Hate isn't something we understand when we're born; it's something we're taught. Even the 2012 presidential election exposed the country to weakness by calling into question ethics, character and abilities. It's embarrassing to realize some even questioned the birthplace and religion of our sitting president as even a topic. And on Election Day, instead of becoming the United States, we became a collection of red states vs. blue states. Us vs. Them -- a divided nation.
It seems that not a week goes by where headlines aren't filled with tragedy born out of violence, hate, fear, or ignorance. I love America and the ideals it was founded on, and for the opportunities it has given me. I desperately want to see the United States heal and become that accepting, welcoming, tolerant place where anyone can make it if they try -- regardless of whom they are. The essence of what we call the American Dream.
But, the ignorance continues every day. Even recently, famous singer Chris Brown dressed up in a beard and turban for Halloween; insinuating he was a terrorist. As a celebrity, when you have a gift and can propel positivity with your influence -- why promote these stereotypes? Sadly, in our world this is how ignorance is taught. My father has a beard and wears a turban. And, no Chris Brown, my father is not a terrorist.
For the first 18 years, I also faced immense racism and hardship because I looked different. Anytime, I needed support, my grandmother used to tell me, "you're my special grandson -- just hold on, things will get better." It was through her love that I was able to continue another day. Over time I used her inspiration and turned that negative energy around me into something positive with my life. So, things did get better for me. Unfortunately, millions still get mocked, bullied and beaten every day under a red, white and blue backdrop. Their innocence plays a game of daily survival. This particularly hit home for me in early August. A white supremacist stormed into a peaceful Sikh Temple in Wisconsin and murdered six people and wounded several others. I thought I had it tough growing up, but I never imagined at 30, I'd watch this massacre unfold; I was sickened. I realized the only way change could happen is if I made this my problem and did something about it. Hate and ignorance don't need to exist. We need to remind ourselves we can do better. Compassion has no limit and kindness has no enemy.
This prompted me to start BeProud. A social movement designed to embrace universal equality and built on the premise that through education and awareness, we can prevent future hate crimes. BeProud isn't about raising awareness for any particular group. It is greater than any religion, culture, nationality or appearance. It's about embracing humanity. Through a multi-million dollar campaign that crosses traditional and social media, our campaign's goal is to amplify a common message: embrace acceptance and BeProud of what makes you unique.
Here's how you can get involved and join the many celebrities and influencers part of our campaign to help drive change.
• Use our Facebook application to join the Movement and create your own BeProud stamp.
• Tweet the Movement
• Share with the world in 60 seconds: What are you most proud of and what you stand for? And, upload it to YouTube with the tags, #BeProud and #EndHate.
Lastly, my love for this country is what drove me to launch this movement. I will forever be grateful for what I've been able to achieve and not a day goes by where I don't feel blessed. I am proud to be an entrepreneur, proud to be Indian, proud to be Sikh and proud to be an American. Let's end hate and make America the greatest country in the world again.