Sikhs Pro-Actively Combating Hate

It has been over a year since the brutal attack upon Sukhvir Singh, a Sikh taxi driver from Seattle. I previously blogged about the ordeal and Sukhvir’s heroic capacity to forgive. In many ways his move enshrines a message by Guru Nanak from SGGS (p. 223) in Raag Gauri:

Khima Gahi Brath Seel Santokh
Extending forgiveness is the (true) fast, (the true act of) kindness, (the true path of) contentment

However, for the Sikh community in Seattle, the movement did not end there. It seemed to have prompted two Sikh students at the University of Washington, Jay Singh and Paul Bassi, to come up with a project.

“It affected us all really deeply as Sikhs to see this is happening right so close to home,” Jay Singh said.

Despite a busy class schedule, the friends decided they needed to do something.

Their solution was to create an informational sheet about Sikhs for cab drivers to hang in their cars.

“The most important point to get across is that Sikhs are Americans, they’re people just like you and I, who are working hard to put food on the table for their family,” Jay Singh said.

The students decided the best way to distribute their placards was not to go through the cab companies, but through the Sikh community itself. So they went to a temple in Renton where they promptly handed out 250 of their placards.

“Week after week we’d go back and we’d hear, they’d come up to us and say hey, this is really great, can we get a few more, give it to our friends, you know?” Bassi said. [link]

So far comments on the posting news website have been mixed, still I hope that we can get in touch with Paul and Jay to help promote their work in other Sikh populated areas – especially in the Bay Area and New York, where we have many Sikh taxi drivers. Hopefully SSAs at NYU, Berkeley, San Jose State, or even a group like the Jakara Movement can spearhead this move.


bookmark bookmark bookmark bookmark bookmark bookmark bookmark bookmark bookmark bookmark bookmark bookmark
tabs-top


3 Responses to “Sikhs Pro-Actively Combating Hate”

  1. Sunny says:

    There seems to be a lot of ignorance about Sikhs among people in general altough people have become more aware of what Sikhism is, and what Sikhs stand for.

    Educating people on the Sikh religion is obviously the most effective way to reduce ingnorance and to prevent attacks on turban – wearing Sikhs. Altough this seems to be blindingly obvious, I have not seen many instances, such as this, where Sikhs have actually taken a proactive step to educate people on Sikhi.

  2. Sunny says:

    There seems to be a lot of ignorance about Sikhs among people in general altough people have become more aware of what Sikhism is, and what Sikhs stand for.

    Educating people on the Sikh religion is obviously the most effective way to reduce ingnorance and to prevent attacks on turban – wearing Sikhs. Altough this seems to be blindingly obvious, I have not seen many instances, such as this, where Sikhs have actually taken a proactive step to educate people on Sikhi.

  3. Inquilab says:

    Guru Phatih!

    This is Jay Singh, I started the project referenced in the piece above. I realize this was posted several years ago but I was recently notified of it and appreciate the kind words and effort to promote this work.

    After implementing the first round of placards back in 2008, we encountered difficulty with the municipal oversight body for cabs here in Seattle–they claimed that the placards were an attempt to proselytize. We informed them that proselytization was against Sikh doctrines and made the argument that these placards kept drivers safe from attack while facilitating cross-cultural exchange.

    And that is precisely what they did. After several months, we had excellent feedback from drivers who told us that, with the placard around their headrest, their dastars invited interest over ignorance. We heard stories of beautiful conversations that ended in the kind of mutual understanding that stifles xenophobic and bigoted anger. We kept up with distributing the placards, in spite of the city's concerns, but ultimately didn't have the institutional backing to keep it going.

    We recently started another round–producing the placards with the sponsorship of the University of Washington Sikh Student Association. However, without a process to ensure sustainability, we've been unable to keep it going.

    I've reached out to the Sikh Coalition, SALDEF, and United Sikhs but their interest has not materialized in anything. The Sikh Coalition, I know, continues to distribute calendars with information on Sikh identity and belief; but we are confident that our placards are the most effective means of creating awareness. Unlike the calendars, the placards operate passively and don't require any effort on the driver's part.

    We are hoping to develop an institutional partnership along the lines of what the author suggested at the end of his piece. If anyone has any recommendations, guidance, or connections–please let us know. We need institutional support to implement this project nationally and guard against ongoing but preventable assaults on our identity.

    Guru Phatih!

    Thanks again.