American Sikhs respond to growing, often violent, prejudice in the United States.
While racism has always had an ugly presence in the United States, the increase in the amount of prejudice against American Sikhs has grown worse in the last two decades. Specifically, there was a large increase of anti-Sikh sentiment following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Studies have shown that most Americans are unable to identify any facets of the Sikh religion, and often mistake them for being Muslims. As a result, Sikhs have been subjected to abuse and murder at the hands of individuals who displace their angry, racist attitudes. However, Sikhs are taking matters into their own hands and responding to the mistreatment that they have suffered.
The Post 9/11 World
As mentioned, the terrorist attacks sparked off an entirely new wave of racism towards American Sikhs. One Sikh businessman was shot to death outside of his gas station four days after the events, the first of three hundred separate hate incidents involving Sikhs in the last decade alone.
While these are terrible incidents in their own right, one of the more prevalent problems that are facing Sikhs today is bullying. According to research that has been completed by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, 69% of all Sikh students who wear turbans have been subjected to bullying, with even higher occurrences in those who wear other articles of their faith. Aside from the lack of understanding about the Sikh faith, the bullies often say that the Sikhs are not from the United States. They use this mistaken belief to justify their terrible abuses.
How American Sikhs Are Responding
Many American Sikhs have decided that the best way to combat this injustice is through education. Not only have they launched PSAs to explain their religion but also to address anti-Sikh sentiment directly. One of the most famous PSAs has been headed by American actor Waris Ahluwalia, and seeks to answer one of the most common and inappropriate questions: Where are you from? In this announcement Ahluwalia simply answers with some of his favorite parts about being an American such as raising a family and serving the community. The goal of this campaign is to educate individuals about American Sikhs so that they no longer see the two as being mutually exclusive. Moreover, the other goal is to encourage Sikhs to see themselves as being Americans despite the poor treatment that they have received at the hands of their fellow citizens. While many people in the Sikh community are optimistic about the positive message, it will certainly take more time and effort to alleviate the abuse suffered by American Sikhs.