In America, it seems we can’t stop killing one another en masse. Last Friday, the shooting at the FedEx facility in Indianapolis claimed at least eight victims, four of whom were Sikh Americans.
They were identified by police as Amarjeet Johal, 66; Amarjeet Sekhon, 48; Jaswinder Kaur, 64; Jaswinder Singh, 68.
Singh had just started at FedEx and hadn’t received his first check. He recently moved from California And that’s where I think I may have met him.
In 2003, I did a number of stories on the Sikh community after they were continually stereotyped and harassed as international terrorists post-9/11 because of their turbans. I remember visiting the Sikh Gurdwara in Stockton, Calif., an historical site as the first Sikh house of worship established in America in 1912. The founders were Jawala Singh and Wasakha Singh.
From Jaswinder Singh’s picture, I just know I met him the numerous times I went to the Stockton temple to interview members about the Sikh culture.
In the Times, Jaswinder Singh was described by a relative as a “simple man” who would perform service acts for the community, such as preparing food for temple visitors. The temple was the hub of his life, where the relative said he would “pray and meditate, a lot.”
Of course, a spiritual man knows that is the path to happiness and to rise above one’s circumstances.
I started meditating in earnest a few months ago. And now 18 years later, I see Jaswinder Singh’s name and photo among the list of victims, and I’m wondering why. Was it hate related?
From Singh’s former California home, the Sikh community has grown and thrived in the Central Valley’s primary industries, agriculture and trucking. I actually was surprised to see the harassment then. After all these years, the community has grown to 500,000 Sikhs throughout America. Were they targeted specifically in Indianapolis?
It’s hard to say. The gunman, identified as 19-year-old Brandon Hole, a former FedEx employee, appears to have fired at random before taking his own life.
Does the randomness make it less hateful?
Reports indicate Hole had a history of being mentally unstable and suicidal.
Does that excuse or excise any hate from his actions?
Hate crime enhancements can make penalties more severe and perhaps even act as a deterrent to others. In that sense, they are important. But in the end, hate crime or not, the debate seems moot.
Ultimately, the victims, the dead and the living, don’t care if it’s a hate crime.
Gun violence, whether it results in death or not, does not come out of love.
Which leaves the only question before us: How many more must die before we take the necessary action to protect innocent people from gun violence?
It’s been more than a month since the Atlanta shooting, where six of eight victims were Asian Americans of Korean descent. Now we have four more Asian Americans from the Sikh community.
I appreciate the actions of Rep. Grace Meng and Sen. Mazie Hirono to push for stronger hate crimes legislation in Congress. But here’s the only fact that counts: In just over a month, 10 Asian Americans are dead of mass gun violence in America, and the country is incapable of doing a damn thing about it.
In the meantime, it seems like we have a renewed ignorance of Sikhs in America, so much so that the South Asian Journalists Association and the Asian American Journalists Association (of which I am a member) have issued a joint advisory media advisory that reads, “There is a history of violence against the Sikh community in the United States that stems in part from a lack of education and cultural awareness.”
That lack of education and awareness that exists leaves a number of Sikhs all over the country fearful of what could happen next.
GUN VIOLENCE FROM AN ASIAN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVE**
In 2012, six Sikhs were killed by a white supremacist at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. There was no question about hate then. The shooting rampage was declared an act of domestic terrorism. As I went back over my columns, I was astonished to see the number of times gun violence has impacted our community to this day.
Here’s an incomplete list from the archive:
Aurora, Sikh temple, Oikos - how it plays out when victims are people of color
The Alienation of Oakland’s One L. Goh
Newtown: A marker for how far we haven’t come in the gun control debate
Elliot Rodger’s manifesto shows self-hate fueled anti-Asian violence that kicked off Isla Vista rampage
Jon Meis: The Asian American with pepper spray is the hero in the Seattle Pacific University shooting
New Year thoughts for NYPD’s Peter Liang, Montana’s Markus Kaarma, San Francisco’s Stephen Guillermo
The FBI finally used the “T” word in San Bernardinio, but will it fan “Islamophobia”?
Orlando massacre another wakeup call for all Americans to unite against homophobia, Islamophobia, and gun violence
On John Leguizamo, colonial mentality and Dallas
Asian Americans not immune from gun violence, so why no mention in Obama’s CNN gun show?
Is Srinivas Kuchibhotla the Vincent Chin for South Asians?
Marilou Danley, Stephen Paddock, and gun control
At #MarchForOurLives, kids will lead the fight against gun violence
This Memorial Day, remember the gun industry’s war on America
Dayton’s message to the president, and still feeling “othered” in America
My Muslim family, the New Zealand video, and the Great Replacement
Atlanta, an Asian American awakening–not just for us, but for the rest of America too.