Dear South Asian Americans, This Is Our Chance to Fight Bigotry

Noted activist, scholar & educator Dr Simran Jeet Singh stresses upon the need to fight violence as a collective.

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When I watched Donald Trump on national television refuse to denounce racism and white supremacy a couple of weeks ago, I thought about when I ran the New York City Marathon in 2016.

It was two days before President Trump got elected. At multiple points, spectators pointed to my turban and shouted hate speech. A volunteer even refused to serve me water, calling me “a filthy Muslim”.

Although I am Sikh, not Muslim, both groups are vulnerable to bigotry and bile. And when I see officials targeting other groups protesting discrimination, I get a nagging sense that we are moving backwards as a country.

‘Addressing Violence Requires Voices Of All Those Affected By It’

Since Trump’s election, things have indeed gotten worse. Violent hate crimes, especially against Muslims, are at their highest level since the aftermath of 9/11. The 2020 US presidential election is a chance to move in a new direction, away from bigotry and toward dignity.

As you’ll find from a casual glance at your social media feed — or, if you’re Muslim, a stroll down the street — our country is at a dangerously polarised moment. Trump twists the knife in our divisions rather than healing them.

He has encouraged Americans to pull up the gates not only to immigrants but to everyone who doesn’t look, think, or pray like the majority. Yet our country is facing legitimate policy problems. We can’t solve them unless we draw on our diverse strengths.

Take violence, for instance. We have seen mass shootings in homes, workplaces, and schools — often in White areas. There has been a surge in gun violence in American cities during the COVID-19 pandemic — often in Black areas. We’ve had bombings, shootings and other hate crimes in houses of worships, targeting groups including Muslims, African Americans, Jews, and Sikhs.

Addressing violence requires the voices of all who are affected by it. No group has the cultural expertise to do it alone.

A Silver Lining

Despite fears of a Trump 2.0, especially among minorities, there has been a silver lining, with the Squad – comprising Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib being re-elected to the House of Representatives.

Another ray of hope has been in the form of the “Black vote in Detroit” being “the highest it’s ever gone.”

And five Muslim Democratic politicians have become the first Muslim legislators in their states. As per a HuffPost report, “Mauree Turner, who won her race for state House in Oklahoma, will be the first Muslim lawmaker elected to the state’s legislature. In Delaware, Madinah Wilson-Anton became the first Muslim elected to the legislature. Iman Jodeh, who won election to the Colorado House of Representatives, will be the first Muslim lawmaker in the state’s history.”

The report also stated: “In Wisconsin, Samba Baldeh became the first Muslim elected to the Wisconsin State Assembly, as well as the first Black man to represent Dane County in the legislature...in Florida, Christopher Benjamin became the first Muslim American ever elected to any statewide office in the Sunshine State, representing the 107th District in the House of Representatives.”

‘Let’s Seize The Chance To Fight Bigotry’

The presidential candidacy of Joe Biden gives me hope we can move in a more inclusive direction. After all, he picked Kamala Harris to be the first Black and South Asian American woman on a major party ticket. He has planks of his agenda devoted to supporting Muslims and South Asians. Trump cannot say the same.

Biden is showing that his administration will invite Americans of all backgrounds to bring their unique talents and viewpoints to bear on the problems our nation faces.

Some may dismiss the idea of a unifying politician as mere pablum. But hundreds of religious leaders, including me, have endorsed Biden. We believe there’s been enough fear-mongering, scapegoating, and blaming. This November, let’s seize the opportunity to fight bigotry and support our common humanity.

(Dr Simran Jeet Singh is an American educator, writer, and activist, who frequently offers comment and analysis on religion, racism, and justice. He is a visiting professor of religion at Union Theological Seminary. Singh holds an M.A., M.Phil. and Ph.D. from Columbia University, as well as an M.T.S. from Harvard University and a B.A. from Trinity University. He tweets @SikhProf. This is a personal blog, and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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