From the Field

Three years later: South Asian leaders honor victims of Oak Creek massacre


Lindsay Schubiner • Aug 05, 2015
Candlelight vigil one year after shooting at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin
Candlelight vigil one year after shooting at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin

Three years ago today, a shooter killed six people at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin. These tragic murders were yet another heartbreaking instance of extremist hate and racially motivated violence: the shooter was a racist skinhead, representing a particularly violent strain of white supremacy. Since then, racist violence has hardly ceased: 23 more people in the U.S. have been killed in extremist right wing attacks in the past three years.

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) honored the victims of Oak Creek and called for a policy change in a post on their website today:

“Communities of color are increasingly facing a common threat of violence from white supremacy, even as our nation grows more racially and ethnically diverse… Sadly, this growth is paired with a current political debate that is increasingly characterized by political rhetoric that paints our communities as disloyal, suspicious, and un-American…But, our communities continue to push for change. The Oak Creek shooting helped drive a critical change in the FBI hate crimes reporting protocol this year. For the first time, there are now categories for crimes motivated by anti-Sikh, Hindu and Arab sentiment. The White House also created a high-level Interagency Task Force last year focused on addressing hate violence nationwide.”

Read more: SAALT Honors the Victims of Oak Creek Calls for Policy Change

Deepa Iyer, Senior Fellow at the Center for Social Inclusion, continues the conversation over at Colorlines, where she suggests crucial steps for preventing hate violence:

“Media outlets can end the use of hypocritical narratives that characterize perpetrators differently when they are people of color or Muslim (usually called “terrorists”) as opposed to white perpetrators (usually called “lone white males”). Philanthropic institutions can support participatory research by nonprofits that enables us to better understand the impact of living with the threat of hate violence. Communities of color and faith can continue to make the connections between hate and state violence, both of which are often premised on anti-black racism, anti-immigrant sentiment and Islamophobia.”

Read more: 3 Years After the Sikh Temple Massacre, Hate-Violence Prevention Is Key

Today, we remember the six Sikh congregants who were killed: Paramjit Kaur Saini, Satwant Singh Kaleka, Suveg Singh Khattra, Prakash Singh, Ranjit Singh, and Sita Singh. We honor the others who were wounded, including Baba Punjab Singh, who is still in a coma to this day.

And we dedicate ourselves to ending racism and hate–and the violence they inevitably spread.

Photo credit: Light Brigading, via Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons. Photo has been cropped.

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