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Monday, August 29, 2005

Media Treatment of Asian-Americans

On Saturday, C-SPAN aired a town hall meeting in which the media's treatment of Asian-Americans, particularly during times of war, was discussed. One of the panelists was Jaideep Singh [pictured], co-founder of the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund. As part of his remarks, Singh identified several problems with the media's presentation of Sikhs and Sikh-Americans during the post-9/11 backlash. Singh noted, in part:
  1. The mainstream media failed to present an honest picture of the backlash in the days immediately following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In fact, the media presented opinions, most notably from then-New York major Rudy Guiliani, that the backlash was minimal and being held in check. In other words, the mainstream media offered the public material that differed from what was actually happening to Sikhs.
  2. The mainstream media failed to explain to the public that 99.9% of turbaned individuals are Sikhs, not Muslims. The absence of explanatory information on Sikhs, which could help allay the ignorance fueling the backlash itself, is evidenced by fact that the words "Sikh" and "Sikh-American" remained missing from the headlines of news stories describing the backlash. In other words, the Sikh-American experience after 9/11 was marginalized to an article's fringe, even though they suffered the brunt of the post-9/11 backlash.
  3. Ironically and unfortunately, Sikhs were being targeted because of their disctinctive appearance and dark skin, however in those articles that did discuss instances relating to Sikhs, the maintream media failed to include pictures of the Sikh victims. For example, those stories covering the murder of Balbir Singh Sodhi on September 15, 2001, who was killed because of his long beard, turban, and dark skin, generally failed to include his picture.

A description of the town hall can be found here.

Video of the program can be viewed here.


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