08/08/2012 12:21 pm ET Updated Oct 08, 2012

Sikhs Are Collateral Damage of Our Post-9/11 Ignorance

Absurdity once again made it onto the stage of current events.

Last week, Wade Michael Page, a 40-year-old Army veteran with reported links to the white supremacist movement, killed six people at a Sikh temple south of Milwaukee, critically wounded three others, including a police officer before he too was killed by police.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit civil rights organization, Page was a "frustrated neo-Nazi who had been the leader of a racist white-power band."

The shootings in Milwaukee came on the heels of the shootings in Aurora, Colo., and just before Jared Loughner was expected to plead guilty to 49 counts of murder and attempted murder in connection with the January 2011 shootings in Tucson, Ariz.

But this latest act of violence had a different feel about it, or should I say lack thereof.

Cable news did not interrupt their regularly scheduled programming to provide a day's worth of coverage as it did with the shooting in Aurora. Nor did President Barack Obama and the presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney suspend their presidential campaigns.

Was it because Colorado is clearly a toss-up state and Wisconsin currently leans toward Obama? Or was it due to Sunday being a slow news day?

The shootings in Milwaukee was certainly on par with Tucson and Aurora in terms of a shared level of absurdity. The Tucson shooting occurred during a congressional town hall meeting, Aurora occurred during a midnight movie premiere and Milwaukee happened during worship service.

In fact, this latest act of absurdity serves as a reminder of the16th Street Baptist Church that was bombed in Birmingham, killing four young girls as they prepared for Sunday morning worship, nearly 49 years ago.

Maybe the tragedy in Milwaukee came too close behind Aurora for us give it the requisite attention it truly deserved.

I'm not suggesting the presidential candidates, cable news or the court of public opinion did not find this latest tragedy reprehensible. But there was a certain je ne sais quoi that was missing.

I can't help wondering whether there was a subliminal "othering" associated with the Sikh community. Did it require the irrationality of hatred put into action in order for the country to realize that since 9/11 Sikhs have been scapegoats for the ignorant?

Sikhs believe in hard work hard, honesty, sharing their bounty with others and remembering their Creator in all they do. The turban is worn as an external reminder of their commitment to stand for justice and be compassionate and loving to those they encounter.

Have we been systematically desensitized so that the default for a turban and a beard translates to a potential terrorist? Sikhs haven't been simply misrepresented as Muslims, but they have been wrongly identified with a strand of the faith that is beyond the comprehension of the overwhelming majority who practice Islam.

In our post 9/11 world Sikhs have been victims of an increasing number of hate crimes, school bullying and workplace discrimination.

Because of this misguided lack of knowledge Sikhs have been fed a steady diet of pejoratives for nearly 11 years that include: "raghead," "Taliban," "terrorist" and "al Qaeda."

Law enforcement, as exemplified in Milwaukee last week, can do their best to protect a community, but authentic change occurs when hearts and minds are transformed.

When will we reach the point that we conclude someone wearing a turban is far more likely to be a construction worker, a teacher, a lawyer or some other professional, than the embodiment of our worst fears and stereotypes?

We can obviously blame Page for his hatred, but what do we do with the benign ignorance that continues to permeate society?