Indian-origin CEO who was called ‘pig’: I had to stand up for what I believe in
Ravin Gandhi was racially abused for writing an anti-Donald Trump article. In an interview to Hindustan Times, Gandhi reveals the reasons for writing the op-ed piece, the backlash and his reaction to it.Updated: Aug 25, 2017 12:15 IST
Indian-origin Amercian citizen, Ravin Gandhi, did not expect the kind of backlash that hit him after he wrote an article last week about his disappointment in President Donald Trump after the Charlottesville clashes, and his resolve to ensure he was a one-term president. The vile ethnic slurs and insults that followed have still not stopped.
The 44-year-old CEO of a Chicago-based company wrote an opinion piece for CNBC last week saying that though “flabbergasted” by Trump’s victory in the 2016 election, he had decided to give the President the “benefit of the doubt”.
But all that changed after Charlottesville where three people died because of violence related to racial clashes on August 11.
“I saw the president of the Unites States cowardly signal tacit support for white supremacists and Nazis.”
The backlash was quick, and furious.
A Trump supporter, a woman, left a voice mail for him: “Get your f...... garbage and go back to India and sell it over there...Don’t tell us about Donald Trump. Don’t tell us about this country...Go back to where the pigs live in India, and go clean your own g..... country. It’s a filthy mess.”
In the first interview to an Indian news media outlet, Gandhi reveals the reasons for going public with his views, the backlash and his reaction to it.
Did you expect a backlash when you wrote the Oped in CNBC, saying why you were done with President Trump?
I expected some minor backlash, as that comes with the territory with commenting on politics. However, I did not expect the overall frequency or vitriol... They are still coming in.
Have you been at the receiving end of such slurs before? Growing up? At school, college? Or, at work?
Yes, while growing up in America in the 1970s and 80s I did hear such slurs on occasion. Any person of colour in America who says they have not experienced these insults at some point in their life is probably not being truthful.
Did you consider just ignoring them, and moving on? Did you discuss it with family or anyone before going public?
Given that this occurred just after Charlottesville, I knew that I must make this public somehow. My family thought I should keep quiet because of concerns about safety. My basic plan was to only share on my social network, and I expected it would end there with some expressions of outrage from friends, and some gallows humour. The fact that the story was picked up locally, then nationally, and finally internationally, is astonishing to me.
What’s been the reaction at home — the family here in the US and among relatives in India?
When the press starting emailing me, my family pleaded with me to stay silent. I knew that was impossible because since I started the issue by writing my op-ed, I had to lend my voice and stand up for what I believe in. However, at this stage the story has taken on a life of its own, and stories are being written with no involvement of mine...My relatives in India send me links to stories that I am featured in, many of which are not even written in English (so I cannot read them).
Were there any messages of support and commendation as well?
I have received over 5,000 emails/tweets/FB messages of support since Monday, and they are still coming in constantly. 99% of them are positive, from both the US and overseas. It’s been amazing, and I am so grateful because these messages make me feel that my story is making some small difference given the racial issues these days. People tell me to keep shining a light on this topic because it resonates with them. The most moving messages are from people in America who have suffered severe discrimination, usually African-American, Jewish, Hispanic, Arabic, and Asian individuals.
Has any of the Indian-descent CEOs -- and there are plenty of them, such as Satya Nadella (of Microsoft), Sundar Pichai (Google), Shanatnu Narayen (Adobe) or Indra Nooyi (Pepsi)— reached out to you?
Did your famous last name -- possibly the most recognisable Indian name in the US -- come up, in both the abusive and supportive messages if any?
Having the name Gandhi is a blessing and a curse. When I meet people in America who know Indian history, the name Gandhi is rightfully revered because of his status as a paragon of peace and justice. In those cases, it’s a blessing. On the other hand, when I meet people who know nothing about India, the name Gandhi usually just means an “Indian person” and occasionally people are turned off. In those cases, it’s slightly negative. Overall I love my name, and Mahatma Gandhi is one of my lifelong idols. I have visited the exact spot in Delhi where he was assassinated and it was a very moving experience. I have also read many of the writings of Martin Luther King Jr, who references Gandhi constantly as the inspiration of non-violent resistance.
Any final thoughts?
Even though we are in the midst of a national discussion on race and hatred, I have always believed, and will always believe that America is the greatest country in the history of the world. I have lived the American dream, and I will always do my utmost to help it move forward. I feel 100 percent loyal to America in every way.
First Published: Aug 25, 2017 10:23 IST