Last weekend, Melissa offered a moving response to America’s latest mass shooting, a senseless act of violence interrupting preparations for a birthday lunch at a Sikh temple outside Milwaukee. In her Footnote, Melissa made reference to Sikh documentarian and activist Valarie Kaur (pictured at right), who was on the ground in Oak Creek speaking with and documenting the community’s recovery. Valarie had already written what I considered the most necessary piece in the days immediately following the shooting, writing in the Washington Post that the media shorthand “mistaken identity” – describing how the white-supremacist killer may have thought Sikhs were Muslims, because we can get why they would be targeted – should be forever retired.
As the news coverage of the tragedy quickly faded, Kaur followed that up this week with a different plea for recognition. Though the murder of six people and shooting of many others at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin was labeled by FBI investigators as domestic terrorism, Kaur notes that the government doesn’t even keep stats on hate crimes against Sikhs:
To be sure, the FBI’s grouping different communities under “Muslim and those perceived to be Muslim” signals the emergence of a new racial category in America since 9/11 that can be called the “Muslim-looking other.” Many non-Muslim communities – Sikh Americans, Arab Christians, Latinos, and Native Americans for example – have been swept up into this new racial category. Communities that did not work together in the past banded together in the last decade to fight profiling and hate on all levels. That said, lumping all targeted groups into a “Muslim” catch-all category forecloses our ability to understand the specific needs of each group. Sikhs, in particular, happen to be the most visible targets in post-9/11 hate violence and deserve equal attention.
The federal government should fulfill the modest request of the Sikh Coalition and the greater community and begin tracking hate crimes against Sikhs.
The government can’t bring back the six people murdered in Oak Creek, Wis. But it can at least afford them the dignity of being counted.
Melissa counted herself, and all of us, in her Footnote last week. Watch it below, and be sure to join us at 10am ET on msnbc for today’s show.