Jun 2 2022
Sikh Civics: Philanthropy’s Role in Building A Multiracial Society
In April 2021, a mass shooting left eight dead, including four Sikh Americans, at a Fedex facility in Indianapolis, Indiana, where it was well known that a majority of the workers were part of the Sikh community. Ten years ago this August, a man with neo-Nazi ties killed six Sikhs at a gurdwara (Sikh house of worship) in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, leaving four others injured; a seventh died in 2020 due to direct complications from the shooting. At the time, Oak Creek was the worst act of mass violence inside an American house of worship in nearly 50 years. While the details in both of these mass shootings look different, both mirror a pattern of post 9/11 violence that continues to make the Sikh American community extremely vulnerable to bias, bigotry and backlash.
Predictably, this bigotry also extends into our nation’s classrooms. In a 2014 report, the Sikh Coalition found that the majority of Sikh children, just over 50%, endure school bullying; the number jumps to over two-thirds, or 67%, for those who wear turbans or other articles of faith. According to SALDEF’s more recent 2020 National Sikh American Survey, which surveyed over 1800 Sikh Americans from around the country, 58% indicated that they have been bullied or harassed because of their Sikh identity and 63% of respondents who wear turbans indicate that they have been discriminated against for wearing one.
Despite these enormous challenges, what can the American public–and more specifically the philanthropic space–learn from the Sikh community beyond horrific headlines? While the threat of targeted violence remains urgent, it is time for philanthropy to look to and leverage the resilience, efforts to build community power, and allyship displayed by other marginalized communities in order to proactively support an inclusive multi-racial society for all.
Kiran Kaur Gill, Executive Director, Sikh American Legal Defense & Education Fund
Moderated by: Amardeep Singh, Vice President for Programs, Proteus Fund
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