Reflections on Oak Creek: Sadly, this isn’t over yet…

This week we com­mem­o­rate the one year anniver­sary of the hate vio­lence that gripped the com­mu­ni­ty of Oak Creek, Wis­con­sin, when a gun­man stormed into the Sikh Tem­ple of Wis­con­sin on the morn­ing of August 5, 2012. Our hearts are with the fam­i­lies and loved ones of Paramjit Kaur, Prakash Singh, Ran­jit Singh, Sat­want Singh Kale­ka, Sita Singh and Suveg Singh who lost their lives in the mas­sacre. As we reflect on this day one year lat­er, it is impor­tant to place the Oak Creek tragedy in a broad­er his­to­ry and con­text of racial and reli­gious injus­tice in our coun­try. To help us under­stand, reflect and move for­ward, SAALT is fea­tur­ing a blog series fea­tur­ing a range of diverse voic­es.

The views and opin­ions expressed in this blog post do not reflect the posi­tions or opin­ions of SAALT. They should be under­stood sole­ly as the per­son­al opin­ion of the author.

Manju

Man­jusha P. Kulka­rni, Esq.
Exec­u­tive Direc­tor,
South Asian Net­work

One year after the shoot­ing at the Oak Creek Sikh Tem­ple, our com­mu­ni­ty is con­tin­u­ing to grap­ple with seri­ous con­cerns and sig­nif­i­cant fear about the repeat­ed hate crimes and hate speech against mem­bers of our com­mu­ni­ty.

Just days ago, there was a hate crime in our area—Southern Cal­i­for­nia. Reli­gious lead­ers and con­gre­gants of the River­side Gur­d­wara awoke on the morn­ing of July 30, 2013 to find the word “ter­ror­ist” sprayed on the tem­ple walls.

It is anoth­er trou­bling inci­dent for our com­mu­ni­ty as we are mark the one-year anniver­sary of the dead­ly shoot­ing of six of our Sikh broth­ers and sis­ters in Oak Creek, Wis­con­sin.  And it is one year after we seek to heal from dozens of hate inci­dents against Mus­lim Amer­i­cans that took place in quick suc­ces­sion across the coun­try.

We are now well aware that these are not iso­lat­ed inci­dents. They are part of a his­to­ry of big­otry and prej­u­dice against our com­mu­ni­ty. We saw a huge rise in hate crimes, bul­ly­ing and racial and reli­gious dis­crim­i­na­tion after 9/11 and we are see­ing ever increas­ing vio­lence again. While we may not know the spe­cif­ic motives of each assailant in each act of vio­lence, we know that they stem from big­otry and anti-immi­grant sen­ti­ment being fanned by irre­spon­si­ble and big­ot­ed com­ments made by some politi­cians and com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers across the coun­try. It is time that we make con­nec­tions between the two as we stand up against hate speech and hate crimes tar­get­ed at our com­mu­ni­ty as well as oth­er com­mu­ni­ties. We must be as vig­i­lant in oppos­ing Rep. Steve King’s inde­fen­si­ble char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of most Lati­no immi­grants as “drug mules” as we are in chal­leng­ing Rep. Peter King’s remarks about the vast rad­i­cal­iza­tion of Mus­lim Amer­i­cans. The two Kings’ com­ments are equal­ly abhor­rent and equal­ly offen­sive.

The FBI recent­ly announced that begin­ning in 2015, it will track hate crimes against Sikh, Hin­du and Arab Amer­i­cans. This change, result­ing from years of com­mu­ni­ty pres­sure, is a step in the right direc­tion. Only after we have sta­tis­ti­cal evi­dence of the many hate inci­dents can we begin to under­stand the nature of the crimes and their impact on our com­mu­ni­ties and start to address them sys­tem­i­cal­ly. But, more—much more—is need­ed.

A few days after the Oak Creek shoot­ing, a mem­ber of the Sikh Tem­ple there stopped his car next to a pick­up truck at an inter­sec­tion. Cre­at­ing the shape of a gun with his fin­gers and thumb, the man in the truck looked over at the Sikh gen­tle­man, say­ing “This isn’t over yet.”

If we fail to stand up with our com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers and mem­bers of oth­er immi­grant com­mu­ni­ties to protest this con­tin­u­ing pat­tern of hate and vio­lence and demand action by our pol­i­cy­mak­ers to address this wave of big­otry and pre­vent future attacks against Sikhs, Mus­lims, — against all of us — it won’t be over any­time soon.
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Manjusha P. Kulkarni, Esq.
Exec­u­tive Direc­tor
South Asian Net­work

Man­jusha (Man­ju) P. Kulka­rni is Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of the South Asian Net­work (SAN).  SAN is a com­mu­ni­ty-based orga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cat­ed to advanc­ing the health, empow­er­ment and sol­i­dar­i­ty of per­sons of South Asian ori­gin in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia.  Locat­ed in Arte­sia, Cal­i­for­nia, SAN serves the needs of indi­vid­u­als of Indi­an, Pak­istani, Bangladeshi, Nepalese and Sri Lankan descent in the areas of civ­il rights, vio­lence pre­ven­tion and health and health care access.