Be Proud?

Guest blogged by Nina Chanpreet Kaur

August 5th, 2012. 1:33pm. A text message from my best friend: “hostage situation at sikh temple in wisconsin. on al jazeera right now.” We pulled over and exchanged glances, holding our breath it wasnt an attack perpetrated by someone within the Sikh community. Earlier that morning we rowed in unison, kayaking down the Hudson. Her voice coaching my every movement. Later, riding side by side, we biked to the tennis courts. The wind blowing in our faces and trailing behind our backs, sheer joy and pleasure breezed through me. We had been riding our bikes home when we pulled over. After we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways, I went to hit some tennis balls. The news hadnt yet sunk in. Once home, my entire being collapsed. I couldnt avoid the flood of emails, messages and calls. I kept replaying the last few hours. The extreme contrast of the deep pleasure of my morning and the tragedy of Oak Creek felt like some sort of betrayal.

As the shock lifted and the news sunk in, I laid my forehead against the naked floor of my Manhattan apartment and wept. I wept for children, little bare feet hitting cement pavement running for safety. I wept for women crammed into a closet, gunshots threatening to penetrate their bodies. I wept for the pain of separation. I wanted to be there, I wanted to hold each of the bleeding victims in my arms. I wanted to sit next to Wade Michael Page. Make him stop. Have a conversation, maybe a cup of tea. I wept for the memories of the safe gurdwara that cradled me with kirtan as a child. Such a place no longer existed.

News from Wisconsin consumed me. Guilt. Grief. Why wasnt I there? How does the universe exist in such extremes? At sunset, I picked myself up and started to write. I wrote emails. Long emails. I asked for a vigil. I planned a vigil. I wrote poems. I published them. I lost my appetite and any desire to eat, sleep or cook. I stayed awake through the night to organize. There was no such thing as comfort or rest for me in the weeks following Oak Creek. Heartbroken, the sadness cut through my very center. Organizing was my only way out.

For all of us, the crisis disappeared from the media too soon after the attack, and no response seemed adequate. In fact, the event never really made it to front and center stage in the mainstream media. As we mark the four month anniversary today, it is clear to me that our response as a Sikh community and our organizing around the crisis — including the vigil in New York City — has not been enough. Perhaps it is because Oak Creek painfully reflects back to us the truth we cannot run away from: our efforts before Oak Creek even happened were not enough, not unified enough, not deep enough, not collaborative enough and not well measured.

The tragedy of Oak Creek unraveled the challengesfor our community that we have not yet risen to and how unprepared we are. It reflected back to us the reality many of us dont want to confront yet face every day. For me, the tragedy reflected the ways in which we have left our Gurus legacy behind. It was a reminder of the long list of work yet to be done and a reaffirmation of my sense that our fundamental way of being as a community needs to shift.

BeProud has recently risen as a leader trying to make this shift. Endorsing a message of ending hate by bringing people of all backgrounds and faiths together, the founder Gurbaksh Chahal and organizers share a beautiful vision they felt compelled to do something about after Oak Creek:

We all have a dream. No matter what we look like, where we live, or how much or little we have, it’s the one thing we all share. Our individual beliefs may be different, but the dream of happiness and a better life links us all. This dream includes knowing that we are free to be who we are without fear. The BeProud movement is about turning that dream into reality. It transcends race, gender, culture, and religion. It will forever change how we see one another.

The recipe is as follows: create videos and messages that go viral on mainstream media and social media…broadcast them as PSAs, get celebrities to endorse them. Though I wholeheartedly support the message and intended outcome of BeProud, the strategy being employed is one that I question fervently.

The strategy seems to be fueled by the power of the media, specifically social media. However, the idea that mass media attention, celebrity acceptance of differences among Sikhs and non-Sikhs alike and a short video to raise awareness will get people to change their behavior and end hate seems to me like feel-good fluff and magical thinking. Therein lies my biggest issue with BeProud. In a video in which Chahal himself appears, he says:

Through education and awareness we can help eliminate future hate crimes in this world. Its about embracing humanity…the unifying truth that we are all a little different and we should be proud…what ties us together is a shared American dream…be whoever you want to be do whatever you want to do but dont hate.

This grossly underestimates the types of conditions necessary for changing human behavior and uprooting deep-seated hate. Moreover, how can we possibly measure the intended impact? The heavy investment of resources into BeProud is not well matched by the foundations ability to measure its success.

Many Sikhs seem to think that if we can reach popular media, or gain credibility by a white/corporate audience, have enough money, and be accepted by the mainstream, we will then be safe as a community. Stand out but fit in often accompanies this thinking though Chahals message about taking pride in our differences has been very clear from the start. His campaign instead is sending a message to young people that if you are proud and express your pride in your identity, you will not be the target of hate. We seem to think that if people knew who we are, they would not act in hate. This is simply not true. In fact, quite often perpetrators of violence know very well who their victim is. Many individuals who maintain close and active ties to xenophobic, racist and supremacist groups know a great deal about who they are attacking (in this video, Don Black states we think the Sikhs should be back in Punjab). There is nothing rational about white supremacy. Whether or not you are proud of your identity or a white supremacist understands who you are you will remain a target. The glue that holds white supremacy together is the ideology of hate and hate based violence regardless of who the target is. The roots are much deeper than we are giving them credit and our failure as a community to attack the problem at its systemic and local roots is problematic.

Moreover, each of the videos say basically the same message in slightly different ways be proud of who you are and support an end to hate. To date, most of the videos seem to be a series of awkward and somewhat impassioned commentaries made by celebrities reading from cue cards. From the vantage point of someone who would like to know more about others or to understand hate and how to fight it, I wouldnt walk away with very much. I just dont see how these videos will translate into real localized action. However, two recent partnerships forged by BeProud, Serve 2 Unite and 18 million rising, do seem extremely promising for the deeply local and tangible outcomes both organizations seek.

Still, Chahals primary work is focused on the mass media campaign. In Chahals talk at the Sikh Film Festival in New York in November, he referred to the Kony campaign as an example of what BeProud seeks to do: raise awareness and go viral in a short amount of time. He mentioned how Kony quickly went viral and was successful in raising awareness in the same way that he hopes BeProud will.* I was shocked by the comparison and surprised by the sheer lack of critical commentary to both Chahals flawed presentation and the foundations strategy itself.

While I do not discount the importance and urgency of the message and the great deal of power that lies in the media, I question Chahals decision to focus on celebrities, PSAs and the media as the primary solutions. Turning to celebrities and mass media to puppeteer videos of people from all different backgrounds expressing their pride in their ancestry, ethnicity, culture or race is not going to stop a white supremacist from picking up a loaded gun and marching into a gurdwara on a Sunday morning. One only needs to peruse the comment section under each BeProud video to see the inordinate amount of hateful comments. Raising awareness, getting mass media attention or in other words becoming accepted by a white audience, will not solve the problem. I am concerned by the lack of criticism and the large amounts resources being loaded into a campaign that could do so much more to meet its vision if it were to consider a more thoughtful strategy.

Lastly, I question Chahals choice of the term be proud. I recently had a conversation with a respected colleague in which he asked me, shouldnt we as Sikhs be fighting ego and pride in exchange for humility and service? The term be proud has always felt to me an odd and uncomfortable choice for Chahals work. But my friends question got me thinking about the term be proud itself even more deeply. Messages to young Sikh children to be proud are widespread in Sikh childrens literature and our Khalsa schools. It is a phrase I have heard time and time again in our community in response to antagonism and hate. It makes me wonder if be proud is part of our cultural lexicon that doesnt translate well into an American, multicultural or English context. I do understand the intention is to empower and I agree with the need to empower. However, it takes more than a series of videos and PSAs to raise awareness and bring masses of people together. With so much work to do within and outside our community, I am left wondering if our resources are best used in a national campaign like BeProud that does little to intervene in our daily lives except to transmit a message that may or may not make an impact.

Truly empowering people and eliminating hate comes with massive, localized, collaborative efforts aligned with existing national efforts that are measurable, focused on skill and community building, and impact the day to day lives of communities. Starting a massive media campaign to raise awareness about an issue is a fine beginning. What about curriculum, training and community events to follow? What about tracking the effectiveness of those efforts? In fact, instead of media appearances and tautological messages lets attack the roots of xenophobia, hate, racism and the media that breeds it.

Although education alone will not dispel white supremacy, we are in dire need of large scale efforts that help children learn the skills and tools to understand one another across cultures. We need to help large numbers of parents find better, more proactive ways to address hate. We must offer widespread, in-depth teacher training and ways to hold teachers accountable to that training. For example, mandating that Sikhism be included in a textbook or on a college campus is great and I condone and celebrate that achievement. But, how do we know it is being taught and accurately at that? Are we training teachers in those states in mass numbers? Are we evaluating the outcome of presentations we give in communities to see if the learning that took place was 1) effective 2) relevant to participants daily lives, or 3) translated into action after the presentation itself?

In addition to tracking hate crimes, we need to join together with major organizations like the Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center who regularly track and monitor the activities of white supremacists. The FBI recently concluded that Wade Michael Page acted alone and they do not believe there is a threat to the Sikh community in particular. We know that we have been the target of hate for over two centuries in the United States and around the globe. What we dont have is the data that links the activity closely enough to white supremacist activity. Jewish organizations systematically track the activity of anti-semitic and white supremacy groups, and they have been effective in doing so for decades.

We need all of this and more. The events that took place in Oak Creek, Wisconsin are not isolated events. Similarly, the issues that exist in our community and panth are not isolated from one another. Our struggle for class and gender equality is related to our struggle to fight hate crimes. Without sustained, long term, preventative, local, holistic, multidimensional approaches I fear we are investing in the very problem we are trying to solve.

A week after the NYC vigil, I met my friend with whom I had spent the morning of August 5th. Our conversation seemed to happen in one breath, our eyes wide and fixated on one another. Sweat trickling down my brow, my back plastered to her sofa chair in the summer heat, we talked for hours. What to do next. How to organize. Who to call. What emerged from that conversation and the months that have followed is a deep knowing that a cataclysmic shift is needed and, in many ways, I have hope that she is already on her way:

From siloed, insular, ego driven and territorial alliances to deeply collaborative, responsive, transformative missives that truly break down divisions. From investments in legal advocacy and political campaigns to growing leadership in our children. From defending the Sikh identity with inapposite descriptions that accommodate to white Christian norms and we are not Muslim to conversations about who I am and how that relates to you. From political benchmarks to understanding, responding to and systematically tracking hate and white supremacy on both local and national levels. From men in charge at the exclusion of women to balancing the gender gap in our community. From divided gurdwara committees to reform that will put forth a new level of security and organized mental health response as precedents. From anxiety-driven activism to a more grounded, measured, self-reflective and sustained movement.

*To the activist and academic communities, Kony was a complete disgrace. The campaign itself has drawn significant criticism, not least involves the creators recent mental breakdown. Most notably, the campaigns tactics to elicit an emotional response while leaving out important facts in favor of broad sweeping generalizations. Moreover, the video campaign has often been described as oversimplified and slacktivism having no impact on bringing Joseph Kony to justice for his crimes against humanity. The campaign was completely out of touch with reality and soon after the video was released, the international community quickly learned its creator was also deeply out of touch with reality.

 


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37 Responses to “Be Proud?”

  1. Deep Hundal says:

    Still, Kony had more depth. Though later when it was found to be a horrible propagandist instrument of American imperial interests in that region of the world, it quickly dissolved into nothingness. It was a good instrument to measure the gullibility of highly society and the ability to reel them into a movement that may have (and may yet) had destructive consequences. Especially being that said Kony 2012 aligned itself with the very individuals that were responsible for using child soldiers themselves and engaging in atrocious criminal acts.

    My question is: what are we proud of? That we're different and it's okay to be different? I don't understand how making a video showcasing that we're proud of ourselves is going to root out the deeply racist, xenophobic and murderous tendencies of the American right, and dare I say, the general fiber of White America.

    Personally, I don’t care about Priyanka Chopra. What the hell does she have to do with anything? I don’t feel more comforted knowing that she decided to make a video because Gurbaksh slipped her 10,000 grand and promised her a back massage, followed by a guided tour of his hairless chest. Like, jesus Christ.

    I want Gurbaksh to go out there, in the media, and talk about the vilification of our people and this war on terror that has opened the flood gates to xenophobia and hate and justifications for this vilification. I want him to oppose the narratives constructed around our communities by the mainstream media in collusion with their bed fellows in the pentagon and the Obama’s administration.

    But I doubt any of that will happen.
    I
    nstead, we’ll have to wait till Salman Khan rips of his t-shirt and slowly walks into frame in jean short shorts whisper: “be proud…..”

    • Sanehval says:

      Find the line between uchicago prasad and uncle swami prasad, between young marx and later marx; we're dealing with a massive global lumpenproletariat that lacks the hermeneutics to get to where you are, its a tough slog.

      "followed by a guided tour of his hairless chest. Like, jesus Christ. "
      like, really Dog?

      • Deep Hundal says:

        I wrote that half asleep. It was like 3 in the morning. I just read over it now and saw so many mistakes.

        But I do write a lot of sarcasm into my responses, here and everywhere else.

        People are so boring when they write. I like to add some spice, Gurbaksh Chahal hairless chest spice.

  2. Guest says:

    And what purpose exactly does a vigil have, if not exactly the same as everything you are criticizing about the Be Prouc campaign?

    • ninachanpreet says:

      The author stated "It is clear to me that our response to oak creek and organizing around the crisis- the vigil in New York City included – are not enough". A vigil to humanize victims and grieve as well as come together in solidarity, raise awareness as a one time event very different than be proud and I agree a vigil itself is not enough but still needed to happen.

  3. Mohinder Singh says:

    Be proud ! of what?

  4. Vik says:

    Just wondering, is it wrong to assimilate to white Christina norms? How are we defining this? Guru Saheb also claimed some of the tools of the power — use of Persian, court imagery, etc. in his attack on Moghul authority. It don't think there's a pure 'Sikh identity', though we create binaries between our tools vs. theirs

  5. Narinder Singh says:

    The inability to measure the impact of such a campaign is mentioned, but this entire article seems like an attempt to do just that. Unfortunately, the method of measure are mere opinions, which doesn't cut it.

    I know it's difficult to stop a practice our community has become a pro at, but if what someone has chosen to do seems inadequate; then get on the field, don't complain about the game from the sidelines.

    The battle needs to be fought on all fronts. That's what we lacked in '47, '66, and '84; lets not make the same mistakes again.

    • Thank you Narinder. This article and the comments were alarming to read.

      I'm not going to respond to this article because you said something that our community deeply needs to understand. If you don't find the efforts of BeProud are enough, please do something about it. Writing a novel trashing a positive campaign isn't going to do you any good.

      I also believe, our community needs to be a better job at getting along and fighting hate internally before it can make sure it doesn't creep back up externally.

      -Gurbaksh Chahal

      • brooklynwala says:

        If you read this is "a novel trashing" your campaign, that is really unfortunate. Nina's piece was thoughtful, respectful in how it raised very important questions and critiques. The Langar Hall is a space for discussion, dialogue and debate. Voicing critiques is not "internal hate."

      • ninachanpreet says:

        It's unfortunate that you're not showing up here as committed to bettering yourself and your work, if you were I am sure you would be open to dialogue. I certainly am not coming from a place of hate, please be specific and indicate where you feel I communicated that otherwise there is no basis to your argument. There's something to be said for taking in critique gracefully and responding with compassion, I'm sorry to see you missed an opportunity.
        Regardless, the door is open if you would like to use this as an opportunity to have a productive conversation.

    • ninachanpreet says:

      The lack of critical commentary and strategic efforts are precisely what has hurt us in the past. By your suggestion, we should not talk or think critically just blindly do without thoughtful strategy? I am not, nor are most people here, standing on the sidelines doing nothing and not on the field. Try again with a stronger argument.

    • Izhaarbir Singh says:

      You stated that the battle needs to be fought on all fronts. Is not what Nina is doing precisely just that?

      Why do you discount critical thinking, analysis, and self reflection as a battle front? (She does suggest that BeProud is a good beginning, but then proceeds to point out all the ways it is bound to fail in its real objective)

      Sikhs always seem to say that the real battle is with the self: "…man jeetai jag jeet". So why are modes of critical-analytical thinking and self reflection okay, or even necessary parts of Sikhi, when applied to the individual? But when it comes to critically thinking about our own community and community solutions, we put down the individual who simply applies the general principle of individual Sikhi to the Panth at large?

    • Izhaarbir Singh says:

      The failure in our community is not a battle on all fronts. The failure is the inability and incapacity of Sikh leaders and elites to receive and understand criticism of what they are doing, and then understanding how to either properly communicate their responses or apply any good ideas coming from that critique. All critique is discarded as hate. Does that not sound a bit like non-democratic forms of functioning, and a form of elitism?

      The ultimate problem is that we do not operate in Sarbat Khalsa models of functioning. By a Sarbat Khalsa model I do not mean that the entirety of Guru Panth need be involved in every action, but simply that our organizations and our selves be open thoughtfully to the critical thoughts and ideas of other members of the Panth. Instead, we operate under self-guided modes, where each Sikh leader and organization thinks he/it knows best for the community. We complacently allow this ego-driven agenda because we think "as long as something is being done, then let them do it. Something is better than nothing." This if a very flawed form of thinking and operating. (I am not going to write a critique of "something is better than nothing" here because this will actually end up being a book by the time we get done with that discussion)

      • Izhaarbir Singh says:

        Typo: This is** a very flawed form…

      • ninachanpreet says:

        absolutely @izhaarbir veerji. thanks for your comments. could not agree with you more especially regarding the below. i love how you always help us find our way back to the Guru. haha we may need to write a book about this, not a bad idea.
        "The failure is the inability and incapacity of Sikh leaders and elites to receive and understand criticism of what they are doing, and then understanding how to either properly communicate their responses or apply any good ideas coming from that critique. All critique is discarded as hate. Does that not sound a bit like non-democratic forms of functioning, and a form of elitism?

        The ultimate problem is that we do not operate in Sarbat Khalsa models of functioning…"

  6. Indy says:

    I'm sorry I disagree with this article, you talk about the Be Proud campaign being ego driven, your article is completely ego driven. Find alot of what you say offensive, how can you speak so egotistically about your own feelings, in such a manner, think about the families and people directly affected!

    The Be Proud campiagn is a start someone is doing something, which is brilliant

    Get yourself out of your own head and feelings and do something productive not self centered and be so ignorant.

  7. There are some good points you're raising here, Nina, particularly about what you feel would be more effective strategies to deal with the deep rooted and incredibly complex issues on hand here. But using celebrities to endorse and publicize issues is a great way to create awareness. If it wasn't for George Clooney, most people would still not know what is happening in Darfur. Did he change anything on a structural level? No, but Clooney did use his celebrity to create awareness. So, the fact that Chahal has stepped up to the plate to try to exert his influence in creating awareness is something I fully applaud. I see the point you are making about how much impact this education and awareness would even have on those with racist ideologies. Just awareness and feel good slogans I agree will not prevent any hate crimes from occurring again. But it helps. And there are many, many, people who really have no idea who the Sikhs are. If we sat around and theorized on one solid campaign that we can all agree is the best, we'd just be sitting here arguing. Some think we should look to Sikh history and re-institute the watch towers at our gurduara, others believe we should use private security at gurduaras, or we should all start carrying guns, rather than just the kirpan. Could Chahal be addressing issues like education and deeper issues? Of course. Perhaps he could be talking more about Sikh theology. But he isn't a Sikh organization. I don't see any of our Sikh celebrities doing anything of substance regarding spreading awareness. So I think these are all steps in the right direction. It seems like this is putting the burden of an entire community on this one campaign. There should be more individuals and perhaps organizations could approach Chahal with other campaign propositions that go deeper than just awareness.

  8. ninachanpreet says:

    @navdeep thanks for your comments. i do acknowledge the power of the media, I wrote "While I do not discount the importance and urgency of the message…" I also wrote " Starting a massive media campaign to raise awareness about an issue is a fine beginning."
    my larger argument here is much greater than be proud…i describe the fundamental shift needed in our community, the work that needs to be done and by no means am I suggesting beproud do it all. my criticism about be proud lies in the gap between its intended outcome and strategy being employed. there's too far a disconnect. my larger argument – of which be proud is an example I am using – is about stepping away from one click activism, passive solutions, superficial responses and work that is overall not well measured or collaborative enough. we are far, far too comfortable with complacency and mediocrity as a community. anything is good enough as long as the image of a Sikh (male) is in it. i am asking for more. more from each of us, myself included. we can do better. we have much more potential. we cannot tolerate mediocrity and vagueness, a distant hope that things will somehow change.
    to your point about chahal being the only celebrity, well taken, indeed he is and i could have noted that.

    • ninachanpreet says:

      oops! the quote got cut off in my copy/paste it's supposed to read "While I do not discount the importance and urgency of the message and the great deal of power that lies in the media.."

  9. Darid says:

    Everyone in SF (tech industry or otherwise) knows Gurbaksh Chahal is nothing more than an opportunist. The very fact he wishes to enlist celebs and the clout that follows proves this. He (neither his family) has never stepped up for Sikhism before WI and hasn't said much since the launch of this tacky campaign.

    The worst possible face to give to the cause.

  10. Narinder Singh says:

    Nina, my comment about getting on the field was not directed specifically towards you but to the community as a whole, so I apologize if it came off that way. Most of us believe our opinion holds weight, or that we have the right to provide critique, and in essence we do, but what are we willing to do in order for our opinion to take form or for our critique to be implemented? That is what I mean by getting on the field; not in the game you and I are already playing and enjoying, but in the game we see many flaws in. Critical commentary alone is easy, and there's no shortage of people in the community who are providing it.

    Also, in the past, our approach has primarily been critique and "shut down shop" rather than critique and develop a solid, implementable alternative. The Singh Sabhayai were the last ones to provide an alternative, and we've been running with their model ever since.

    • Izhaarbir Singh says:

      I like what you said about providing an alternative. I absolutely agree that is something that definitely needs work.

      • ninachanpreet says:

        @Narinder thanks for the clarification. what i'm looking for is a way past the argument that "well don't be an armchair critic, do something" i don't disagree with you however the same applies to you. there's a much bigger conversation that needs to happen here and i do lay out multiple (easily implementable) alternatives above. what is a more fruitful discussion is finding the right alternative and collaborating in action. that's the conversation i would like to have, instead of a jabbing about critiques. lastly, @izhaarbir veerji's comment is most applicable to your concerns – the resistance our leaders like gurbaksh have to taking in feedback and implementing it is part of the picture whether you want to see it or not.

        • Preeti says:

          You singled his organization out and attacked him for not doing everything you want to do but didn't. I didn't see any actual solutions. Of course he's not going to take that criticism/attack well when you come t him like that. And you are just sitting on the sidelines throwing tomatoes.

          • ninachanpreet says:

            @preeti the last 6 paragraphs of the article are filled with solutions. as i have mentioned above, i am not on the sidelines i am very much taking action on what it is i want to see. i appreciate your comments but they're not well founded. gurbaksh received criticism in august and gave the same response (though slightly more polite here on the langar hall) about people being haters you can read here http://twitter.com/americanturban/statuses/239054
            He has shown no interest (as per the response both here on TLH and twitter) in taking in criticism/feedback and continues to self promote, his current twitter feed on BeProud offers a free book and mentoring session with him.

  11. Deep Hundal says:

    What Sikh celebrities do we have? We have plenty of Panjabi celebrities from the music industry that’ll sing a few vulgar, obscene tracks then follow up with a dharmic track just to balance it out and remind folks that it’s okay to talk about sexually molesting your daughter as long as they sing the epics of our Guru’s thereafter.

    The question isn’t that this campaign, powered by so called celebrities, will not bring awareness; the question is what sort of awareness and what sort of perceptions will be made and managed; what sort of impact will it really have?

    I’m troubled that Kony 2012 was used as an example given the near criminal and nefarious tact it used to convince the world that military intervention was needed (in an already war-torn region of the world)in collusion with a war-criminal/president who himself start the trend of using child-soldiers, to stop Kony. Was this example of a campaign apt? I think not and these are my reasons why:

    1.Deception. The campaign lied and manipulated facts.
    2.Instrumental in beating the drums of war
    3.Providing a false sense of accomplishment
    4.No consultation with the people of Uganda.
    5.White saviour complex leading this campaign.

    Of course there are plenty of other reasons, but these were some of my primary concerns.
    All in all, it was a horrible example to use.

    The other thing that concerns me is why someone who is as intelligent as Gurbaksh Chahal did not consult the various Sikh organizations around the United States to move forward on this issue in a concerted manner? I mean to come on here and state that we need to do a “better job at getting along and fighting hate internally,” after he went all lonesome and pryanka choprad the world isn’t very noble.

    But, all being fair, maybe our brother just didn’t know that he had people to work with? I don’t think that his intentions are nefarious; maybe a bit misplaced (but then again, when haven’t the most of us been)and granted that this is the first time that something of such horrific magnitude has been inflicted on the Sikh community in the recent past, it’s not beyond us to reason that he reacted in haste. Then again I could be completely wrong because this man is also worth 10’s of millions and is responsible for administrating some very successful and large companies and he should have the for-sight to consult with the dozens of grass-roots Sikhs organizations on the ground and the dozens of main-stream Sikhs organizations and the general Sikh community to push this campaign further.
    Ps. the be-proud twitter sounds flaky, and corny, and oh so flaky, and god it’s so corny…
    Let’s look at some examples:

    “Life is short. So love without boundaries. Laugh without control. Live life like it’s your heaven on earth.”

    What the hell does that have to do with anything? People were slaughtered god dang it by a racist man with links to ultra-right wing religions, racist fanatics that have been continually supported by and equally ignored by all levels of government. Let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about how the funding of investigating white racist groups was cut. Isn’t that important to discuss?
    I read all the tweets. Not a single critical analysis of the circumstances that led to the deaths of those innocent Sikhs.

    Being proud of who they are did not save them from a bullet to the head.

  12. Narinder Singh says:

    Personally, I've interpreted this campaign as a public display of defiance against hate, which I believe is very much in line with the Khalsa spirit. I was inspired to see someone in the community step up to the plate and attempt to make an impact even though he didn't need to, nor did anyone expect him to. I actually expected other well-know, well-to-do privileged Sikhs to take charge, but they're nowhere to be found.

    Now I must mention the elephant in the room; I wonder if he would've gotten less criticism and more support from the community had he been someone who merely carried the so-called "Sikh look". In fact, I'm sure that would've been the case, which is quite sad. If it was a Waris Ahluwalia or a Fauja Singh, the praises and support would be endless.

    • Izhaarbir Singh says:

      Seriously? I hope you're just trolling now bro (regarding the "so-called 'Sikh look'" part). Because that's a pretty high-handed and far-fetched accusation to throw out indiscriminately on everyone.

      • Sanehval says:

        That's not trolling at all. Saying "keshdhari" instead would suffice, and I agree that there would be many more roses at his feet if Chahal was sporting a long beard and pink pagh.

  13. Divaana Singh says:

    pretty disheartening that everything our Gurus worked for, stood for, and sacrificed their families for, is now being quoted as "the so-called "Sikh look"". @narinder singh

  14. Narinder Singh says:

    Clarification: I'm not belittling the Khalsa code, nor would I ever, but I also don't believe Guru Sahib went through all those hardships only to preserve a particular dress-code. Now I don't think that's what you meant, but that's what you've written.

    I'm addressing a human condition that looks primarily for an external manifestation of some sort in order to determine an individual's commitment, or intentions. Gurbani warns us of such presumptions.

  15. I think we need to explicitly tease out a few of the themes in this discussion.

    BeProud, the media campaign:
    I don't think anyone would argue against the benefits of a media campaign (and Nina explicitly endorsed its vision and intention). I think Gurbaksh Chahal deserves credit in undertaking the project. There has been a vacuum where it pertains to a public awareness campaign around hate crimes, bullying and the like. Notwithstanding its isolated operation, the organizations and individuals who have long worked on these issues certainly benefit from the awareness that this activity can bring.

    Having said that, I also don't think it's unfair or slanderous to critique the strategy. It is a public social media campaign and therefore to expect that it will not or should not receive any due evaluation is not reasonable. Kony-2012 was a great marketing campaign in terms of raising awareness, but as we saw, it had major flaws. Let us also note that part of the social media appeal of this campaign was that it focused on the viewers of the media to take actual steps against an identified "enemy". There was a bad guy, and here's how we all can take down the bad guy.

    I'm not sure that BeProud provides something as tangible at this time. And, I do think that the fallout from Kony-2012 has now put a magnifying glass on subsequent social media campaigns. There are learnings to be had.

    The "Just Say No" campaign, alongside the war on drugs, to fight drug use among children was another marketing campaign that may have brought forth some awareness, but as we can see from the current drug culture in this country, it's hard to say that this campaign has been successful. Rather, perhaps it has been a bust in the context of its apparent objective.

    Can we point to a media campaign that has been successful in addressing an issue beyond bringing awareness? I ask, because the stated objectives of the BeProud campaign is more than simply raising awareness, and I would be curious to see how successful campaigns have been modeled and positioned within their issue arenas.

    There is a "market" process through which a product is evaluated and refined to be more effective and appropriate to its purpose. I think Nina has provided some legitimate avenues and considerations to pursue as she places the media campaign in the context of addressing hate violence. Whether the founder of BeProud wishes to accept these considerations or not is up to him, but it would behoove anyone who is seeking public support to also be open to suggestions around strategy and implementation, rather than respond with disdain about any opinion not in line with his own.

    BeProud, the "movement":
    To date, the BeProud appears to be in its beginning stages, so perhaps it is unfair to judge its credibility as a movement. I wouldn't put it in the latter category at this time. At present, it is an "ivory tower" attempt to bring awareness to an issue that people struggle with every day. There's no real grassroots activism attached to BeProud specifically (yet?). Those who are on the front lines on this issue do not appear to be formally collaborating with this project, and I think that is a deficiency.

    BeProud, the messaging:
    I also don't think it's unfair to express whether the messaging is effective. I think there certainly needs some work to do in that regard. "BeProud" and "end hate" do not appear to be complementary concepts on the face of it. I also wonder whether the opinions of a Bollywood actor or South Asian celebrity in the UK really has any weight to the average American. Again, perhaps this is what is available to BeProud at the present moment.

    If this campaign really is going to take root, I think there needs to be more of a collaborative and open approach. A movement is only so when there is grassroots activism on the ground. A media campaign is like icing on the cake, but you still need the cake.

    On Narinder Singh's point above regarding the "elephant in the room", it is difficult to say that the BeProud campaign is receiving scrutiny because of the lifestyle that Gurbaksh Chahal chooses for himself. I did not detect that in Nina's post.

    Further, I would say that Waris Ahluwalia or Fauja Singh, as examples, are celebrated for their achievements while still maintaining their Sikh articles of faith and I don't think it's unfair to recognize this, particularly when we see many others discard them due to convenience or practicalities in the business world, for example. Waris Ahluwalia and Fauja Singh are living examples of being proud of one's identity. The discussion of whether BeProud would be subject to the same criticism if they were at the head of this campaign incorporates significant assumptions that is very hypothetical.

  16. Izhaarbir Singh says:

    The irony in all of this is that Nina is being attacked for doing precisely what her critics are doing to her. Instead of focusing on the content of what she has written and disproving her thesis on the basis of her own points (and actually citing them), folks are invested in various forms of character attacks.

    I would love to see what a critique of what she has to say based on an analysis of what she has actually said would look like. Though, that might require someone to actually read the article. Hmm, seems like I know one awareness campaign that certainly failed: Read to Achieve.

  17. Blighty Singh says:

    I don't know who this 'Chahal' geezer is and have never heard of 'be-proud'. And seeing how I spend a very large chunk of my life trawling through the internet looking for Sikh specific stuff we can take it that the Chahal geezer is a pretty crap publicist and the 'be-proud' thingy-ma-jig is even crappier.
    What is all this crap anyway ? How on earth does telling people to "be proud" solve any problem, especially when considering how misguided 'pride' is the root of the problem anyway ? Doesn't a white supremacist get to the stage where he goes on a killing spree of non-whites because he has too much 'pride' in the first place ?

  18. […] As the Sikh American community embarks yet another mobilization against hate attacks— since this latest episode of violence has really hit home with many Sikhs in a way rarely seen since Balbir Singh Sodhi— we would do well to first answer the difficult, necessarily critical questions posed by my sister Nina Chanpreet Kaur in her thoughtf…[1] […]

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