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Ignorance Is No Bliss





As hate crimes have recurrently occurred over the past years and even as recently as the beginning of this year, I feel that as a proud Sikh-American teenager, it is my duty to stand up against the hatred, injustice, and ignorance that breeds these hate crimes.  

A 68-year-old Sikh man, Amrik Singh Bal, from Fresno, California, was deliberately hit by a truck on December 28, 2015. The two people in the truck then got down and physically attacked Amrik Singh.

The two Caucasian males used profanity when they approached Amrik and questioned him as to why he even walked on the street! 

Three days later, on January 1, 2016, while the world celebrated the beginning of a new year, it marked the tragic end of the life for another member of the Sikh-American community. Gurcharan Singh Gill, a 68-year old Sardar was stabbed to death in an auto-mechanic shop.

As I read the articles containing the horrifying news within three days of each other, I was filled with sadness, disgust, and despair. Hate crimes such as these have occurred again and again since September 11, 2001, because of ignorance of who Sikhs are and what values we stand for. We have now become enveloped by some, through mistaken identity, within the despicable rise of Islamophobia.

Coupled with ignorance is the lack of education and a lack of interest in educating themselves, on the part of the ignorant and the racist, about Sikhs. There is a common misconception that everyone who does not fit an old and historical mold is a foreigner (‘an alien’) and someone wearing a turban appears to one lost in the fog of prejudice as nothing but a terrorist. 

It is baffling to most Americans that being a terrorist and wearing a turban have nothing to do with each other. Sadly, this myth is exactly what is emphasized by the popular media in an effort to create an easily identifiable feature which the public can latch on to. The media do not like to show that terrorists for the most part “try to blend in” and not “stand out” as Sikhs do by wearing their article of faith.

In fact, the turban is a type of crown that many have adorned themselves with ever since the beginning of history. This is what a turban has signified both in the East and the West for millennia.

Of course, turbans have many different styles and the styles of the Sikh turban are uniquely different than the style of anyone else’s. However it takes a minimal effort to see the difference which most racists are unwilling to take the time to learn.

Sikhism is the world’s fifth largest religion, yet it is not taught in the schools in America and is scarcely mentioned in textbooks.

Sikhs, especially children, face bullying in schools due to their unshorn hair, another article of faith.

I have lived through the experience of bullying because of my leg and facial hair. When I was in gym class in middle school, I once received a comment from a peer that “you have disgustingly hairy legs”. I have always felt stared at and judged for hair on my face.

I have never removed any of the hair because I stand strong in my Sikhi and I know it’s what makes me happy. I believe it is time for people to accept Sikhs the way they are. If we can accept people for being gay, transgender, Hindu, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, or atheist -- despite their respectively unique practices -- why can’t we simply recognize and admire the steadfastness that Sikhs hold, based on the highest values of humanity and decency?

By understanding and accepting Sikhs for how they are, we can end hate crimes against Sikhs. Only through education can we can stop bullying that exists in schools and colleges across the nation.

We could put an end to injustice, hatred, and maybe one day the word “ignorance” will be removed from the English language, as it would no longer have any use.

The author is a sophomore at Hathaway Brown School in Ohio, USA.

February 25, 2016

Conversation about this article

1: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom ), February 25, 2016, 11:07 PM.

Dear Sukhmani Kaur ji, you are such a brave lady and Princess.

2: Gurpreet Singh (Mumbai, India), March 14, 2016, 9:28 AM.

Sukhmani Kaur ji, "turban tights" for you on your thoughts on Sikhi above and may Waheguru bless you with more courage and Gursikhi!

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