By: Navkiran Chima
This opinionated-editorial was adapted from a speech given by Navkiran Chima, founder and President of Miami University’s Sikh Student Association, at the Candlelight Vigil on April 22nd for the victims of the FedEx hate crime / mass shooting in Indianapolis, IN held at the SEAL on Miami University’s campus.
A link to an article covering the vigil can be found here: https://www.fox19.com/2021/04/22/miami-u-students-hold-vigil-sikh-lives-lost-indy-shooting/
The news of the shooting in Indianapolis was heartbreaking and infuriating. Gun violence is a repeated and unchanging problem in our country. The xenophobic, racist, and targeted nature of this shooting was an act of hate and white supremacy, but furthermore it was one against my community and my identity. My family and I are always 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, four of them Sikh, is a product of hate. When are we able to catch our breath? When does the disregard for black and brown bodies end? When will the proliferation of hate cease? It is devastating that we as a nation have become numb to these crimes due to their recurrent nature.
The news that this mass shooting was a racist hate crime did not come as a shock. How can I be shocked when the history of 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 Khalsa Panth’s great sacrifices in the fight for religious freedom to anti-colonization efforts in South Asia; from serving in the World Wars for the U.S. and the U.K. to the Jallianwala Bagh massacre 102 years ago on Vaisakhi; from the bloodshed during the 1947 Panjab Partition to Gandhi’s broken promise of an independent state for Sikhs; from the Green Revolution of the 1960s, which led to exponential farmer suicides and cancer rates to the Genocide of 1984 and the human rights violations of the 1990s during the struggle for Khalistan; from post- 9/11 when our strength in displaying our articles of faith made us victims of escalating Islamophobic hate crimes to the mass shooting and hate crime at a Gurdwara in Oak Creek, WI in 2012; finally, from the farmer protests that continue in India today to this very moment, Sikhs have been fighting for ourselves and 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 struggled against oppression since our founding Guru, Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji, renounced the practice of sati (widow-burning) and the caste system to fight against the patriarchy and societal oppression of South Asia in the 1400s. Students at my university have “no idea” what Sikhi is, yet we are the fifth largest religion in the world. If they do know us, they do not know how to say our name correctly (often pronouncing it “seekism”). Yet, following our faith’s values of charity, 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 for others facing injustice, yet we are not granted the simplest respect of pronouncing our name correctly.
I do not write this out of resentment or anger, but rather to encourage mutual understanding and respect, which is necessary to create a better, more just world. Educating others about diversity helps confront ignorance towards your fellow Americans and human beings. The principles of Sikhi -social justice, equality, charity, and love for humanity- equip us to respond to and eradicate the hate and injustice which threatens our identities and communities.
I keep the victims of this atrocious crime with me in my heart and my ardaas (daily prayer). I stand with the families of the victims, those who ask to be heard and demand action, and the constitutional right of freedom to practice religion without fear of violence. I stand against hate, violence, white supremacy, xenophobia, and injustice which fails to recognize and appreciate my community as fellow Americans. I stand for equality and love for all. I hope you all will stand with me.