How’s it hanging?
So this past week in my English class, we turned in our research papers. For the assignment, we could basically pick any issue and argue one side of it. I argued that the FBI should track hate crimes against Sikhs, Hindus, and Arabs. It had to be all official and MLA and whatnot, but I thought it kind of goes with the theme I have going here on ShadesofBrwn, and it talks about a lot of things I’ve been wanting to talk about on here, too, so I went ahead and copy pasted it below. The parts that I thought were most blog-worthy are hilighted in….
I also threw in some pictures and headings and stuff in the hopes that you don’t fall asleep.
And so here it–
Wait hold on. I’m putting my English paper on the internet…somehow this doesn’t seem like the smartest idea. Look, just don’t plagiarize it, okay? Don’t be that guy.
Monitoring Hate Crimes in the United States
Throughout American history, various minority groups have been targeted in hate crimes. Today, Arab-Americans often find themselves the targets of these hate crimes, also known as ethnoviolence (Perry). Additionally, Hindus, who are typically of Indian descent, and Sikhs, who are often seen wearing turbans, are targeted. After the tragedy of September 11th, Arabs, Sikhs, and Hindus living in America fit the mental image shared by many of what a typical terrorist looks like. This has caused a violent backlash of hate crimes against these three minority groups. Joe Crowley, a congressman and the chairman of the Congressional India and Indian Americans Caucus, has recently brought this issue to national attention by addressing the FBI and requesting that they track the crimes against Arab, Sikh, and Hindu Americans (Crowley). The need for the FBI to track these crimes is evident. Ethnoviolence has terrorized Arab communities for over a decade. Similarly, Sikh and Hindu Americans have found themselves living in fear of attack in a post 9/11 world as well. Furthermore, the tracking of these crimes will have additional benefits, such as giving peace to the families of the victims of hate crimes.
First up, Arabs:
Because the people behind the 9/11 attack were from Arab countries, Arab-Americans currently face a strong backlash of anti-Arab sentiment, and need to be protected on the federal level. After 9/11, Americans of Arab descent were instantly targeted because of their ethnicity. In a report compiled by the American-Arab Anti -Discrimination Committee (ADC), hate crimes against Arabs were reported as early as the day of 9/11. On this day, “Kill Arabs” was sprayed onto multiple buildings in Chicago, Illinois (Ibish). This threat sprayed on to the buildings of Chicago showed how quickly anti-Arab sentiment spread after the attack on the World Trade Center. Although these were just words, they were an accurate prediction of the fate of many Arab-Americans in the wake of 9/11 (Ibish). The ADC goes on to detail several assaults on people of Arab descent. On September 29th, 2001, a California resident was shot and killed in his place of work because of his Arab background. Assaults such as this became common in the weeks, months, and years following 9/11. The amount of attacks on Arab-Americans, as well as the brutality with which they are carried out, are a testament to the severity of this issue. Today, thousands of Arab-Americans still live in fear of an attack on themselves or their loved ones.
Next we got Sikhs and Hindus:
Sikh and Hindu Americans are often the victims of hate crimes as well. Occasionally, they are mistaken as Muslims—although this should not warrant an attack—and other times they are targeted for their specific identity as Sikhs or Hindus. Once again, the very day of 9/11 marked the first attacks on Hindus and Sikhs in America. According to the ADC, shortly after the Twin Towers were attacked, a Hindu temple in Matawan, New Jersey was fire-bombed. On the same day, in Cleveland, Ohio, bottles filled with gasoline were thrown into a Sikh temple (Ibish). Whether they were mistaken for Arabs or targeted for their own identity, Sikhs and Hindus began to feel the backlash of 9/11 on the very day that it occurred. From the fire-bombs thrown on September 11th, 2001, to recent months, Sikhs and Hindus have continued to be the targets of hate crimes. In December of last year, Sunando Sen—a Hindu resident of New York—was shoved onto the tracks of an oncoming train. His attacker was later detained, and stated that she had “been beating up Muslims and Hindus for a long time” (Erika). The quote from Sen’s attacker makes it evident that, while it is possible that he was mistakenly labeled as a Muslim, his identity as a Hindu was enough to provoke an attack. Unfortunately, these examples are a mere fraction of the assaults on Sikh and Hindu Americans. Similar attacks occur daily, and Sikhs and Hindus have learned to live with this fact. As a Sikh in America myself, I have seen offenses on various members of my family—offenses that were fueled by their identities as Sikhs. To know that these kinds of attacks are not monitored creates an unsettled fear within myself and many others, and will continue to do so until we know that the government is aware of the struggles we face. By not tracking hate crimes specific to Sikhs, Hindus, and Arabs, it seems as though the government hopes that the attacks will simply fade away. As members of these minority groups, we too hoped that the attacks would cease. However, twelve years after 9/11, this has hardly been the case. As Hindus, Arabs, and Sikhs, we are forced to look and to acknowledge the attacks on our community. Because the government does not track these crimes, it feels as though we are the only ones who do so.
It is made clear by the amount of attacks on Arabs, Sikhs, and Hindus, that these crimes need to be monitored. However, the tracking of these crimes by the FBI would have additional benefits as well. The primary benefit of the tracking of these hate crimes is that doing so would offer protection to members of Sikh, Arab, and Hindu communities. Congressman Joe Crowley is currently asking the Department of Justice to ask the FBI to track these crimes. In reference to the minority groups he is speaking on behalf of, Crowley states, “They want action, and they want it now. At the very least, they want the government to collect comprehensive data and respond to threats” (Crowley). If the government were to monitor hate crimes against Sikhs, Hindus, and Arabs, this would protect these minority groups extensively. Threats, such as the ones sprayed onto the buildings of Chicago bearing the message “Kill Arabs” would be responded to at the federal level, and could likely be prevented. Additionally, if the public knew that this type of crime was monitored by the FBI, individuals might be deterred from carrying out attacks, because they would know the crimes would provoke a punishment distributed by the national government. An additional benefit of monitoring these crimes is that doing so would bring peace to the families of the victims of hate crimes, such as the one committed in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. On a warm summer day in 2012, Sikh residents of Oak Creek gathered for their weekly service in their local temple. On this day, August 5th, 2012, white supremacist Michael Page Wade walked in to the Sikh Gurdwara of Wisconsin and shot and killed six worshipers inside the building (Rowlands).
In the month following, the son of one of the victims testified before the United States Senate.
Hapreet Saini is in blue. Sitting behind him is his brother.
In his testimony, the victim’s son, Harpreet Singh Saini, addressed the need for hate crimes to be tracked: “I came here today to ask the government to give my mother the dignity of being a statistic. The FBI does not track hate crimes against Sikhs. My mother and those shot that day will not even count on a federal form. We cannot solve a problem we refuse to recognize” (Saini). As the son of a victim of ethnoviolence, Saini’s perspective is unique. Only people in his situation know the feeling of knowing that their loved one “will not even count on a federal form” (Saini). However, the unjust nature of this statement resonates with many. If the government was to acknowledge that Saini’s mother, Paramjit Kaur Toor, was killed because of her identity, not only would that lessen the likeliness of a similar attack, but it would give a small amount of peace to her loved ones and the members of her community. The prevention of attacks and the victims’ family’s peace of mind are two of the benefits that tracking crimes against Hindus, Arabs, and Sikhs would bring. Tracking these crimes could save lives as well as prevent extensive emotional anguish for those who are already suffering.
Although tracking crimes against Hindu, Arab, and Sikh Americans would offer multiple benefits, some may believe that there is no need to track hate crimes against individual groups, and that all hate crimes should be documented as the same type of offense. However, this would prevent authorities from gaining insight into the attacks, and being able to prevent ones similar to them in the future. The more we know about the individuality of a group, the less chance there is of that group being targeted. The state of Texas is a prime example of focusing on an individual group. The state worked with the Sikh Coalition, which is an organization that protects and helps raise awareness about Sikhs, to get Sikhism in the statewide Social Studies curriculum. They succeeded, and all Texas students now learn about Sikhs in their classes. One Texas teacher stated that his training in Sikh education in preparation to teach about the religion was, “a perfect introduction to Sikhism. My new knowledge will help my students understand other people in diverse communities” (Coalition). In this instance, an individual religious group was indeed singled out. However, doing so was in an effort to protect members of the group, and to enlighten others. Here, focusing on differences instead of grouping every religion together proved beneficial, as it would when tracking hate crimes against individual groups. In a similar case, the Sikh Coalition advocated Sikh education in New Jersey, and they were successful: Sikhism was added to the statewide curriculum. This time, after the curriculum was edited to include individual attention to Sikhism, Educational Commissioner Lucille Davey issued a memorandum to all of the principals of New Jersey, in which she asked that the recipients of the note take care to ensure the safety of Sikh students (Six). Because Sikhism was specifically brought to Davey’s attention, she was able to make an attempt at protecting Sikh students. If Sikhism had been grouped with, perhaps, all religions based out of South Asia, Davey would not be aware of the discrimination faced by Sikhs because of their turbans, as well as the other issues they face. In turn, she would not have taken the additional measure to ensure their safety.
In the Declaration of Independence, our founding fathers identified our nation as one in which everyone is guaranteed “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (Declaration). However, in today’s America, Sikhs, Arabs, and Hindus are often denied their happiness, freedom of religion, and sometimes even their lives. Surely this is not the America envisioned by our founding fathers, nor is it one in which we can grow to our full potential as a society. The need for the government to track these crimes is evident. Furthermore, in doing so, the families of the victims would know that the attack on their loved one was acknowledged. They would know that their country sees their struggle as worthy of a federal form.
“Coalition Continues Work to Bring Sikhi to Every Student in Texas.” The Sikh Coalition. 28 Feb. 2013
“Crowley Launches Major Effort to Track Sikh, Hindu Hate Crimes.” Hindustan Times 21 February 2013.
Declaration of Independence. Introduction.
25 February 2013 <http://www.hindustantimes.com/Punjab/PunjabAbroadUSA/Crowley-
“Erika Menendez, NYC Subway Pushing Suspect, Blames Bad Day on Decision to Shove Sunando Sen.”
HuffPost New York19 January 2013. 25 February 2013 <http://www.huffingtonpost.com>.
Ibish, Hussein et al. “Report on Hate Crimes and Discrimination Against Arab Americans: The Post-
September 11 Backlash.” Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee. Ed. Hussein Ibish.
2003. 26 Feb. 2013 <http://www.adc.org/PDF/hcr02.pdf>
Perry, Barbara. In the Name of Hate: Understanding Hate Crimes. New York: Routledge, 2001.
Rowlands, Ted. “Sikhs Repair, Reclaim Temple After Rampage.” CNN 10 August 2012.
Saini, Harpreet S. “Hate Crimes and the Threat of Domestic Extremism,” testimony, September 19, 2012,
before the United States Senate, Committee on the Judiciary (Constitution, Civil Rights, and
Human Rights). Text from: Testimony. Available on: United States Senate Judiciary
Committee on the Judiciary; Accessed: 2/28/13.
“Six Year Journey Culminates in Adoption of Mandatory Curriculum Standard.” The Sikh Coalition.25
September 2013. 28 Feb. 2013 <http://www.sikhcoalition.org/advisories/2009/14-million-new-jersey->.
Well that’s my paper. One thing that wasn’t in there but should have been was the murder of Balbir Singh Sodhi. He was a gas station owner. Four days after 9/11, Sodhi was planting flowers outside of his gas station when a man drove up to him, and shot and killed him. My mom says that hearing this on the news that day felt like it did hearing about the Oak Creek, WI Gurdwara shooting last year. To hear the word “Sikh” on the news like that (Sodhi was a Sikh) was such a shock to her and the thousands of Sikhs around the world.
In my paper I also mentioned that my own family has suffered after 9/11. No one has been physically attacked, not to my knowledge, anyways. Mainly verbal things. But in the weeks following 9/11, my mom’s parents–my sweet, gentle Nana Nani– were out driving for the first time since 9/11, when all of a sudden, the drivers around them realized that my Nana Ji was wearing a turban, and they just started honking their horns. That was just the first time, too.
Look, I know you know the deal: Don’t be a hater. If you find yourselves forming opinions about Islam, Arabs, Sikhs, Hindus, etc., that’s great! But remember to make sure you’re learning about these groups from unbiased sources. None of those groups advocate violence for the sake of their religion or ethnicity. If someone says that they do, or should, then that person is uninformed. A lot of folks do take the time and learn about these groups the right way, and you guys are an awesome bunch, and you deserve to be appreciated 🙂 And to brown people who fall into any of those groups, remember that we have to be just as open and accepting. After going through some of the stuff we’ve been through as minorities, it’s easy to want to shut out everyone else and not deal with it. But das not coo. When someone asks you a question, answer! Who better to tell people about us, than us?
Well with that I’m off. I have to go do cool things like hang out with friends, be a hipster, take thoughtful walks. It’s not like I have to study for a test.
I do though. I do have to study for a test.
I guess that’s zindagi.
See your beautiful face next week!