A Sikh Tragedy, an American Tragedy

by Punita Rice Culture

A Sikh Tragedy, an American Tragedy

Before reading this post, please make sure you are familiar with the Shooting at the Gurdwara (Sikh temple) in Wisconson.

“For me, the mass shooting is not just about how to keep guns out of the hands of a murderous few. It’s also about my community’s sacrifice in the struggle to live as free and proud Americans

…this is not a Sikh tragedy but an American tragedy.”

– From Valarie Kaur, in Today, we are all American Sikhs

This morning, someone decided to say that Sikh men shouldn’t be surprised by the prejudice some of them face when stepping out in the morning — and to this, I had to say no. To that someone, and to any other person who would raise the notion that any person should expect to face prejudice because of what they believe, I have to say no, in America, they shouldn’t have to expect it.  Having an unshorn beard and wearing a turban are not fashion choices for which a few men should expect to face consequences — for most Sikhs, they are non-negotiable. It is a part of who they are.  So, no, a Sikh man, like any freedom loving American, should not have to expect it or anything less than equal and respectful treatment, because we as a nation are better than that.

A Sikh man (or woman or child) should never “expect” to be treated like a terrorist. This very statement, that a Sikh man should expect to be treated a particular, prejudiced way, is unnerving and implies, “follow your religion at your own risk” — I don’t believe that in this day and age, this mentality is something we should be perpetuating.

We are a nation that defends the right to follow one’s religion — not just allows it, but actively defends it. So to perpetuate the notion that a man who chooses to follow his should expect to be treated with violence is unacceptable. We should be aiming to end ignorance, NOT suggesting that Sikh men and women can exercise their religious freedom at their own risk, particularly in a country where exercising religious freedom is a fundamental RIGHT.

More about Sikhism

Sikhism is the 5th largest Organized Religion in the world, with approximately half a million followers living in the United States. Learn about the fundamental beliefs and central tenants of Sikhism by *clicking here.

*Wikipedia‘s overview of Sikhism is straightforward and helpful for those who are completely unfamiliar with the religion.

A Nation Supports Sikh Americans Together

Americans from all backgrounds have rallied together to show their Sikh brothers and sisters how supported they are. Without Fear or Waver (Navroop Mitter) observes the camaraderie of Americans after this tragedy, and revels in how Sikh Americans have had no cause or need for fear following this incident. The feeling in the nation is one that certainly makes clear how isolated the perception of the terrorist responsible for this tragedy is.

In contrast, the article “Why the Reaction is Difference when the Terrorist is White” by Conor Friedersdorf approaches America’s reaction from an admittedly more glass-half-empty perspective.  While less optimistic, it is an interesting and very provocative read (I highly recommend it — thanks again, Rasika).

The bottom line is, our nation’s well being and interests are best served when Americans of all creeds and walks of life band together and give support to one another, with no tolerance for anyone who threatens our tolerant way of being.

A final thought:

“…Let us get to know our Sikh sisters and brothers, as well as all of the ‘others’ in our neighborhoods so that we might grow stronger as one nation, and as one global community.”

The difference between Muslims and Sikhs… Misses the point by Paul Raushenbush (Thanks Jeet for link)


About the Author
Punita Rice

Punita Rice

Punita Rice is a mother, educator, writer, and founder of ISAASE. She is the author of Toddler Weaning: Deciding to Gradually Wean your Toddler & Making it Happen, and the forthcoming South Asian American Experiences in Schools: Brown Voices from the Classroom, and blogs about motherhood at Happy Mom Guide. Her work centers around multicultural education and equity, and South Asian American experiences in school. You can read more about Punita and her work here.