The time has finally come for a national campaign for Sikhs! This has been a long time coming. 13 years post-9/11, bullying and discrimination still disproportionately affect the Sikh community all around the world.
Although, Sikhism is the fifth largest religion in the world and Sikhs have been in the United States since the 19th century, a study conducted by the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) and Stanford revealed that roughly 70% of the American public cannot correctly identify a Sikh.
Further, another study conducted by Sikh Coalition about school bullying reveals that turbaned Sikh children experience bullying at more than double the national rate.
This research clearly demonstrates, what we already know, and that is we not only need to increase awareness amongst the American public but also have leadership roles in schools, media, and government to create a long-lasting reform.
The only way we can get to this point is if we accomplish two goals:
1. Organize the community
2. Change perceptions
The National Sikh Campaign is a grassroots organization that can help our community accomplish both goals.
The National Sikh campaign will change perceptions of Sikhs in America by presenting our community in a positive light and highlighting our contributions to America. This will ultimately, prevent bullying, discrimination, and hate crimes. Perhaps more importantly, Sikh youth across the country can feel that they can become leaders in America without discrimination and hate holding them back.
This campaign can allow Sikh youth to organize collectively for a common purpose and feel empowered to create long-lasting projects that they can take to their local communities. It can also allow every Sikh in every community in the United States to have the proper tools necessary to reach out to as many people as possible to promote awareness about Sikhs.
Additionally, the National Sikh Campaign will lay the groundwork to allow Sikhs to tap into other arenas of American society and take on leadership roles, which, in turn, can allow the American public to become more comfortable with the image of a Sikh.
This will also allow Sikhs who may feel alienated to be a part of the larger American community.
I’ve been told by skeptics that this campaign is a big undertaking and I am asked by them, “Do you think our community is ready for this?” And I am reminded of the stories I’ve been told about the old tales about Sikhs in the past.
I was told stories by my elders, since I was a child, about the great things Sikhs accomplished hundreds of years ago: they fought valiantly in battles, promoted public service, and were cornerstones of their communities.
I firmly believe those stories don’t have to be in the past. We are capable of accomplishing great things today.
Our community has never been more educated, wealthier, and larger than it is now. There is nothing stopping us from doing great things than our own self-doubt.
So, when I am confronted by these skeptics, I tell them resoundingly, our community is ready!
In fact, we have never been more than ready to build something great!
Youth Coordinator, National Sikh Campaign
*Photo Credit: SALDEF