This Week in Hate: Sixteen Years after 9/11 and Hate Violence is on the Rise

Prepared by Radha Modi

September 11, 2017 marked the 16 year anniversary of 9/11, and hate violence against those who identify or are perceived as Muslim, Sikh, South Asian, Arab, Middle Eastern, and Asian continues to rise. While the campaign and election of Donald Trump is heralded as the impetus for the growing hate speech and violence nationally, Islamophobia, anti-Blackness, and anti-immigrant sentiment had become normalized and institutionalized in the U.S. over the last sixteen years: from profiling by TSA to police brutality to excessive delays in processing of immigration applications. Trump as well as others would not have been able to advocate and sanction white supremacy so deftly had it not been for the continued embedding of these principles in the foundations of U.S. governance.

The latest numbers in hate show that in the ten months since the election, a total of 168 incidents of hate have occurred against those who identify or are perceived to be Muslim or immigrant. Figure 1 illustrates that the percent increase is up by 29% as compared to the year prior to the election which had a total of 130 incidents.

There is a persistent increase in all categories of hate violence as shown in Figure 2. Verbal and written hate speech – at 68 unique incidents and property damage at 40 unique incidents  – have surpassed the totals from the prior year. Acts of physical violence, now at 60 incidents, will soon exceed the total of 64 from last year. Recent examples of these hateful acts occurred over the previous week. On September 4th in Ohio, a truck driver fired a gun thirteen times at a Muslim woman in her car. She was struck four times and is currently recovering at a local hospital in Columbus, Ohio. CAIR is urging police to investigate this crime as a hate crime. Then on September 6, a Sikh Temple in Hollywood, CA was vandalized with hate speech. The words, “Nuke all Sikhs,” was scrawled on the walls of the temple. Further, a Filipino-Turkish man was beaten by a white supremacist in a parking lot in Fullerton, CA on September 7th.

Figure 3 demonstrates that the rise in the number of hate incidents are regionally relevant. The West Coast continues to lead in hate incidents with a third of incidents occurring in that region of the U.S. The hate violence occurring in the Eastern and Midwestern regions make up about half of all incidents. Southern regions of the U.S. have the lowest number of incidents making up 16% of the total. The higher proportion of documented hate crimes in certain regions is due to a variety of issues: 1) a higher proportion of the population that is of color and immigrant, 2) an ease and access to reporting structures, 3) the visibility of the crime, and 4) the visibility of the victim.

SAALT’s Congressional Briefing on Hate Violence Sounds the Alarm for Justice

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

On September 12, 2017, one day after the 16th anniversary of the tragic attacks of September 11, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national civil rights and racial justice organization, held a Congressional briefing to address the rising tide of hate violence aimed at South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Arab, and Middle Eastern Americans under the current administration. SAALT was joined by five members of Congressional leadership and national partner organizations to denounce this administration’s anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant policies that embolden hate against our communities.

“Post-9/11 has transformed into present-Trump, with hate violence reaching levels that rival the aftermath of the September 11 attacks,” stated Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT. “The White House has a sworn responsibility to condemn and prevent all forms of hate. Today’s briefing with Congressional leaders is an important step in making sure this administration does not renounce its responsibilities to our communities and nation.”

The current administration has been fundamental to the growth and audacity of white supremacist and Islamophobic movements in the United States. The White House has unleashed numerous divisive policies that have awoken and emboldened hate against our communities, including several permutations of the “Muslim Ban,” rescinding Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and supporting the RAISE Act, among others.

Since the election, SAALT has documented over 150 incidents of hate violence against those who identify or are perceived as Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, South Asian, Middle Eastern, or Arab American, already surpassing totals from the year leading up to the 2016 election. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, anti-Muslim hate groups grew by 197% in 2016, and, according to the FBI, anti-Muslim hate crimes increased by 67% in 2015.

“SAALT, along with our national partners, will continue to demand and strive for a just and inclusive society for all Americans,” stated Ms. Raghunathan. “We stand ready to work with Congressional leaders to mount a decisive opposition to bigotry and division of all kinds and to reinforce our communities’ important place in the fabric of our nation.”

——

Co-Chairs, Sponsors, Speakers, Partners, and Quotes:

Honorary Co-Chairs of the briefing include: 
Senator Richard Blumenthal (CT);
Senator Ben Cardin (MD);
Senator Tammy Duckworth (IL)

Member Co-Sponsors of the briefing include: 
Representative Judy Chu (CA-27);
Representative Maxine Waters (CA-43);
Representative Barbara Lee (CA-13);
Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-7);
Representative Ro Khanna (CA-17)

Members of Congress who joined the briefing include:
Representative Judy Chu (CA-27);
Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-7);
Representative Ro Khanna (CA-17)

Partner organizations include:
South Asian Network;
Desis Rising Up and Moving;
Sikh Coalition;
DACA Network

Representative Judy Chu (CA-27), Chair, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus:
“Thank you to South Asian Americans Leading Together for organizing today’s briefing and being such a strong leader in the fight to defeat hate. Since the 2016 Presidential election we have witnessed heightened xenophobic and anti-Muslim rhetoric and violence targeting communities of color across the nation. This hate, rhetoric, and the violence is particularly alarming because it is reminiscent of what we saw in the aftermath of September 11 attacks, when Muslims, South Asians, Sikhs and others became the targets of hate. In 2017 we’ve seen racial tensions come to a head, which has been largely fueled by white supremacists. The Trump administration’s dangerous political rhetoric has explicitly targeted South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Arab, and Middle Eastern communities, such as the President’s ill-conceived and un-American Muslim travel ban. But the xenophobic sentiment is also being driven by xenophobic policies such as President Trump’s decision to terminate the DACA program, and its desire to upend our family based immigration system. Our nation’s values affirm that all people deserve to be welcomed and to feel safe no matter what they look like or who they worship. Hate has no place in America, and we have to continue to remain vigilant in protecting the rights of all Americans against this rising tide of hate violence.”

Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-7):
“The hate violence we are facing in 2017 is not new. But what we are facing, what it feels like, is a sanctioned hate that comes from places like the White House. We ask that the President cease his incendiary rhetoric that helps to fuel many of these hate crimes. It is crystal clear that we still have a tremendous amount of work to do, and that work must come from leaders in Congress and from our communities insisting that we are not a country that continues this anti-immigrant xenophobic rhetoric. You can tie a direct thread between everything that has been happening and the leadership that comes from the White House. It isn’t enough just to be speak out, there needs to be accountability that actually takes direct action to ensure that the President understands that he is the President of all of the United States of America. Let’s see every defeat as an opportunity to grow our movement, and let’s see every win as a victory in our step to push for that more perfect union.”

Representative Ro Khanna (CA-17):
“It’s time that we, together as a nation, speak openly and respectfully about how to end any hate and violence directed towards Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities. I will always stand up against racism and violence. To those who have faced prejudice know that you are not alone and we are with you.”

Contact:  Vivek Trivedi – vivek@saalt.org

Civil Rights Coalition Denounces ACT For America’s Anti-Muslim Online Campaign; Calls on the President to #CounterACTHate

Washington – Civil rights leaders, faith based, human rights, and community organizations condemn today’s bigoted, anti-Muslim online campaign by ACT for America, reportedly the nation’s largest anti-Muslim hate group.  This online campaign was scheduled for just two days before the anniversary of September 11 to target and manufacture hatred for American Muslims at a time when violence against Muslim, Arab, South Asian, and Sikh communities is reaching historic highs.

ACT originally planned to coordinate 67 anti-Muslim rallies across 36 states under the theme “America First.”  However, after thousands of Americans came out in peaceful resistance to white supremacy and racism in Charlottesville and Boston, ACT decided to call off its rallies and shift to today’s online campaign, a clear signal that messages of justice and solidarity are drowning out messages of hate nationwide.

This is not the first time civil rights groups and anti-racist protestors stared down ACT’s bigotry.  In June ACT held anti-Muslim rallies in 30 cities across the nation under the theme “March Against Shariah”.  This campaign was met with strong resistance from civil rights groups who held alternative events that telegraphed calls for love, fairness, and justice. The Trump administration was silent in response.

ACT’s founder, Brigitte Gabriel, has made her racism clear. She has said, “Every practicing Muslim is a radical Muslim” and has argued, outrageously, that Muslims are a “natural threat to civilized people of the world, particularly Western society.”  In a video message launching the America First rallies, Ms. Gabriel exclaims, “Let’s show our president that we are behind him in securing our nation.” In accordance with the bigotry that ACT promotes, its previous anti-Muslim rallies have attracted a host of armed militia-type groups and white nationalists.

Likewise, President Trump has made no secret of his bigotry,, stating on the record, “I think Islam hates us” and moving forward with his administration’s dogged pursuit of a “Muslim Ban,” among other policies.  The words and actions of the administration, including high-level advisors who are known standard-bearers for white supremacist movements, as well as the President himself, increasingly fuel and validate violence targeting Muslims and people perceived as Muslim. The FBI’s 2015 hate crimes statistics, the most updated data available, show a 67% increase in hate crimes against Muslims in 2015, while violence aimed at South Asian, Sikh, and Arab communities continue to rise. The xenophobic statements by the President and Gabriel run counter to the values of justice and inclusivity that we seek to uphold.

Peaceful resistance by civil rights groups, immigrant and faith communities, and communities of color has been the strongest counterweight to the insults and injuries of white supremacists and this administration. We demand this administration, and all elected and appointed officials, condemn groups that peddle hate in the strongest possible terms, and back that condemnation with swift action and policies that contribute to the transformation of our institutions. The hatred must stop now. As a coalition of diverse organizations representing communities of color and immigrants at the national, state, and local levels, we are committed to condemning bigotry of all kinds and advancing the principles of racial justice.

Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director, South Asian Americans Leading Together, said, “ACT for America’s racism and fear mongering are incompatible with core American values of justice and equality in a nation where people of color will constitute a majority of residents within the next two decades.  ACT’s decision to shift from nationwide rallies to an online campaign, while still toxic, is in no small terms a victory and emblematic of the power of standing together, united from all faiths and backgrounds against bigotry. The Trump administration must end its anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant campaign that emboldens hate groups to commit horrific acts of violence against our communities. Silence is no longer an option. The President, along with all elected and appointed officials, must condemn Islamophobia and white supremacy and ensure that our communities can live in a just and inclusive society for all Americans.”

This Week In Hate: August 25 – Hate Violence Post Charlottesville

Prepared for SAALT by Radha Modi

As of August 22, 2017, there have been 150 hate incidents against those who identify or are perceived as Muslim, Sikh, South Asian, Arab, Middle Eastern, and Asian. The new total surpasses the previous year’s (marked as November 2015 to November 2016) total by 20 incidents, as shown in Figure 1. With the support from Donald Trump, after the events of Charlottesville, VA, white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and white nationalists feel encouraged to continue their violence against immigrants and communities of color. For example, on August 20, 2017, a neighborhood in Alameda, CA, was strewn with swastika-adorned flyers. These flyers depicted a swastika over the image of a Muslim woman in a hijab with the words “Help me kill you, stupid.” Donald Trump’s lack of unequivocal denouncement of white supremacists leads to widespread endangerment of many marginalized communities.

While the patterns of the most common type of hate incidents have not changed from previous reports, Figure 2 illustrates that these types of incidents are steadily increasing week by week. In particular, there are 53 incidents of physical assaults against those who identify or are perceived as Muslim, Sikh, South Asian, Arab, Middle Eastern, and Asian that have been reported over the last nine months. Just this past week, in Cleveland, OH, an immigrant man was physically attacked and experienced significant head and face injuries after being violently knocked out. To learn more about this and other reported hate incidents, refer to SAALT’s Acts of Hate Database.

Most hate incidents are being reported in the western and eastern regions of the U.S., making up about two-thirds of all reported hate violence, as shown in Figure 3. Additionally, the highest proportions of reports are from the states of California and New York where there are greater numbers of immigrants and communities of color. In future reports, we will provide an interactive map of all hate incidents across the U.S., as documented in the Acts of Hate Database.

Combating Islamophobia – SAALT welcomes the 2017-2018 Young Leaders Institute cohort

From July 19-21, SAALT welcomed the 2017-2018 class of the Young Leaders Institute (YLI) at a convening in Silver Spring, Maryland. This year marks the sixth cohort of young adults SAALT has trained in leadership skills for social change on campus and in our communities. The 2017-2018 cohort includes 16 outstanding, diverse youth who have developed creative and thoughtful projects focused on this year’s theme of Combating Islamophobia in South Asian American communities and broadly through civic engagement.

Following a competitive application process, YLI Fellows took part in a three-day training workshop where they learned the history of immigration and Islamophobia in America, built organizing and direct action skills, connected with activists and mentors, and explored social change strategies around issues that affect South Asian and immigrant communities in the United States. Learn more about each Fellow’s respective YLI project here. See pictures from the convening here.

SAALT is thankful to the trainers who provided vital insights at the YLI convening, including Dr. Maha Hilal (Institute for Policy Studies); Terri Johnson (Center for New Community); Noor Mir (D.C. Justice for Muslims Coalition); and Darakshan Raja (Washington Peace Center).

“I had an amazing experience at YLI,” stated Shilpa, one of SAALT’s YLI Fellows. “I met a great community of South Asians committed to social justice and combating various forms of oppression in the community.  I also heard from amazing organizers who taught us about direct action, the history of the war on terror, and how we can move forward within our communities.  Going forward I want to carry all that knowledge with me back to Georgetown and build communities of South Asians committed to social justice on my campus.”

Check out this video on Islamophobia and how the Young Leaders Institute empowers young people to combat it on campus and in their communities.

Sania, another YLI Fellow, noted, “The reason I took part in the Young Leaders Institute is because when I’m older I want to be involved in community organizing. YLI was the perfect first step in finding my way there.”

Rakin, a YLI Fellow who will work to repeal House Bill 522, an anti-Sharia legislation in North Carolina, stated, “Through YLI, I was able to gain access to educational resources that helped contextualize what it means to be a South Asian in America. YLI helped me understand the broader history and dynamics of the South Asian American identity.”

SAALT would like to thank our supporters and donors who make the Young Leaders Institute possible, and to our YLI Fellows, who are the leaders of tomorrowand who inspire us with their commitment to taking on Islamophobia on campuses and in communities.

Please consider making a generous donation to SAALT. Your help will ensure that the Young Leaders Institute continues to train tomorrow’s leaders today, for a more justice and inclusive society for all Americans.

In partnership,
The SAALT Team

This Week in Hate – August 11 – The Significance of Intersectionality in Hate Violence

Prepared for SAALT by Radha Modi

 

 

There are now 141 documented hate incidents against those who identify or are perceived as Muslim, Sikh, South Asian, Asian, Middle Eastern, or Arab since the election of Donald Trump (figure 1). Of these 141 hate incidents, almost half (59 incidents) are verbal and written assaults, an additional third (49 incidents) are physical assaults, and about a quarter (33 incidents) are property damage (figure 2). The total number of verbal and written assaults post-election have already surpassed the pre-election total. Property damage will soon surpass the pre-election total with the ongoing attacks on mosques. The total number of physical assaults is steadily increasing.  About half of the physical assaults are against Muslim and immigrant women (figure 2).

Women by far are the most common target of hate incidents. Thirty-three percent of the 141 documented hate incidents are against women who identify or are perceived as Muslim, Sikh, South Asian, Asian, Middle Eastern, or Arab (figure 3). Women wearing hijabs are, in particular, vulnerable to hate violence. Hate violence towards women underscores the role of intersectionality and the need for identifying these intersections in documenting hate. The combination of gender, religious attire, skin color, accent, and other factors all play a part in how women are perceived and targeted in daily life. For instance, Noor Tagouri, a Muslim American journalist, who wears a hijab, was told to “kill herself” by a fellow passenger as she boarded a domestic flight in the US[1]. This form of routine dehumanization is not only rooted in Islamophobia but also misogyny, xenophobia, and racism. While men seem less vulnerable, they are also a common target post-election. Eighteen percent of hate incidents are against men who identify or are perceived as Muslim, Sikh, South Asian, Asian, Middle Eastern, or Arab (figure 3). For men, as well, intersections of multiple factors contribute to how they are perceived and treated by others. Recently, Farid el-Baghdadi, a brown-skinned food truck vendor selling Middle Eastern sandwiches, was pelted with eggs multiple times in Queens, New York. One of the eggs had a note attached to it that read: “F**k Arabs and F**k Muslims”. The perpetrators used Farid el-Baghdadi’s skin color, occupation, and name to profile and target him.

The third major target of hate incidents is young people. Twenty-one percent of hate incidents involved students and youth. Incidents not only occur on the streets from strangers but also in schools where they are vulnerable to bullying. Another common target is mosques or Muslim organizations making up about a fifth of hate incidents. On average, about 3 to 4 mosques or Muslim organizations are targeted monthly with some mosques having multiple attacks this year. Just this past week, Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minnesota was bombed by unknown assailants. This is the second time in the last 30 days that a Minnesota mosque has been targeted. Despite the incessant violence against Muslim communities, the Trump administration has yet to release a statement denouncing the bombing[2] and thus indirectly sanctioning the violence against marginalized communities.

Remember Oak Creek – They Still Stood Strong

– Sus Ri Kaal – Salaam Alaaaikum – Namaste –

When I was 8 years old, my Papa died before my eyes. I was so confused why he left me. I used to ask every Sardarji (turban wearing religious elder) I walked past if they knew my Papa, if he told them any jokes, or if he mentioned me. The image of a Sardarji is one of love, service, and compassion.

Every day that has passed since 9/11, I feel as though I am barely holding onto the many parts of my identity, my community.. and with every story on social media of an uncle being beaten up or killed — of a store being vandalized or mosques being burnt — I feel like those same parts are slipping from my shaking grasp. The constant vicarious trauma from the media and its ongoing forms of PTSD shake me.

One more part of me, one more piece of safety slips from me with every news update, praying it is not targeting a Sikh or Muslim. With every 9/11 remembrance over the past 16 years reminds me of Balbir Singh being shot to death after he was looking to buy flags for his store. He was an immigrant who wanted a better life for his family, working hard within the American Dream only to be shot cold in a business he started from nothing just days after 9/11. I remember the fear that day, for us to quickly buy any flag sticker, stand, cloth and adorn it on our residence and vehicles. It was terrifying how quickly this fear swept across the nation. Was his flag not up fast enough? We had to PROVE we are American, we had to LABEL ourselves as American, why were we ever put in that situation?

This past weekend I flew out to Oak Creek on a red eye. I was not expecting to go, but I felt I had to, as a Sardarji ka beta (daughter of a turban wearing religious elder). I had to. At 8am I checked into the hotel, loaded my backpack up with a second change of clothes and a hoodie not knowing what to expect with Midwest weather. I got into the Uber with a punjabi uncle who shared how close he was to the people who died. We talked about my father, about how hard it is to be brown in America – but he reminded me that the love of the community is what will get us through all the hard times. I went into the temple, performed muthna taaknaa (respectful prayer) and ate the parshaad (holy sweets) looking at this small prayer hall with eccentric pink and gold, full of love. I found myself in tears, this was where people had died, where Papas were last seen, where lives had transformed forever. There was blood on this carpet once. I saw the bullet hole in the door they had left as a reminder to people of their perseverance.

I walked into the lungar hall (communal food hall) and saw all the amazing aunties prepping the free food for the 5K guests tomorrow and the weekend of 48 hour prayer. They were laughing, smiling and making sure I had one of everything they made. They did not know me, but they had so much care for me. I sat down next to a younger girl who was personally affected by the death of her father and we talked about how losing your father can transform your life. I shared the milestones I had that I found different ways to memorialize my Papa – my high school graduation, my college graduation, and soon how I will honor him when I marry Naseer. I told her how strong she was to have gone through something so hard and still be able to even step foot into the Gurdwara and do hours of charity work here, but told her she never needed to be put in a situation to need to persevere. So many miles apart and we were connected through loss. I began talking to all of the people in the Gurdwara, all the aunties, the uncles – labored for hours in the kitchen helping them do seva, wiped the floors, threw the trash – and drank bottomless chai.

Throughout the weekend I could feel outsiders asking details about where the aunties and children were when their husband, wife, mother and father died, did they die in front of them, how was the funeral, was their blood on the carpet? My heart sank, I felt the need to protect these people who I just met hours ago. The memorial must have been so hard on them, and then with the questions it must have been so much harder. People want to know the exotic investigative side of Oak Creek.

However, we should ask them about their community, ask them how non-Sikhs supported them, how it was going back inside the temple, how did they get the courage to step back in — what were their favorite memories of their father and mothers? What is their favorite photo? If they could say something to them now, what would they say?

I took a step back and I realized I am a trauma, grief and loss therapist – and not everyone responds that way. I don’t want Oak Creek to be seen as a tragedy, it is a story of not just resilience but perseverance, that when they lost their entire sense of safety, they still stood strong and found the courage to continue leading the lives they hoped for.

When I was leaving for my flight, all of the aunties came and hugged me and prayed I had a safe journey. They loaded me up with six bags of Samosas, a container of snacks, two bags of burfee, and chips. There is so much love in Oak Creek, they need to be remembered for how compassionately the community came together.. of how America should act – not remember it as a scene of a crime.

It was hard to capture the love and connection I felt amidst the mourning of their loved ones, so felt it was only appropriate to create a video to help you enter the weekend with me.

Since 9/11 — every Sikh uncle I pass, I take a moment and make a duaa for them:

“May Rab protect them from the injustices of the world”
May they get home safely without being killed.
May Rab give them courage when the micro aggressions and verbal assault is too hard.
May someone not use their ruby turban as a trigger for protecting America.
May their children never have to have a day without their Papa.”

Ameen.

Rabhi is a trauma therapist, activist, ethnographic researcher, and former YLI fellow. As a fellow, Rabhi led the largest art as activism event in UCLA’s history for domestic violence and bullying awareness. With publications in three different outlets, as a trauma therapist, she has worked with grief and trauma for 8 years now. As an ethnographic researcher at UCLA and Pepperdine, she led the way for research on the power of storytelling for Sept 11th Vicarious Trauma – PTSD Islamophobia survivors – further deconstructing the Media’s War on Islam. Her research findings indicate the power of shared storytelling supports normalization and thus allows for a huge shift in the compassion and healing of communities. Rabhi currently works at CAIR-LA further advocating the basic human rights for her AMEMSA sisters and brothers.

This Week In Hate – August 4 – The Complexity of Documenting Hate

Prepared for SAALT by Radha Modi

SAALT, as well as other national advocacy organizations, are taking the lead in collecting and documenting hate incidents across communities as federal agencies fall short on this front. Organizations use news clippings as a common way to collect and document hate incidents. Often hate incidents do not make it to the news cycle in real time, and organizations only learn about some incidents weeks to months later. In addition, the reporting of hate incidents is a dynamic process with shifts in the safety, ease, and structural access around reporting for community members. Further, the defining and identifying of what constitutes a hate incident is also variable across organizations and media outlets. Considering all of these complex issues, the number of hate incidents against those who identify or are perceived as Muslim, Sikh, South Asian, Asian, Middle Eastern, or Arab are in flux.

Recently, SAALT discovered past incidents that were not originally documented in the organization’s database. These missed incidents have now been cataloged in an effort to bring our communities the most up-to-date and accurate numbers in the dynamic landscape of documenting hate.

Persistent Patterns of Hate

It is important to note that while the numbers have changed from our previous reports, the overall patterns have remained the same. As shown in Figure 1, the total number of documented hate incidents post-election, tallying at 135, has surpassed the total number of hate incidents of 130 that occurred during the year prior to the election (see below for clarification).

Another pattern that has remained consistent is the prevalence of verbal and written assaults against community members. Figure 2 illustrates that the total number of verbal and written assaults is almost double that of the previous year before the election (57 post-election verbal hate incidents compared to 29 pre-election verbal hate incidents). The sanctioning of hate rhetoric from government officials locally and federally as well as the passing of anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant legislation is commensurate with the increased normalization of verbal abuse of community members on the streets. On July 27, 2017, three Somali Muslim women were harassed by a white woman at a local Walmart near Fargo, North Dakota. The white woman screamed to the women that “Muslims were going to hell” and “We’re going to kill ya.” Threats such as these are becoming more commonplace as physical assaults and property damage incidents also involve verbal or written hate filled harassment.

In addition, as we remember the five year anniversary of the massacre at Oak Creek this week, the violence against the Sikh community continues with the increased anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric under the Trump administration. This past week the body of 68-year-old Sikh man, Subag Singh, was found with signs of trauma in an irrigation canal in Fresno, California. Subag Singh went missing on July 23, 2017, after leaving his house for a morning walk. While local police have yet to assign the murder of Subag Singh as a hate crime, the threat of hate violence against local Sikh communities remains across the US.

The 130 total from the pre-election year in the current database does not match the 140 total hate incidents covering the some of the same time period in our Power, Pain, and Potential report. Two issues led to this discrepancy. First, the 140 total in the Power, Pain, and Potential report also documented the uptick in hate incidents one week post-election.The 130 pre-election number in our current database does not include the first week following the election. Second, a handful of incidents categorized as hate incidents are now categorized as hate rhetoric in the current database. As SAALT standardizes the distinction between hate rhetoric and hate incident, the database is consequently updated and reflects these changes.

 

Remember Oak Creek: Organizing through Grief and Pain

By Deepa Iyer

I visited Oak Creek, Wisconsin, for the first time in August of 2012 to attend the memorial service for the victims of the massacre at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin. At the time, I was the director of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), and I traveled to Oak Creek to make a personal commitment that our organization would stand in support of rapid response efforts on the ground and advocacy around ending hate violence at the national level. I joined hundreds of people to remember and honor the lives of Suveg Singh Khattra, Satwant Singh Kaleka, Ranjit Singh, Sita Singh, Paramjit Kaur, and Prakash Singh, and to send our support to Baba Punjab Singh who was severely wounded and who still remains in a coma.

Since that day in 2012, I have been back to Oak Creek many times thanks to the openness of the community there. They have welcomed me – a complete stranger and a representative of a national organization (both justifiable reasons for wariness) – into their town and their gurdwara during the anniversaries every August and in between.  Our conversations in homes, over langar at the gurdwara, and on trips to the airport, have helped me to understand how this community of survivors and first responders mustered the courage to respond to hate violence. They channeled and processed their grief and pain into community building. Five years later, they continue to build bridges, to care for survivors left behind, and to express solidarity with other victims of violence around the nation.

As I reflect on Oak Creek on this five-year anniversary, so many feelings and images come to mind.

I remember the people we lost. I didn’t know Paramjit Kaur but Kamal, her son, has shared many stories about her. Once, Kamal recounted a story about his mother’s efforts to find a job. “She used to be a housewife for a few years after we moved here because she had a problem with English,” he told me. “It’s funny how she got the job because she had to do a phone interview. She was afraid they would call while we were in school and she wouldn’t understand what they were saying. So it happened to be that the day she got the call, I was home. . . . She put it on speaker and they kept asking her questions and I kept translating for her.” With Kamal’s assistance, Paramjit passed the interview handily and started her job as an inspector at the medical factory. That is part of Paramjit’s story – an immigrant mother in a working class community who struggled with English but who was determined to care for her sons.

My reflections on Oak Creek five years later are also grounded in the physical presence of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin. There is the bullet hole that has been preserved in one of the doors leading to the prayer hall. There is the conversation that I had with a man days after the massacre who told me that he and several others were carrying their own guns now to protect the gurdwara. There is the presence of security cameras and bullet-proof windows in the physical structure.

The gurdwara stands as a reminder that South Asian places of worship – envisioned, funded, and supported by our parents, uncles and aunties – are now vulnerable to violence and harm. It stands as a marker of the impact of white supremacy on South Asians in America, much like how the 16th Street Baptist Church and the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina represent the effects of anti-Black racism.  It stands as a tribute to the Sikh value of chardhi kala – resilience and optimism in the face of adversity.

Reflecting on Oak Creek also means learning from the community of survivors and first responders. In the months after the massacre, Harpreet Saini testified in Congress about his mother’s hopes. He said: “[A]s a hard-working immigrant, she had to work long hours to feed her family, to get her sons educated, and help us achieve our American dreams. This was more important to her than anything else. . . But now she is gone. Because of a man who hated her because she wasn’t his color? His religion?” His testimony and the efforts of organizations in Oak Creek and beyond led to the FBI’s decision to add new categories, including Sikh and Hindu, to identify victims of hate crimes.

Pardeep Kaleka who lost his father began an organization called Serve 2 Unite that runs programs about inclusion. Mandeep Kaur has worked with a group of volunteers including Navi Gill, Rahul Dubey and many others to organize a 6K walk/run commemoration event each year to bring the community together, honor the victims, and provide student scholarships. Community members continue to take care of the younger children who lost parents in the massacre. The mayor of Oak Creek at the time of the massacre, Steve Scaffidi, has written a book with tips on how cities can prepare for and respond to hate violence. And in the aftermath of the murder of nine people at the AME “Mother Emanuel” Church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015, community members organized a solidarity event at the gurdwara.

This weekend, let us remember Oak Creek and all that it stands for, five years later. At the same time, let’s recommit ourselves to justice because hate violence continues to affect South Asians and other communities. Here are some ways you can get involved:

*This weekend, visit your local gurdwara to be in community, and send a donation to support the Chardhi Kala 6K in Oak Creek
*Hold a discussion on your campus or your place of worship about hate violence targeting people of color, faith-based communities, queer and trans communities, and immigrants
*Report and document hate and bigotry
*Work with your own place of worship to build preventative and rapid response plans to deal with hate violence
*Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper about the importance of building welcoming and inclusive communities for communities of color, immigrants and refugees
*Raise your voice against the current climate of hate that leads to bans, walls, and raids

Deepa Iyer is the former executive director of SAALT. Her book, We Too Sing America: South Asian, Arab, Muslim and Sikh Immigrants Shape Our Multiracial Future, contains a chapter on the Oak Creek community. Learn more about Deepa’s work at www.deepaiyer.com and @dviyer on Twitter.

Remember Oak Creek – Side By Side

By India Home

On the 5th anniversary of the Oak Creek shooting we remember the words of Pradeep Singh Kaleka, the eldest son of the late Satwant Singh Kaleka who was the president of the Sikh temple in Oak Creek and who lost his life during the tragedy in 2012. Pradeep stated in 2016, “Building safe and inclusive communities takes sacrifice, dedication, hard work, and deliberate practice.”

These words resonate even more today as our diverse communities continue to come under attack, not just from white supremacists and nationalists, but from this administration.  As an organization that serves South Asian elders, including Sikhs, India Home pledges our support and solidarity to our communities’ efforts. For Vaisakhi this year, India Home helped bring the Sikh message of inclusivity and dignity for all to a wider audience through a program we initiated at the renowned Rubin Museum in Manhattan. Sikh elders told the story of the Khalsa and explained Sikh beliefs to a large, diverse audience.

We remain committed to fighting side by side with our communities for justice and dignity for all.

In solidarity,
India Home board and staff

The mission of India Home is to improve the quality of life of vulnerable South Asian older adults through social services.