My parents took a risk. Two freshly minted Ph.D.'s, raised in poverty, leaving their home country, coming to America. Placed in Virginia for work. Moving to the Northeast, again for work. Delivering to this world three beautiful kids. Buying a house and public-schooling said kids. All three kids getting into college. Two of the three also attaining that elusive "Dr." title. My parents are the American dream.
Sorry, let me introduce myself. I am a person of color who identifies foremost as an American and secondarily as a Philadelphian. I grew up scared of the KKK, keeping rolled-up socks as weapons to attack them when they arrived at my home. They actively met in my town and marched in my neighborhood.
But the craziest thing? There’s no way my parents could have thought they came here and raised us in an America that was more welcoming than where current policy is trending. Could they have made it in this new 30-point system? Probably not. Could I have? Definitely not. But guess what — I somehow was accepted to Penn! I now work at Wharton! I wonder what The Donald would have to say to me if we met?
I mean, I’ve met such great Penn alumni, like John Legend; like Tory Burch; like Doug Glanville. But I have never met The Donald, probably never will, and don’t care that I won’t. I really don’t know about the finance world that he and so many of my peers have dove into, so how can I even comment on the man’s career? I’ve even been told, as a Wharton employee, “as a reminder, our policy is to not comment or engage in political discourse.” Still, I really do have a lot to say about this coward named Donald. But why give him the extra ego boost when I can instead discuss the monsters he has unleashed, the men that scared me in my home growing up, and do again now across America, the white supremacists.
I’ve been to 41 of the 50 states across this country and met so many amazing people — those who I agree with and those who I disagree with. But never, and I can I add, luckily, never have I ever encountered an American who openly attacked the person I was, who diminished my value as an American, who questioned my loyalty to this country. Yet we have these white nationalists marching in a state as close as Virginia, a state where my parents started their careers, a state where my sister was born. I was so terrified Saturday hearing about the situation in Charlottesville. Later that day, my phone was revived from dead battery and there were 54 notifications on my phone. Uh-oh, did Joel Embiid get injured again or had my cat simply escaped the house? Had something even more gruesome happened in Virginia? Did somebody die? Yes, three people did.
One text simply read “sup?” ... the other 53 were part of a different thread I wasn’t expecting. All 53 were from Quakers: White, Jewish, Black and Hispanic. And me, a man who didn’t fit any of those profiles, but still a target. Our conversation burgeoned and I could barely keep up. But the first message was the most important: “What occurred today in Charlottesville has me so fucking incensed, I can barely contain my rage. I think it's time we took our country back from the perfidious, racist scum that's been given voice by a fellow Penn grad.” This is the biggest problem: “A fellow Penn grad.” A Wharton grad.
In the days since, Trump has done nothing to allay the fears of Americans. He halfheartedly put out statements saying both sides made mistakes and then that both sides include good people. To this day, Wharton hasn’t had the backbone to denounce Trump. I have a big problem with Wharton sitting this one out, as one of the most influential voices in the country regarding this president of ours. Wharton, more than six months and many “presidential” blunders later, what will it take for you to denounce this man? Is it really all about donors and the bottom line?
As an employee and friend of Penn, I felt hurt and weakened by The Donald’s awful rhetoric. As a Quaker alumnus, I’m disgusted that you’ve waited so long to make a real statement because of political (a.k.a. financial) concerns. As an American, I’m waiting for your guidance, for your leadership and for your denouncement of President Donald J. Trump.
ABHI HENDI is a Class of 2011 Engineering graduate who majored in systems engineering. He currently works at Wharton in the IT department.
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