This month, America celebrates Juneteenth, a commemoration of the moment the last enslaved black people in the United States learned of their freedom on June 19, 1865.
It is on this day that the Sikh Foundation International wants to express its outrage and sadness for those who have been hurt by the legacy of police brutality and systemic racism which exists in our country. We are mortified by the brutal killing of Mr. George Floyd by the Minneapolis Police officers. His tragic death, and other recent inexcusable killings of other innocent African Americans like Rayshard Brooks, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Sean Reed, and Yassin Mohamed highlight the extensive racial profiling by law enforcement and the criminal justice system resulting from decades of brutality against African Americans rampant in our country, our communities, and even within ourselves.
Martin Luther King explained that blacks are unique as they were the only ethnic group that was brought to America involuntarily in chains. Though 250 years of slavery was abolished in the United States upon the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment in December 1865, black people were left landless and disenfranchised. They were treated like property; their marriages were not recognized nor did they have any rights over their children. African-American slaves, despite having worked for 250 years in America, without ever being paid, received little to help them get on their feet. What followed was 100 years of state sponsored discrimination. Though the Civil Rights Act was enacted in 1964 and 1968, a system of egregious housing discrimination, policing and mass incarceration of African American people in this country has been continuous throughout history. If current trends continue, 1 of every 3 African American males born today can expect to go to prison in his lifetime (See https://www.sentencingproject.org).
Martin Luther King was also an advocate of psychological science; he saw that slavery and segregation could only be perpetuated by the ideology of white supremacy, leaving lasting psychological damage on both blacks and whites.
American racism carries its own special brand, initiated by categorization , supported by factions (breeding ingroup loyalty and outgroup suspicion and threat), strengthened by segregation (driving racial perceptions, preferences, beliefs, and inhibiting intergroup contact), emboldened by hierarchy (white supremacy), legislated by power (at all levels of government from Federal to Local), legitimized by the media (over-representing and idealizing white people, while marginalizing or minimizing people of color), and overlooked by passive acceptance (due to ignorance, denial, or inaction emanating from fear or diffusion of responsibility). Unfortunately, these incidents of racial injustice, named above, are an infinitesimal fraction of those occurring routinely; we must acknowledge that there are many more incidents of hate experienced by people of color that remain unreported everyday.
Guru Nanak Dev Ji taught us to speak out and stand up for the rights of ALL to be respected. Guru Nanak denounced the caste system and preached against discrimination and prejudices due to race, caste, status, and on and on. He taught us that the presence of the divine is within each human being. Therefore, we, The Sikh Foundation International, ask you to join us in the fight against systemic racism.
How do we break this cycle of injustice? By being antiracist, by opening our minds and our hearts, as many are doing, and creating dialogues with people you may not have otherwise known. These conversations can spark understanding, drive change and thus make history. All of us must examine our own prejudices towards race. Unless we oppose racism, we are passively aiding and abetting it, allowing it to persist and fester. Let us reach out to all African Americans in our communities and to hear their perspectives, share their sorrow, absorb their frustration, and accept their testimony. We are the beneficiaries of the civil rights activism led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and many others who sacrificed their lives to pave the way for the Civil Rights Movement which brought attention to what was happening to immigrants in the US.
We as Sikhs must ask ourselves how we can help. Peaceful protests are happening all over the country. Let’s take the time to attend and support these gatherings. Sikhs representing the local gurdwaras are already participating in the Black Lives Matter rallies in our communities – let us join them. Many Sikhs are in the forefront doing seva, distributing refreshments, and demonstrating their deep empathy towards victims of racial injustice. Sikhs have faced persecution for many centuries, yet they have held onto their strong belief in ‘Sarbat da Bhala’, the wellbeing of ALL.
We pledge our continued commitment to fight for social justice for all, irrespective of color, race, gender, national origin, or sexual identity. The Sikh Foundation International will explore meaningful ways to work with African American artists, authors, museums, & students. We stand true to the egalitarian ideals established by our Gurus, in solidarity with people of all color, and hope to inspire others by growing stronger in Chardi Kala.
To gain more insight about the issues facing African Americans, please see below:
TEMPLATES FOR EXPLAINING #BLACKLIVESMATTER TO OTHERS
- We know that it can be challenging to explain what’s going on to parents and other loved ones who lack the context. Letters for Black Lives provides a great starting point. See here for the South Asian American version, also available in other languages
- Overall framework from EverydayFeminism is another strong resource
ALLYSHIP IDEAS FOR THE ASIAN COMMUNITY (shared by Black Lives Matter)
This Medium post has been making the rounds, and was shared by Black Lives Matter as examples of what Asians can do to help.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Washington Post: The real reasons the U.S. became less racist towards Asian Americans
“The work of the African American freedom movements had made white liberals and white conservatives very uncomfortable… Across the political spectrum, people looked to Asian Americans…as an example of a solution, as a template for other minority groups to follow: “Look how they ended up! They’re doing just fine. And they did it all without political protests.” That isn’t really true, by the way. Asian Americans did get political, but sometimes their efforts didn’t get seen or recognized. These stereotypes about Asian Americans being patriotic, having an orderly family, not having delinquency or crime — they became seen as the opposite of what “blackness” represented to many Americans at the time.”
NPR: ‘Model Minority’ Myth Again Used As A Racial Wedge Between Asians And Blacks
“Since the end of World War II, many white people have used Asian-Americans and their perceived collective success as a racial wedge. The effect? Minimizing the role racism plays in the persistent struggles of other racial/ethnic minority groups — especially black Americans…[this is] 1) ignoring the role that selective recruitment of highly educated Asian immigrants has played in Asian American success followed by 2) making a flawed comparison between Asian Americans and other groups, particularly Black Americans, to argue that racism, including more than two centuries of black enslavement, can be overcome by hard work and strong family values.”
RECOMMENDED MEDIA (suggested by @southasians4blacklives)
Films to watch
13th – Netflix, American Son – Netflix, See You Yesterday – Netflix, When They See Us – Netflix, If Beale Street Could Talk – Hulu, The Hate U Give – Hulu with Cinemax, King in the Wilderness – HBO, Just Mercy – currently FREE, Black Power Mixtape: 1967-1975 – available to rent, Clemency – available to rent, Fruitvale Station – available to rent, I Am Not Your Negro – available to rent, also on Kanopy, Selma – available to rent
Books to read
Black Feminist Thought by Patricia Hill Collins, Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by Dr. Brittney Cooper, Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, Redefining Realness By Janet Mock, Sister Outsider By Audre Lorde, So You Want To Talk About Race By Ijeoma Oluo, The Bluest Eye By Toni Morrison, The Fire Next Time By James Baldwin, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration In The Age Of Colorblindness By Michelle Alexander, The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism For The 21st Century By Grace Lee Boggs, The Warm of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Racial Women of Color by Cherrie Moraga
My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies, by Resmaa Menakem. Highly recommend his book, which offers somatic exercises and practices, because racial injustice is in our bodies, not just in our thinking and feeling. To experience it in our bodies brings deeper levels of understanding.
Please donate to Black Lives Matter here.
TAKE THE HARVARD UNIVERSITY’S IMPLICIT BIAS TEST
To see if you have any unconscious biases on a variety of factors. They have 15 different tests.
You can skip the initial survey questions which are unrelated to the main tests.