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Nadra Kareem Nittle

The White Supremacist Link to Sikh Shooting

By August 6, 2012

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Just days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks I sat in a waiting room in downtown Los Angeles when a Sikh man entered. The tension felt palpable as all eyes drifted to the striking man in the turban. Given the diversity of Los Angeles, surely many people in the waiting room recognized the man as a Sikh, but that didn't stop them from eyeing him with suspicion. His complexion, facial hair and head covering conjured up images of Osama bin Laden, even though Sikhs bore as much blame for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as Catholics did--in other words none whatsoever. Sikhs, like Japanese Americans during World War II, were simply guilty of "looking like the enemy."

Following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks Sikhs have been the victims of more than 700 hate crimes, according to the Sikh Coalition. And time has done little to make the xenophobia and racism Sikhs face dissipate. Just last year, two elderly Sikhs were gunned down in Sacramento, Calif., the Daily Mail reports. Racists in the same area also attacked a Sikh cab driver. And this year, vandals damaged a Sikh temple in Michigan and a Sikh family in Washington received violent hate mail, according to the Mail. Now, of course, a mass shooting at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin has refocused attention on the hatred Sikhs face. On Sunday, U.S. Army veteran Wade Michael Page allegedly opened fire in the temple, leaving six dead. Police later killed Page, a 40-year-old with a Sept. 11 tattoo and ties to white supremacist groups, according to some sources.

While the FBI is describing the shooting as an act of "domestic terrorism," officials have yet to establish a motive for the killing. Signs point to the killing being a hate crime, however. At this point, it's unclear whether the killer targeted the Sikh temple because he blamed Sikhs for Sept. 11 or because he viewed them as foreigners who didn't belong in his community. Whatever the reason, his hate crime should usher in a period of mourning for the victims, of course, as well as a period for the public to learn more about Sikhism, widely considered a "peaceful" religion. It should also mark a time for people to confront their prejudices and to stand in solidarity with the Sikh community. The Council on American-Islamic Relations has already released a statement remarking, "While details of the attack and the motivation of the attacker are still emerging, American Muslims stand with their Sikh brothers and sisters in this time of crisis and loss. We condemn this senseless act of violence, pray for those who were killed or injured and offer sincere condolences to their loved ones."

Will other groups--Catholics, Jews, Asian Americans, African Americans--also show their support in both words and actions? Will the mainstream news media cover this shooting with the same intensity that it covered the Aurora, Colo., shooting?  There have been so many mass shootings in recent decades that Americans have grown numb to stories about madmen senselessly opening fire on innocent bystanders. What makes this shooting different is that it was likely driven by hate. While it's difficult to prevent unhinged people lacking the medical care they need from violently lashing out at others, there are identifiable ways to counter racial and religious hatred. Educating the public about diverse groups counters prejudice and lessens the likelihood people will respond to difference with hatred.


Comments

August 6, 2012 at 3:30 pm
(1) Kwame Osei says:

Why do whites kill? There;s been a common thread that links the horrendous mass muders of the past 60 years; that thread being 96% of the crimes have been committed by white men. I remember Bill Bennett making the statement some time back that if we want to reduce crime we should abort every Black male fetus. I wonder if he would make the same asinine statement today. America has taught hatred against people of color effectively now for hundreds of years. The truth of the matter is that 70% of every crime committed in this country is done so by white men. practically all mass muderers, serial rapist, serial killers and pedophiles are white men. America has erroneosly taught whites to fear blacks. The truth is you’d better fear the white child , he’s the one that goes into schools and shopping malls and committs mass murders. Like father, like son.

August 7, 2012 at 11:01 am
(2) BobbyH says:

The late Dr. John Henrick Clarke has taught us over and over again, and however he was specifically talking about Africa and the African diaspora, that we have been under siege for over 3000 years and it is still under siege.

August 7, 2012 at 2:19 pm
(3) BobbyH says:

Why do whites kill? Why do we keep asking this question. They’ve been killers since they migrated out of Europe after the last ice age. Everywhere they’ve gone they’ve killed. When they weren’t killing people, they’d kill their livestock. After that, they’d destroy the ground so that crops couldn’t grow. All of their great empires have been built on killing. Look at how many wars they’ve fought. Look at how long some of those wars have lasted. Name one nation outside of Europe that they’ve migrated to, The late Dr. John Henrick Clarke has taught us over and over again, and however he was specifically talking about Africa and the African diaspora, that we have been under siege for over 3000 years and we are still under siege.

August 7, 2012 at 8:32 pm
(4) BlackContractor says:

Why do “Whites” kill? That’s kind of a rough assertion, isn’t it? Maybe we can just do away with racial assertions for a change. Perhaps its time to stop wondering why a “race” would do bad things. We live in America. America is many times a violent place. None of us are immune, not American Indians, Latinos, “Blacks”, Asians, or “Whites”. We are all apart of American culture. It has good things. . .and bad. I would like to think that most of what we share, is good. And I think we have something that is unique among all other nations.

August 9, 2012 at 10:41 pm
(5) Robert says:

Nadra… I loved your post… a very old friend of mine is Sikh… (he is currently back home in India) and I love the fact that you called on all groups to stand in solidarity… thank you.

August 9, 2012 at 10:42 pm
(6) Robert says:

regarding some of the comments.

Why do whites kill? I don’t know… I wasn’t in Rwanda… when the Hutus were murdering the Tutsi… I wasn’t in Cambodia when Pol Pot regime murdered millions… I wasn’t in China when Japan invaded prior/during WW2 and murdered millions. There is a saying that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. It also seems that when people… any people… believe that other people are not human beings… this allows them then to do horrible things.

August 9, 2012 at 10:45 pm
(7) Robert says:

My take some factors which creates an environment which fosters this thinking/behavior…

(1) Some white people are seeing their “illusion” of power evaporate.
The idea that whites are all part of the power elite is a lie and always has been a lie. A lot of people have bought into this lie. Some white people are being told to fear the demographic shifts that are taking place in this country. They think they are scared.

(2) Individuals in the world now no longer have to listen to view points that confront their belief system.
With the internet, cable TV and even talk radio… we can selectively isolate ourselves in little worlds which reinforce rather than challenge our assumptions. Now we have fox news, crazy pundits and even crazier blogger… scaring the shit out of people and fanning the flames of hatred and bigotry… and lets not forget how some churches add to the hate mongering…

(3) The educational system has been systematically undermined…
we are not teaching kids critical thinking skills. So these kids can not tell the difference between facts and fantasy… and fall for the hateful and bigoted lies broadcast on fox new, right winged pundits and crazy bloggers.

(4) Will live in a culture polluted by FEAR.
Didn’t FDR once say… the only thing to fear is fear itself… today fear has seeped into every aspect of our lives. When in reality… there is actually very little to fear…

The way I see it is… I have a choice… I can choose to be afraid of people… to wrap myself up in a very small, little fear based world… or I can engage the world and try to make the world a better place.

I choose the latter…

August 23, 2012 at 2:25 pm
(8) gemini33 says:

Ms. Nittle, you give well-informed coverage of a most tragic and senseless crime which acts like these against the Sikh community screams attention from the media and the American public.

Thank you for your article.

January 26, 2013 at 3:08 pm
(9) whitesaredevil says:

I am originally from egypt and must say I agree with the rest of the comments saying that whites are evil. whitemen seem to have evil more than others. The uncomfortable fact is that it’s not that men of other races have more good in us, rather it seems that whitemen have more evil than the rest of us.

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