The Wisconsin Sikh Temple Attack And Why Post-Tragedy Rhetoric Matters

Source: Huffington Post

By Manjot Singh

Fellow in Public Affairs at Coro Pittsburgh

I don’t like the idea of reflection pieces. It makes me think that there is a prescribed time in which we must reflect. Mourning should not be reserved just for anniversaries. We can try to intellectualize hate as much as possible, whether it’s by explaining it in the context of debilitating rhetoric being spewed by Trump and his followers, or by appealing to the more emotional argument that the world is hurting and simply needs fixing. The article below is my attempt to make sense of the fact that hate has become ubiquitous, and love a luxury item.

I have grown up with the lens of 9/11. It was the first time the term “terrorism” became more than just an elusive term used to describe the unexplainable violence that happens half way across the world. We, as a collective nation, realized that American soil was not impenetrable by foreign enemies. Everything became incrediblypersonal and I was stuck in the middle of it all.

My identity has been a prize I haven’t quite been able to grasp. America has been my battleground.

I do not know an America that did not target me and I faced questions of identity and belonging at age 8. My concerns were less to do with the playground at school and more to do with whether this country would ever be safe for a boy like me: a boy with brown skin, now with a full beard, and a round turban. My identity has been a prize I haven’t quite been able to grasp. America has been my battleground.

When I found myself staring at a television at 10:30 a.m. on August 5, 2012, I felt like a betrayed 8-year-old again. I saw faces that looked like mine, like my father’s, and my sister’s, on the screen. “We” — the Sikh community, the brown community, the Other — had once again become victims of hate. This time in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, within theGurdwara, the Sikh place of worship. It was a difficult day. The shooting came on the heels of the movie theater shooting in Aurora. It was the first time in a while that Sikhs across America realized that they were just as susceptible to fall victim to a mass shooting as any other community was.

Here’s where things get complicated. The harsh reality is that we are not “average” Americans. We never have been. From the very beginning of our immigration history, we were deemed “Hindoos,” as news reporters could not quite figure out how to racially, religiously and ethnically categorize us. We started off in America as farmers and railroad workers, and made up a large portion of the labor class in central and northern California.

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