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Support Sikh American Shooting Victims This Sunday & Beyond

As quickly as the news came out that 6 people were murdered during services at a Sikh temple last Sunday, speculation began about the shooter’s motives. Was it racially motivated? Did the gunman mistake “peaceful” Sikhs for supposedly not-so-peaceful Muslims, as this history of violence against Sikhs since 9/11 implies?

Amardeep Singh breaks down why a focus on “mistaken identity” misses the point – mass violence against any group because of their religious beliefs is not okay. Had Wade Michael Page opened fire at a Muslim service, would they have “deserved” it?

Rather than being “senseless” killings, Harsha Walia walks us through how hate crimes have a logic to them, as they are embedded in larger systems of domination and hierarchy. As additional news comes out about Page’s connections to the white power movement, we might be tempted to relegate his actions as coming out of a “fringe” movement of white supremacy. Yet treating this as random or fringe lets us sidestep much harder questions – how might Page’s work for the Army have contributed to his beliefs? What was he taught about whiteness and entitlement growing up in the US? Would he ever have been profiled as a “domestic terrorist” … or do we save that kind surveillance for Brown and Black men?

Mourning the dead. / Reuters via The Atlantic

In The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf notices how even our reaction to this violence changes because the shooter is white. If we start looking at ways to prevent this kind of shooting from happening in the future, we face tough questions about profiling potential terrorists. Who gets placed on no fly lists? Whose cell phones get tapped? He asks, “What if white Americans were as likely as Muslims to be victimized by [anti-terrorism] policies?”

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Our response to these kinds of attacks can come on many levels – some directly related to these killings and some that address the systemic causes and conditions that made it possible.

We can financially support the victims and their families of the Oak Creek Shooting. This Sunday, we can take a moment with others across the nation to reflect on and honor the memory of the victims.

On more systemic levels, we can join and support organizations like the Arab Resource and Organizing Center that work daily against Islamaphobia and anti-Arab sentiment. We can challenge white supremacy every time we see it operating, in this particular story and in our larger lives.

I see these levels of response combining our Buddhist tools of compassion and wisdom. Compassion calls me to honor the 6 who died, and the countless others whose lives were affected in this tragedy. Wisdom calls me to look at the roots of how this happened, and do the work to yank out the roots of hatred and delusion wherever they are growing. Both responses are required for peace to flourish.

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Candles at Vigil. Photo: Overpass Light Brigade via Racialicious / DailyKos.

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