Last week, a man was shot and killed because of the colour of his skin.
It was a warm Wednesday evening in Olathe, Kansas. Rather than to work late into the night as was his custom, 32-year-old Srinivas Kuchibhotla decided to leave work early and have a drink with his friend and co-worker, 32-year-old Alok Madasani, at their local watering hole, Austin’s Bar & Grill. The two men were both nationals of India who had immigrated to America more than a decade ago to pursue graduate degrees in electrical engineering, and who had stayed in the United States to work as highly-skilled engineers. Madasani and Kuchibhotla had become friends in 2008 when both were employees of Rockwell Collins, an American-owned company based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. For six months, Kuchibhotla even gave Madasani a ride to-and-from work every day until Madasani could afford to buy a car; he never complained, remembers Madasani. The two remained close friends when both were hired within months of each other to work at Garmin International in Kansas.
Kuchibhotla and Madasani were known as “the Jameson guys” by the employees of Austin’s, where the two would frequently unwind after a day’s work over some whiskey. But, last Wednesday was unseasonably warm, and the two men decided to have a couple of beers, instead. And so, on the evening of February 22, 2017, Kuchibhotla and Madasani found themselves seated on the patio, sipping Miller Lite beers while surrounded by college basketball fans had gathered to cheer on the University of Kansas Jayhawks.
There aren’t many more ostentatiously all-American scenarios than this.
And yet, none of this was enough to protect the two men from racism, xenophobia, nativism and cold-blooded hate. To the man who would destroy this peaceful scene with the pull of his shotgun trigger, Kuchibhotla and Madasani’s Brown-ness had marked the two men as interlopers and Others. To 51-year-old Adam Purinton, Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani’s Brown-ness meant that they did not belong — in Austin’s, in Kansas, or in America — and, for that, Purinton decided they should die.