Since the massacre of Sikhs in Wisconsin Sunday, we have been moved by the outpouring of support from our fellow New Yorkers. Even strangers have come up to us on the streets of Manhattan to offer flowers, hugs and encouragement. We are incredibly thankful to everyone for reaching out to us.
At the same time, we are deeply disturbed that this violence fits into a pattern of hate crimes against Sikhs and Muslims in America. And although we like to think of ourselves as being the most diverse, cosmopolitan and tolerant place on Earth, hate crimes have been rampant here in New York City, too.
Sikhs have been verbally harassed and physically assaulted during the past decade. Last year, an MTA worker was attacked on a subway, accused of being related to Osama bin Laden, and punched so violently that he had three teeth knocked out.
A group of kids chased after turbaned Americans in the New York City Marathon, throwing stones and screaming “Let’s get bin Laden!” And, heartbreakingly, even young children, who should be protected from such hate, have been bullied, victimized and even hospitalized. A recent study by the Sikh Coalition revealed three out of four Sikh kids are bullied in city schools.
These acts of violence do not represent the New York City we know and love. They do not represent the acceptance and open-mindedness palpable in our lives here.
Yet in commemorating the lives of those who were lost in Wisconsin and recognizing that we are not immune to the discrimination against minorities, we can hope to go beyond violence and hate and move toward compassion, understanding and love.
— Gunisha Kaur, M.D., is a physician at New York Presbyterian Hospital of Cornell and Columbia Universities. Simran Jeet Singh, Ph.D., is a student in Columbia University’s Department of Religion and on the Sikh Coalition’s national advisory board.
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