On September 19 the United States Congress held a hearing on Hate Crimes in response to the shooting at the Gurdwara in Oak Creek, WI, the first hearing on Hate Crimes since 2009. On August 23, 2012, a bi-partisan group of Senators sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder asking that the Hate Crime Incident Report form (1-699) be revised to include "Sikhs" as possible targets of hate crime. You can sign a petition in support here.
In reviewing the Hate Crime Incident Report Form for this article I was surprised to find that Protestants are included. As a Protestant, I have not felt targeted by hate groups in this country, but if my church were covered in graffiti for reading the Bible often and in English and breaking into spontaneous prayer while being justified by faith and dressed for golf, I now know that I could be sure that it can be noted by the FBI so that adequate resources could be deployed to protect me and my people, Episcopalians.
What we record as unacceptable to us as a nation on the Hate Crime Incident Report form, punishable by federal intervention because it is a threat to our democracy, lays a foundation for social transformation by placing the full force of the law on the side of targeted groups.
Violence against Sikhs in the United States is currently recorded as anti-Muslim violence, assuming that the perpetrator has mistakenly targeted a Sikh while in search of a focus for anti-Muslim hate.
My parents are from India. Every South Asian person I know has at least one story of being targeted for verbal abuse or worse. My experience is that Indians in the U.S. have struggled with articulating experiences of dangerous prejudice or abuse and our need for protection, because we are told first that it was probably a misunderstanding, and second, that we are privileged with education and economic mobility, and many of us are, and can fend for ourselves.
I wonder if it was also in some part because we do not believe this democracy would treat us as worthy equals. I wonder if it is not that we could protect ourselves but rather that we do not believe the nation's law enforcement would choose to protect us.
1 in 10 Sikhs in California have reported being targeted for a hate crime.
The Sikh community is asking that the their targeting be recognized. I suspect that most Americans would be horrified by the level of harassment many Sikhs face in this country and would want their neighbors to live in peace.
It is important to know who lives under threat in our democracy. It is important that we equip law enforcement to protect everyone.
Because of their distinctive hair and dress if we as a nation continue to insist on a dangerous rhetoric of targeting the foreigner and outsider to suit our political purposes, Sikhs in this country will be targeted. In order for funding to be appropriated to protect Sikh communities in the United States, threats to Sikhs must be documented. Please sign the petition and call your Representative.