronted with hate crimes and discrimination. We are also including elected officials, so community members can get their questions answered. Please help us create awareness for our program!
Lalita Uppala is a past president of India Association of Western Washington (www.iaww.org) and currently the director of Community program for the association. She is very passionate about community service especially when it comes to women, children and senior citizens.