The news of the recent mass shooting in Indianapolis was heartbreaking and infuriating. Gun violence is a repeated and constant problem in our country. The xenophobic, racist and targeted nature of this shooting was an act of hatred and white supremacy, but in addition, it was an act against my community and my identity.
My family and I are still potential victims. It feels like we are in a vicious cycle of anti-Asian hate crimes and racist police brutality. The deaths of Daunte Wright, Adam Toledo, George Floyd and Ma’Khia Bryant were all products of systemic racism. The murder of eight people in this mass shooting, including four Sikhs, is a product of hatred.
When can we catch our breath? When contempt for blacks and
brown bodies end? When will the proliferation of hate end?
It is devastating that as a nation we have become numb to these crimes because of their recurring nature. The news that this mass shooting was a racist hate crime came as no shock. How can I be shocked when the history of the Sikhs is riddled with ignorance and violence against us?
From our fight for justice against the Mughals in the 1500s and 1600s and the execution of Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji to Sri Guru Hargobind Ji’s call for the release of Hindu prisoners; from Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji, Chaar Sahibzaade, and the creation of the great sacrifices of the Khalsa Panth in the struggle for religious freedom to anti-colonization efforts in South Asia; to serve in the world wars for the US and UK at the Jallianwala Bagh massacre 102 years ago on Vaisakhi; from the bloodshed during the partition of the Punjab in 1947 to Gandhi’s broken promise of an independent state for the Sikhs; of the Green Revolution of the 1960s, which led to exponential suicides of farmers and
cancer rate up to the 1984 genocide and human rights violations of the 1990s during the struggle for Khalistan; post 9/11, when our strength in displaying our articles of faith made us victims of escalating Islamophobic hate crimes to mass shooting and hate crimes in a Gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin in 2012; Finally, from the farmer protests that continue in India today to this very moment, the Sikhs have fought for ourselves and for others.
Yet the world still does not know that Sikhs are a people who want the world to be more just, equal and loving. We have been fighting oppression ever since our founding guru, Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji, renounced the practice of sati (burning widows) and the caste system to fight patriarchy and societal oppression in South Asia. South in the 1400s.
The students at my university have no idea what Sikhi is, yet we are the fifth largest religion in the world. If they know us, they don’t know how to pronounce our name correctly (often pronouncing it “research”). Yet, following the charitable values of our faith, we continue to come to the aid of Americans and others whose government does not provide adequate resources for its own people, even during a pandemic. We continue to provide care to other victims of injustice, but we do not have the slightest respect for pronouncing our name correctly.
I am not writing this out of resentment or anger, but rather to encourage mutual understanding and respect, which is necessary to create a better and more just world. Educating others about diversity helps confront ignorance towards fellow Americans and human beings. Sikhi’s principles – social justice, equality, charity and love for humanity – equip us to respond to and eradicate the hatred and injustice that threatens our identities and communities.
I keep the victims of this atrocious crime with me in my heart and my ardaas (daily prayer). I support the families of the victims, those who ask to be heard and demand action and the constitutional right to freedom to practice religion without fear of violence. I oppose hatred, violence, white supremacy, xenophobia and injustice that does not recognize and value my community as fellow Americans. I represent equality and love for all.
I hope you will all be with me.
Navkiran Chima is a dual major in International Studies and Political Science at the University of Miami. She is the founder and president of the University of Miami Sikh Students Association and hopes to promote Sikhi values to create a more just world.