The nation came together after 9/11. Unfortunately, it came together to discriminate against its perceived enemies.
"I stand for America all the way," shouted 42-year-old Frank Roque as he pulled up in his pickup truck on Sept. 15, 2001 and shot Balbir Singh Sodhi five times at a suburban gas station in Arizona.
What did Sodhi do to deserve such an end?
He wore a turban and sported a beard.
Sodhi wasn't a Muslim. He wasn't Arab. He was a Sikh from the Punjab region in India and as a Sikh he was following religious law by wearing a turban and keeping a beard.
Sept. 11 hurt this nation deeply. It shook the country's foundations to the core and changed the course of American history. Our foreign policy began to take on a different tone and the attack forced Americans to think about their place in the world community.
But 9/11 changed things for Sikhs like me in a different way.
It was as if overnight we became fundamentally different. And we felt it.
Suddenly stares and dirty looks became commonplace. People began to whisper around us when we walked by. Some taunted us with racial slurs. Others thought it would be better to vandalize our temples or honk at us while driving. Some like Roque took to murder.
I was only in sixth grade at the time, but I was starting to feel the changes in my own home as well.
That day itself we were flooded with phone calls by relatives and family friends advising one another to stay at home and not venture out unless absolutely necessary. If there was anything to be done, any place to go, my mom would go and my Dad and I would stay at home. We put baseball caps in our car so just in case "anything goes wrong" my dad and I could take off our turbans and put the caps on.
Sikh community leaders immediately released press statements condemning the brutal attack on their nation. We began to hold inter-faith conferences where we could explain to the public that we were Sikhs and had nothing to do with the terrorists behind 9/11.
We are not Muslim. We are not Arab. We are not from the Middle East. Our religion is different as is our home country and language.
But even if we were Muslim, it shouldn't matter. People of a certain faith or skin color shouldn't be blamed for an attack carried out by a small number of extremists.[Link]
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