Mumbai, Milwaukee and Mob Violence

When a mob was caught on camera looting a BP gas station mini-mart, the fact that the business was owned by an Indian immigrant has given one columnist the license to define deviancy down. In this Journal-Sentinel column Eugene Kane writes that since the owner, Jay Walia, is non-plussed by the looting, we too should be willing to “take the good with the bad in order to keep moving forward.”

Kane goes on to tell readers that, “One Middle Eastern gas station owner in a tough central city neighborhood once told me his employees slept in the store overnight in order to avoid vandalism. He seemed to accept it as part of doing business. In other words, compared with what life was like for many of them before arriving in America, it wasn’t that bad.”

And, certainly, compared to riots in Egypt, Tunisia, Greece, Syria, or other countries in the news recently, a mob of teenagers looting a gas station does not merit global headlines. But neither is it “just another blip in the road,” toward the American dream.

It’s troubling to see the immigrant experience in the U.S. used to excuse bad behavior. We frequently hear similar excuses rationalizing the exploitation of illegal aliens by unscrupulous employers. They are still far better off than they would be in their own countries and they are willing to accept what we might consider unacceptable conditions, we are told. No, it is never okay to exploit illegal aliens, or anyone else for that matter. And no, the fact that much worse things might occur to the mini-mart owner if he were in Mumbai instead of Milwaukee should not make the looting of his business any more tolerable.

When flash mobs loot retail stores the average public reaction is not “Things are much worse in Mumbai, and therefore this isn’t a big deal.” It is more along the lines of “This is not how our country should be.” And it undermines the real American dreams that immigrants moving to America seek — among them the idea of a country free from criminal anarchy — to use their home country experiences to tell Americans that we don’t know how good we have it, so stop complaining.

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Content written by Federation for American Immigration Reform staff.


  1. avatar

    Karl Filippini for sure has never been to Mumbai. And no things in Mumbai are nowhere near troubled spots around world including south side Chicago or Dallas.

  2. avatar
    Margaret Paddock on

    No mistreating and abusing another human or animal for that matter is never acceptable especially here in America. It is sad that because of where they come from they do not call the police or employ methods such as security cameras to catch these wrong doers.
    It takes a while to assimilate into any new culture and it would be nice to see groups from their own country working closer with American authorities to rectify this vandalism for all in the neighborhood.