Confronting our own Demons

Usually on Friday, I like to post something musical, something funny, or even something just plain stupid. However, when I saw this news article, I was just so incensed. Yesterday I commented in another discussion that Sikhs need to begin to confront our own Muslimophobia. Another pervasive demon is our prejudice against those of African descent (and yes, dark skin in general).

Apparently at a cricket match at the Mohali Stadium, two black British cheerleaders were asked not to participate by an organizer due to their skin color. The women even allege that the organizer used the ‘n-word.’

Newton told a newspaper: “An organiser pulled us away. He said the people here don’t want to see dark people. The ‘N’ word was used and they said they only wanted beautiful white girls. We were crying. I could understand if it were the crowd, but they were very receptive.”[link]

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Now I know that this particular incidence does not necessarily illustrate the pervasiveness of this problem (in fact the cheerleaders believe it was an isolated incident related to a single individual), but it is something that I know to be widespread in our community. I have seen family members, all of a sudden, ‘remember’ to lock car doors when a black male is on the street corner. Numerous friends have told me that their grandparents would tell them to not be friends with black children or would hide purses, wallets, etc when their friends came over. Go to any college campus anywhere in America and you will find Punjabi males incessantly complaining/crying that Punjabi women like black guys (and not them, boo-hoo!). Other than the ‘evil media’, what are the reasons that this prejudice runs so deep in our community (both in Punjab and abroad)?


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23 Responses to “Confronting our own Demons”

  1. harinder says:

    This is Punjabi( aryan ) ethos and not a SIKH ethos

    'Soni ,chiti , Gauri kudi" is still a common word in your erst while Punjab which u all left behind.

    It is good that u all in west have got over this white colour fad .

  2. harinder says:

    This is Punjabi( aryan ) ethos and not a SIKH ethos

    ‘Soni ,chiti , Gauri kudi” is still a common word in your erst while Punjab which u all left behind.

    It is good that u all in west have got over this white colour fad .

  3. Reema says:

    Harinder,

    We haven't left it behind- the good and the bad. We haven't "got over" any color fad.

    I have seen family members, all of a sudden, ‘remember’ to lock car doors when a black male is on the street corner. Numerous friends have told me that their grandparents would tell them to not be friends with black children or would hide purses, wallets, etc when their friends came over. Go to any college campus anywhere in America and you will find Punjabi males incessantly complaining/crying that Punjabi women like black guys (and not them, boo-hoo!).

    These examples Jodha gave were all from the US, and numerous 20 something friends have admitted that they're more afraid of a black man walking on the street late at night, than a white man. Numerous friends' parents have said they'd disown their daughters for dating black men, and one actually did so (for many years) when their daughter married the man.

    Apart from the evil media, or maybe related to it, it seems to be like the bully mentality, after being victimized, you eventually victimize another. This might be because of a lack of awareness of oneself. If this prejudice dates back to before colonialism, then I have no clue…

  4. Reema says:

    Harinder,

    We haven’t left it behind- the good and the bad. We haven’t “got over” any color fad.

    I have seen family members, all of a sudden, remember to lock car doors when a black male is on the street corner. Numerous friends have told me that their grandparents would tell them to not be friends with black children or would hide purses, wallets, etc when their friends came over. Go to any college campus anywhere in America and you will find Punjabi males incessantly complaining/crying that Punjabi women like black guys (and not them, boo-hoo!).

    These examples Jodha gave were all from the US, and numerous 20 something friends have admitted that they’re more afraid of a black man walking on the street late at night, than a white man. Numerous friends’ parents have said they’d disown their daughters for dating black men, and one actually did so (for many years) when their daughter married the man.

    Apart from the evil media, or maybe related to it, it seems to be like the bully mentality, after being victimized, you eventually victimize another. This might be because of a lack of awareness of oneself. If this prejudice dates back to before colonialism, then I have no clue…

  5. P.Singh says:

    Isn't this a problem in pretty much every community – this fear of the black man? I'd attribute it more to the media than anything else (then again, my experience is limited – very few blacks in western Canada).

    That said, I have a hard time comprehending why Punjabis would hold any more extreme stereotypes of blacks that are not equally paralleled in the Chinese, Japanese, European communities etc.. Heck, even black people may be more afraid of black people.

    Chris Rock did a sketch a while back called 'Black People vs Niggaz' ("I love black people, but I hate niggaz").

    On the topic of the media, he goes on to tell other blacks pointing the finger at the media to kindly stfu, and provides the following example:

    "When I go to the money machine at night, I ain't lookin' over my shoulder for the media, I'm lookin' for niggaz!"

    Of course, this a comedic sketch, and Chris Rock's job is to make people laugh, not to produce well thought-out and substantiated commentary on society and stereotypes – it may well be that many/most of these negative stereotypes can be attributed directly to negative media. I think most communities in N.America are affected by such negative views, and the Punjabi community is not exceptional in this regard.

  6. Reemas says:

    There will be always some rascists, no matter where. We see this happening here too (white to brown, brown to black, black to more black..) I think this a sickness too.

    Reemas,

    PrivateMarriage.com

  7. P.Singh says:

    Go to any college campus anywhere in America and you will find Punjabi males incessantly complaining/crying that Punjabi women like black guys (and not them, boo-hoo!).

    Jodha, I hear what you're saying, but how is this any different than any other community?

    There are Chinese guys who will complain about how the good looking Chinese girls always hook up with white guys (and apnay now – I never saw it 5 years ago, but I've seen a growing number of Indian-Chinese couples in Vancouver). There are black guys who will similarly complain about black girls dating white guys; white guys who will make comments about white girls dating apnay. And so on and so forth.

    How often will you hear these same Punjabi males complaining about how the good-looking black women all date white guys, or how white women prefer black guys? Very rarely, I think. These guys complain about women from their own ethnic community dating guys outside of that same ethnic community; they don't care about the dating preferences of women from other ethnic groups.

    Such complaints involve concepts of tribalism moreso than any hatred of the black man. Good or bad, many guys (most guys?) are uncomfortable seeing women from their ethnic group dating 'outsiders'.

  8. P.Singh says:

    Isn’t this a problem in pretty much every community – this fear of the black man? I’d attribute it more to the media than anything else (then again, my experience is limited – very few blacks in western Canada).

    That said, I have a hard time comprehending why Punjabis would hold any more extreme stereotypes of blacks that are not equally paralleled in the Chinese, Japanese, European communities etc.. Heck, even black people may be more afraid of black people.

    Chris Rock did a sketch a while back called ‘Black People vs Niggaz’ (“I love black people, but I hate niggaz”).

    On the topic of the media, he goes on to tell other blacks pointing the finger at the media to kindly stfu, and provides the following example:

    “When I go to the money machine at night, I ain’t lookin’ over my shoulder for the media, I’m lookin’ for niggaz!”

    Of course, this a comedic sketch, and Chris Rock’s job is to make people laugh, not to produce well thought-out and substantiated commentary on society and stereotypes – it may well be that many/most of these negative stereotypes can be attributed directly to negative media. I think most communities in N.America are affected by such negative views, and the Punjabi community is not exceptional in this regard.

  9. Reemas says:

    There will be always some rascists, no matter where. We see this happening here too (white to brown, brown to black, black to more black..) I think this a sickness too.

    Reemas,
    PrivateMarriage.com

  10. P.Singh says:

    Go to any college campus anywhere in America and you will find Punjabi males incessantly complaining/crying that Punjabi women like black guys (and not them, boo-hoo!).

    Jodha, I hear what you’re saying, but how is this any different than any other community?

    There are Chinese guys who will complain about how the good looking Chinese girls always hook up with white guys (and apnay now – I never saw it 5 years ago, but I’ve seen a growing number of Indian-Chinese couples in Vancouver). There are black guys who will similarly complain about black girls dating white guys; white guys who will make comments about white girls dating apnay. And so on and so forth.

    How often will you hear these same Punjabi males complaining about how the good-looking black women all date white guys, or how white women prefer black guys? Very rarely, I think. These guys complain about women from their own ethnic community dating guys outside of that same ethnic community; they don’t care about the dating preferences of women from other ethnic groups.

    Such complaints involve concepts of tribalism moreso than any hatred of the black man. Good or bad, many guys (most guys?) are uncomfortable seeing women from their ethnic group dating ‘outsiders’.

  11. Kaptaan says:

    Jodha,

    What's with the "muslimphobia" comment? There is long history and current events that are the basis for any "caution" or "bias" that Sikhs might have towards Muslims.

    Maybe you need to talk to some Singhs on the ground in the UK to find out what certain sections of the Muslim community are doing there. If you think that the activities of radical Muslims don't impact on people then you are clueless.

    Perhaps you can explain what phobia you are specifically referring to instead of just making accusatory statements?

    Kaptaan

    [Do not hijack this thread. In future, comments will be deleted that are off topic. If you wish to have further conversation on an older post, keep it on that post. Thank you…. Admin Singh]

  12. Jodha says:

    P.Singh: I agree with your gist that this phenomenon is seen in other communities, but I still don't think it is right and that is why I posted it here. Regardless of what other communities do, because my own community has a dear place in my heart I do hold it to a higher standard.

    About the Chris Rock sketch, I love Chris Rock, but he is referring to something different. He is giving an internal critique within the black community to keep their own members accountable. We Sikhs have internal critiques in our own community that will not be understood by others as well.

    Like you mentioned, in western Canada the numbers of black is probably low, but still I bet there is a hyper-exaggerated fear of them. The media may play a role, but I think there is something more to it than just that (atleast in the Sikh community). With regards to dating, I know what you are saying that certain men have a 'tribal' sentiment of 'ownership' of women from their community, but I do think that there is something 'special' to the black aspect.

    I think there is some sort of taboo about 'black sexuality' and all of its racist stereotypes (yes, even those that black males enjoy, just like Sikh males believing themselves to be a 'martial race').

    Plus, see which one would be far more damaging to a woman's reputation within the community: 1) going around telling people she is dating a white guy or 2) going around telling people she is dating a black guy. I am sure the politics of #2 are much more profound and that is why I think that there is something different.

    Kaptaan: don't hijack this thread. I responded to you about Muslimophobia. You can have that conversation with me there, not here on this thread.

  13. Kaptaan says:

    Jodha,

    What’s with the “muslimphobia” comment? There is long history and current events that are the basis for any “caution” or “bias” that Sikhs might have towards Muslims.

    Maybe you need to talk to some Singhs on the ground in the UK to find out what certain sections of the Muslim community are doing there. If you think that the activities of radical Muslims don’t impact on people then you are clueless.

    Perhaps you can explain what phobia you are specifically referring to instead of just making accusatory statements?

    Kaptaan

    [Do not hijack this thread. In future, comments will be deleted that are off topic. If you wish to have further conversation on an older post, keep it on that post. Thank you…. Admin Singh]

  14. Jodha says:

    P.Singh: I agree with your gist that this phenomenon is seen in other communities, but I still don’t think it is right and that is why I posted it here. Regardless of what other communities do, because my own community has a dear place in my heart I do hold it to a higher standard.

    About the Chris Rock sketch, I love Chris Rock, but he is referring to something different. He is giving an internal critique within the black community to keep their own members accountable. We Sikhs have internal critiques in our own community that will not be understood by others as well.

    Like you mentioned, in western Canada the numbers of black is probably low, but still I bet there is a hyper-exaggerated fear of them. The media may play a role, but I think there is something more to it than just that (atleast in the Sikh community). With regards to dating, I know what you are saying that certain men have a ‘tribal’ sentiment of ‘ownership’ of women from their community, but I do think that there is something ‘special’ to the black aspect.

    I think there is some sort of taboo about ‘black sexuality’ and all of its racist stereotypes (yes, even those that black males enjoy, just like Sikh males believing themselves to be a ‘martial race‘).

    Plus, see which one would be far more damaging to a woman’s reputation within the community: 1) going around telling people she is dating a white guy or 2) going around telling people she is dating a black guy. I am sure the politics of #2 are much more profound and that is why I think that there is something different.

    Kaptaan: don’t hijack this thread. I responded to you about Muslimophobia. You can have that conversation with me there, not here on this thread.

  15. Kaptaan says:

    Jodha, you have no clue about people in western Canada. No one is "afraid" of blacks in western Canada. Many blacks in western Canada are African immigrants either students or refugees from a war zone like Somalia, or some blacks are migrants from Eastern Canada and if so are usually university educated or skilled trade workers.

    The media doesn't instill fear of blacks in Canada, or the US for that matter.

    It doesn't matter what race the person is that a Sikh marries as long as the person is a Sikh. Dating is against Sikh values. Anand Karaj ceremony is only meant for TWO Sikhs (no race specified), anyone who has a problem with the race of any Sikhs is engaging in anti-Sikh practice and is a racist.

    As for the black cheerleaders, how do you know the organizer who said those racist words, wasn't a Hindu? What makes you think that the Punjabi community is somehow "our" community? Isn't this a site for Sikhs to "conversate"?

    Punjabi refers to an ethnicity, whereas, Sikh refers to a religious community. Why don't you make it clear what community this blog is trying to address – Sikhs or Punjabis? If this is a site for Sikhs to discuss things then fine, if its a site for Punjabis to discuss things, then make that clear and change the name (Langar Hall is a fixture of SIKH religious places). If its for Punjabis, then I'll see you later.

    It seems as though you like to throw stones for some reason at Sikhs.

    regards,

    Kaptaan

  16. Kaptaan says:

    Jodha, you have no clue about people in western Canada. No one is “afraid” of blacks in western Canada. Many blacks in western Canada are African immigrants either students or refugees from a war zone like Somalia, or some blacks are migrants from Eastern Canada and if so are usually university educated or skilled trade workers.

    The media doesn’t instill fear of blacks in Canada, or the US for that matter.

    It doesn’t matter what race the person is that a Sikh marries as long as the person is a Sikh. Dating is against Sikh values. Anand Karaj ceremony is only meant for TWO Sikhs (no race specified), anyone who has a problem with the race of any Sikhs is engaging in anti-Sikh practice and is a racist.

    As for the black cheerleaders, how do you know the organizer who said those racist words, wasn’t a Hindu? What makes you think that the Punjabi community is somehow “our” community? Isn’t this a site for Sikhs to “conversate”?

    Punjabi refers to an ethnicity, whereas, Sikh refers to a religious community. Why don’t you make it clear what community this blog is trying to address – Sikhs or Punjabis? If this is a site for Sikhs to discuss things then fine, if its a site for Punjabis to discuss things, then make that clear and change the name (Langar Hall is a fixture of SIKH religious places). If its for Punjabis, then I’ll see you later.

    It seems as though you like to throw stones for some reason at Sikhs.

    regards,
    Kaptaan

  17. Jodha says:

    Dear Kaptaan,

    It's tough to 'discuss' with you, because you take such an argumentative tone. I will try.

    That is great if you have no fear of those that are African, but I do know that certain stereotypes, be it through rap music, media portrayals, or even color biases do, exist within our community.

    You are right that the event manager may have been Punjabi Muslim, Punjabi Hindu, maybe he was even Gujarati Parsi. This particular incident does not matter to me as in my post.

    Now I know that this particular incidence does not necessarily illustrate the pervasiveness of this problem (in fact the cheerleaders believe it was an isolated incident related to a single individual), but it is something that I know to be widespread in our community. I have seen family members, all of a sudden, ‘remember’ to lock car doors when a black male is on the street corner. Numerous friends have told me that their grandparents would tell them to not be friends with black children or would hide purses, wallets, etc when their friends came over. Go to any college campus anywhere in America and you will find Punjabi males incessantly complaining/crying that Punjabi women like black guys (and not them, boo-hoo!). [emphasis added]

    That is great that theoretically race should not matter, but ask most self-described Sikhs if it is okay if there daughter should marry a person of African descent, even if they have are Sikh, and MOST would object. This may NOT be Sikh-like behavior and we can castigate them for it, but YOU are not the arbitrator to say that they are Sikh or not Sikh.

    There is a strange tendency in our community. In sociological arguments, if a person does something good we acknowledge that they are Sikh. As soon as they do something bad, then they become Punjabi. Such black and white distinctions is not the space most within the community operate in. It is held by those that are often so image conscious that they are willing to even sweep problems under the rug to maintain this classification.

    In a specific Canadian context, earlier this week I commented on this:

    [Sort of as an aside, I did want to make another comment. I remember when Dateline played this story back in 2002. A number of Sikh groups were angered at the portrayal of Sikhs in the story. And from what I remember there were problems with how the Canadian media wanted to frame the story as ‘traditionalism’ v. ‘modernity.’ However, the knee-jerk reactions from most Sikh groups was to condemn the story and ask Dateline not to rebroadcast it. However, a much better reaction was that of editor Harbinder Singh Sewak. Instead of crying about ‘portrayal’ and ‘image,’ he decided to actually work for Jassi’s justice by helping Mithu get out of jail and win his case against the false charges brought upon him. How much greater were his efforts in helping the ‘Sikh image’? I hope there is a lesson here for Sikhs in the future as well.] [link]

    I have a feeling that Harbinder Sewak did not make these distinctions and absolve himself by saying Jassi's case is a Punjabi problem. I think he did a very Sikh-like thing to do in actually stand for justice, not argue over semantics.

    The reason it is NOT clear is because such distinctions that Sikhs are a religious community v. Punjabis are an ethnic community is not really how the community operates. You may have a theological problem with it and I might be sympathetic to your case, but in a sociological view (and this blog concerns itself with social problems as well) this distinction is not always tenable.

    Visit this blog, don't visit this blog. You're choice. It is open to all.

  18. Jodha says:

    Dear Kaptaan,

    It’s tough to ‘discuss’ with you, because you take such an argumentative tone. I will try.

    That is great if you have no fear of those that are African, but I do know that certain stereotypes, be it through rap music, media portrayals, or even color biases do, exist within our community.

    You are right that the event manager may have been Punjabi Muslim, Punjabi Hindu, maybe he was even Gujarati Parsi. This particular incident does not matter to me as in my post.

    Now I know that this particular incidence does not necessarily illustrate the pervasiveness of this problem (in fact the cheerleaders believe it was an isolated incident related to a single individual), but it is something that I know to be widespread in our community. I have seen family members, all of a sudden, remember to lock car doors when a black male is on the street corner. Numerous friends have told me that their grandparents would tell them to not be friends with black children or would hide purses, wallets, etc when their friends came over. Go to any college campus anywhere in America and you will find Punjabi males incessantly complaining/crying that Punjabi women like black guys (and not them, boo-hoo!). [emphasis added]

    That is great that theoretically race should not matter, but ask most self-described Sikhs if it is okay if there daughter should marry a person of African descent, even if they have are Sikh, and MOST would object. This may NOT be Sikh-like behavior and we can castigate them for it, but YOU are not the arbitrator to say that they are Sikh or not Sikh.

    There is a strange tendency in our community. In sociological arguments, if a person does something good we acknowledge that they are Sikh. As soon as they do something bad, then they become Punjabi. Such black and white distinctions is not the space most within the community operate in. It is held by those that are often so image conscious that they are willing to even sweep problems under the rug to maintain this classification.

    In a specific Canadian context, earlier this week I commented on this:

    [Sort of as an aside, I did want to make another comment. I remember when Dateline played this story back in 2002. A number of Sikh groups were angered at the portrayal of Sikhs in the story. And from what I remember there were problems with how the Canadian media wanted to frame the story as traditionalism v. modernity. However, the knee-jerk reactions from most Sikh groups was to condemn the story and ask Dateline not to rebroadcast it. However, a much better reaction was that of editor Harbinder Singh Sewak. Instead of crying about portrayal and image, he decided to actually work for Jassis justice by helping Mithu get out of jail and win his case against the false charges brought upon him. How much greater were his efforts in helping the Sikh image? I hope there is a lesson here for Sikhs in the future as well.] [link]

    I have a feeling that Harbinder Sewak did not make these distinctions and absolve himself by saying Jassi’s case is a Punjabi problem. I think he did a very Sikh-like thing to do in actually stand for justice, not argue over semantics.

    The reason it is NOT clear is because such distinctions that Sikhs are a religious community v. Punjabis are an ethnic community is not really how the community operates. You may have a theological problem with it and I might be sympathetic to your case, but in a sociological view (and this blog concerns itself with social problems as well) this distinction is not always tenable.

    Visit this blog, don’t visit this blog. You’re choice. It is open to all.

  19. Camille says:

    Kaptaan, I think it might be helpful to read the opening post of this blog (I know it's buried, and so is sometimes hard to find). While we are a Sikh blog, we have already expressed an interest and value in exploring the intersections of identity — including ethno-cultural identity, gender identity, etc.

    I think Jodha's delineation of an internal critique is helpful in this case. You're correct that Sikhi is clear about values re: the equality of all people, including around caste, race, gender, religion, etc. However, this doesn't mean that there aren't very real issues within our own community that are related to these affinities. Also, while this person may have been Punjabi-[Insert Religion Here], should we not be concerned and speak against the unjust actions of others?

  20. Camille says:

    Kaptaan, I think it might be helpful to read the opening post of this blog (I know it’s buried, and so is sometimes hard to find). While we are a Sikh blog, we have already expressed an interest and value in exploring the intersections of identity — including ethno-cultural identity, gender identity, etc.

    I think Jodha’s delineation of an internal critique is helpful in this case. You’re correct that Sikhi is clear about values re: the equality of all people, including around caste, race, gender, religion, etc. However, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t very real issues within our own community that are related to these affinities. Also, while this person may have been Punjabi-[Insert Religion Here], should we not be concerned and speak against the unjust actions of others?

  21. […] our discussions on dividing Gurdwaras to Green Gurdwaras; from confronting the demons within to forging a new consensus; from questions of grassroots movements to moving beyond […]

  22. P.Singh says:

    Sassriakaal Jee,

    Before I comment on how informative and Interesting this blog is,I must tell you this:I am a kaala,yes,but,strangely,speak,read and write Panjabi as pretty much my first language.I love Panjabi culture and people,par,ek gal ta sahee nahee haigee.If Sikhism was formed to abolish prejudice and jataa-pataa,then mistrust of blacks is most disgusting!!!If Guru Nank were here,he would certainly strike many down dead…its DISGRACEFUL..!!!Contrary to popular belief,loving and equal treatment of all races and creeds is what aslee panjabiyaat is about!!And to all those Nice Sikh bhain-bhra out there-let us make a stand to change the views on marrying kaale-or gore.If we dont make a stand now…who will..!?? P.Singh

  23. P.Singh says:

    Sassriakaal Jee,
    Before I comment on how informative and Interesting this blog is,I must tell you this:I am a kaala,yes,but,strangely,speak,read and write Panjabi as pretty much my first language.I love Panjabi culture and people,par,ek gal ta sahee nahee haigee.If Sikhism was formed to abolish prejudice and jataa-pataa,then mistrust of blacks is most disgusting!!!If Guru Nank were here,he would certainly strike many down dead…its DISGRACEFUL..!!!Contrary to popular belief,loving and equal treatment of all races and creeds is what aslee panjabiyaat is about!!And to all those Nice Sikh bhain-bhra out there-let us make a stand to change the views on marrying kaale-or gore.If we dont make a stand now…who will..!?? P.Singh