A Critical Analysis of Post 9/11 Sikh American Activism: Addressing White and Christian Supremacy

Guest Blogged by Jaideep Singh

As the Sikh American community embarks yet another mobilization against hate attacks— since this latest episode of violence has really hit home with many Sikhs in a way rarely seen since Balbir Singh Sodhi— we would do well to first answer the difficult, necessarily critical questions posed by my sister Nina Chanpreet Kaur in her thoughtful, passionate piece from last year.[1]

Our efforts at “education and outreach” clearly have yielded perilously little success— as measured by the safety of our communities. So education obviously is NOT enough. Reality is far more complex and ugly. A person who would attack a gurdwara is not coming to an open house or community feeding (langar) to abate their hatred. The long list of those in our communities who have been injured and killed, and the homes and gurdwaras defaced, testifies to as much. We cannot advance by hiding in our gated communities, far from the raw racial realities daily faced by our less fortunate sisters and brothers.

Fighting centuries of entrenched, utterly irrational white [and Christian] supremacy is neither an easy task, nor a short term one. Many of us cannot even bring ourselves to admit these forces even exist, let alone how they permanently define Sikhs as racial and religious outsiders. That naïve approach must end, replaced by a sophistication borne of serious historical study of U.S. history.

We must begin any successful campaign to battle these seminal aspects of this nation’s historic character by arming ourselves with historical knowledge of how race has been used in our nation’s history, why it was created, and by whom. We must understand how the fostering of racial divisions to resolve class conflict predates our nation’s birth, shaping a pattern of racial hierarchy that stretches into the present.

We are all heirs to this tragic imprinting of the artificial marking of race on our bodies and psyches. Many of the hate crimes against Sikhs in the past thirteen years have been committed by other people of color. I would not be surprised if the attack on brother Prabhjot follows in this deeply disturbing pattern. We are deeply diseased by race, as a people.

We need new, creative solutions to replace the failed approaches of the past. We can see that getting a few talking heads on television for a week or two has not made us qualitatively safer. We must ask why Oak Creek disappeared so quickly from national attention, particularly compared to the Aurora shooting just a few weeks earlier. We must honestly assess how effective our current “education and outreach” efforts are at countering hate violence, and keeping our community members safe. Without assessment, the organizing is largely meaningless, because it could be no more than a “feel good” waste of time. We need evidence that the exertion was worth the time, effort, and money. The Sikh concept of seva, selfless service, is not only about developing humility, it must also be undertaken in a manner that is efficacious and efficient.

Smash the box with the master’s tool and begin anew. To uncenter whiteness and Christianity in public and private life is the only way to find true acceptance from, and integration within, the polity. There can be no center in a truly multicultural nation, only a colloquium of equals. We are very far from that, with huge numbers of irrationally fearful white Christians demanding their country back. . . . We must address that stark reality, not ignore it.

My peeps, within and outside the Sikh American community, please bring the noize! We need your brilliance, experience, and originality to offer new solutions that eclipse the failures of previous generations. The future can be better, but not without widespread sacrifice and organizing form within and outside the community. I look forward to learning from the ideas produced by the new leaders who step forward in this new surge of activism!

[1]  See Be Proud? by Nina Chanpreet Kaur posted on December 5, 2012
“Truly empowering people and eliminating hate comes with massive, localized, collaborative efforts aligned with existing national efforts that are measurable, focused on skill and community building, and impact the day to day lives of communities…What about tracking the effectiveness of those efforts?  In fact, instead of media appearances and tautological messages let’s attack the roots of xenophobia, hate, racism and the media that breeds it.
…From siloed, insular, ego driven and territorial alliances to deeply collaborative, responsive, transformative missives that truly break down divisions. From investments in legal advocacy and political campaigns to growing leadership in our children. From defending the Sikh identity with inapposite descriptions that accommodate to white Christian norms and we are not Muslim to conversations about who I am and how that relates to you. From political benchmarks to understanding, responding to and systematically tracking hate and white supremacy on both local and national levels. From men in charge at the exclusion of women to balancing the gender gap in our community. From divided gurdwara committees to reform that will put forth a new level of security and organized mental health response as precedents. From anxiety-driven activism to a more grounded, measured, self-reflective and sustained movement.”

See also White Supremacy: The Unspoken Truth by American Turban & Nina Chanpreet Kaur posted on December 27, 2012

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8 Responses to “A Critical Analysis of Post 9/11 Sikh American Activism: Addressing White and Christian Supremacy”

  1. P. Singh says:

    So beautiful to see Jaideep Singh my brother and old time warrior touch base here.

    He planted seeds that are full grown trees now (SALDEF etc) and continued to work tirelessly behind the scenes. The masses are a bit simple for the massive knowledge and processing that goes on in your mind bro, but bear with us and be here with us. We need you.

  2. Singh says:

    Sardars are not mistaken for Muslims they are identified for having brown skin, turbans and beards hollywoods and American governments fabricate image of a terrorist to get public support for military action in Mideast to expand the capitalist American empire. Our community is a victim of the propaganda used for this expansion. A strategy has to be developed by think thanks within the community by people who are professionals with in the field. The failure of the current awareness campaign, comes because it is mostly lead by skilled workers such as engineers, doctors, business owners etc. none whom have the scholarly credentials which are needed to take this tremendous challenge. There is nothing complicated if the communities "jameer" was alive, poor leadership and anti-Khalistani elements within the community who took on this awareness lahar killed it. Bring it back and bulling, hate crimes etc. will be things of the past.

  3. […] the patterns of violence against communities of color in the U.S., including Sikhs since the early 20th century, the Sikh community must see itself as part of a longer history of anti-racist struggle. If we rely […]

  4. […] The disappointment of yet another hate crime attack, particularly after last year’s mass murder of Sikhs in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, has instigated more critical examination of current efforts and placing discrimination and hate crimes in a more broad context — along the trajectory of a greater resistance against white supremacy. In a piece on The Langar Hall, Jaideep Singh examines the efficacy of education and awareness: […]

  5. […] the patterns of violence against communities of color in the U.S., including Sikhs since the early 20th century, the Sikh community must see itself as part of a longer history of anti-racist struggle. If we rely […]

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  7. James says:

    Good point you got there. I agree that "our efforts at education and outreach clearly have yielded perilously little success" And you are right. Education is not enough. We must have the stronger ways to against the reality. Thank you for a thoughtful article. Very enjoy reading it.

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