I was sickened by the news of the shooting this past weekend at a Sikh temple, or gurdwara, near Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Few things scare me more than random shootings that occur in what are supposed to be places of safety, such as schools and houses of worship. There is little that can help us make sense of what are senseless acts—but one article that has helped me think about how to move forward is “Today, we are all American Sikhs” by Valarie Kaur at CNN.
Today, we are called to do more. We are called to do the hard work of listening.
If we really want to unite in response to this national tragedy, we need to know whom we are embracing. For many, this means learning about Sikh Americans for the first time—and listening closely to what’s at stake.
I urge you all to go read her article in full—and then ask yourself how we can all do a better job of listening to each other.
I also liked Tresa Kaur Dusaj’s piece at HuffPo, in which she writes:
Frequently, I hide the fact that I am a Sikh to blend in and fit it. It is easier to hide than to explain my religion to my colleagues, friends and students. Until today, I have camouflaged myself into my role as a nurse and as an educator, frequently separating my religious beliefs from my occupation. So tomorrow brings a new perspective, the responsibility to educate all those around me.
Every LGBT person who has ever hidden their sexual orientation or gender identity, or who has ever tried to educate others about LGBT issues, will find resonance in her words—a resonance that I believe makes it incumbent on us to listen and learn about other communities and cultures in turn (whatever “other” may mean to us).
Here are a few additional resources that speak specifically to helping children and teens learn more about Sikhism and the oppression and bullying Sikhs have experienced, particularly after 9/11.
- The Sikh Coalition has a fact sheet (PDF) with some minimal points people should know about Sikhism and discrimination. Did you know that according to a 2010 survey by the Sikh Coalition, “69% of turban-wearing Sikh students in the Bay Area of San Francisco have suffered bullying and harassment because of their religion and that 30% of them had been hit or involuntarily touched because of their turbans”? The LGBT community, regardless of religion, has long been a champion of anti-bullying efforts; we owe it to all students to speak out whenever we see it, whatever the apparent motivation.
- Khalsa Kids is a site aimed at children of the Sikh faith, to help them better understand their religion and explain it to others. Seems to me it would also be a good resource for children of other beliefs who want to know more about Sikhism.
- “The Sikh Next Door” video profiles four Sikh youth, comes with a curriculum guide, and can be ordered as a DVD or viewed online. (Thanks to Groundspark, source of many diversity education films about LGBT families and youth, for the tip.)
My heart goes out to the victims of the shooting, their families, friends, and the millions of Sikhs around the world. May we all work towards a world in which such acts never occur again.