Navigating Identity as a Sikh Child

A nice piece in the Columbia Journalist discusses the challenges incurred by young Sikh men and women as they navigate through their adolescent years. The article tells us of two friends, Sonu Singh and Manjinder Singh, who have bonded over their love of hip-hop, video games, and (of course) girls. However, as the article notes, what sets these friends apart is the fact that while Manjinder chooses to keep his kesh, Sonu plans to grow his hair and wear a pagh later on in life.

Sonu and Manjinder embody a larger tension within the Sikh community the internal dilemma among children to remain true to their faith while still fitting in with their peers. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, some Sikhs simply do not want to stand out. Incidents of harassment and discrimination towards Sikhs students have increased dramatically since then…

Sikh_Stories_for_Kids.jpgThe article talks about the various cases ofharassmentand bullying which have taken place in New York City schools. The Sikh Coalition has stated that almost half of students who wear paghs have experienced physical violence in school. Yes, half! While bullying affects children of all ethnic groups, it is clear that Sikh children feel especially vulnerable. In addition, many young Sikh children don’t feel that they are adequately equipped to deal withharassmenttargeted at their physical appearance.

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Why blend in when you were born to stand out” and it rings true for many minority groups. Whether we want to admit this or not, many young Sikh children do not feel confident of their appearance and identity. I think that’s okay, however, as many young children of all backgrounds are struggling with these same questions. However, to addressharassmentand bullying in schools, it is critical that we teach our Sikh children how to articulate their faith through self confidence and self esteem. Much of this has to start before our children begin school. When we hear about stories of bullying andharassment, it is often too late to lift a broken spirit.

While navigating one’s identity is an issue for all Sikhs, it adversely impacts young Sikhs as they attempt to balance the many different expectations which are placed on them by their families, their friends and their peer groups. To address this, we should create and encourage young Sikhs to get involved in camps which help todevelopself confidence and leadership skills. These camps are critical in formulating positive self identity and embracing our differences. We have a long way to go, but I really believe it is up to us to pave the way for the next generation. If it saves one child from being bullied, it is well worth the effort.


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23 Responses to “Navigating Identity as a Sikh Child”

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  2. Sikhs had some strong spiritual and cultural practices going around their life and they're pretty good at following them. Some people might face a bit harassment after a few attacks by the terrorists, especially of the asian but they must stay strong and follow their cultural beliefs as they always do. This article had explained the same thing in a well descriptive manner. Thanks for the share.

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  8. Michel Gorge says:

    It is so exciting to see others that truly care about students and their future (it affects us too!) May I pass this out in class as a handout. I copy articles I believe will inspire my students. I found a assignment that seems to help. I have the student make a 8X11 picture collage of either their support system or some goal to finish this program (LPN). Then on first class I have each student tell about their collage and hang it on back wall, this is a great ice breaker and I have not had one student refuse. It sometimes is very emotional sharing but so heartwarming. I then explain there will be time when they want give up and quit and this is when they need to look at their collage and remember why they are there. Then at the end of the semester I have them take it and keep in their notebook to keep them motivated. It has been a success (wish I could say it was my idea -but it wasn't). Thanks.
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  15. Some people might face a bit harassment after a few attacks by the terrorists, especially of the asian but they must stay strong and follow their cultural beliefs as they always do. This article had explained the same thing in a well descriptive manner. Thanks for the share.

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