Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Crime of Hate

a file piled upon a wooden desk
attached to a barely pronounceable
ethnic name
soon to be forgotten,
faded away,
worn out,
immortalized as a plus one,
nothing left but a mere statistic.

neglected was the
warm honey skin
that stretched across her beautiful curves
with a hint of incense,
the touch of orange henna
when the light would hit her hair,
tied neatly into a long winding braid
travelling to her knees.
she’d drink her morning chai with cardamom,
no sugar due to doctor’s orders.
her eyes were dark chocolate brown
outlined with black kohl smudged from overexertion,
superwoman to her two children,
fingernails often stained yellow from the turmeric
she’d use to fill okra, her husband’s favorite.

disregarded was the
smile that revealed cavities,
an unfortunate consequence
of her sweet tooth;
her laugh was melodic,
creating deep lines around her eyes.
she believed in God,
and would spend many hours
singing along with hymns on old cassette tapes
that she brought with her from India,
where she left her job as a history teacher
to fly to a land of opportunity, of hope,
to dream of a better life for her children.
she spent her days scrubbing the expensive granite floors
of old white women
who praised her for her good work ethic,
and she was happy.

they replaced her when she was gone,
no questions asked.

she will only be remembered by her family
and the man who shot her.

her death was not important enough to make the news;
what would they say anyway?
hate crimes don’t happen to people who look suspicious.

she will forever remain a barely pronounceable
ethnic name
on a file,
the contents of which will be faded and battered
by the tarnishes of time,
as she goes down in history,
immortalized as a plus one,
nothing left but a mere statistic,
a crime
of hate.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Tolerating Ignorance

I am almost always selected to be "randomly searched" at security checkpoints when I'm in a U.S. airport. 
It's not because I look threatening. 
It may be because of the color of my skin. 
But it is most probably because I am traveling with my father, and he wears a turban. 

It's not a coincidence that out of a whole line of people, the TSA officers always decide to make "friendly conversation" with me, inquiring about the nature of my trip, how long I'll be traveling for, and where I'll be staying. If they asked my father, it would obviously be racial profiling. So they ask me, the brown-skinned girl traveling with the "suspicious" man in the turban. I find it incredibly sad that here in the 21st century, in one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world, the mere presence of an article of faith will immediately arouse suspicion. 

The suspicion is not derived from hatred. It stems from simply not knowing. 

It is often argued that ignorance is a byproduct of a lack of education. I could not agree more. But when I refer to ignorance, I do not mean the blatant disregard for learning or lack of desire to be educated. I mean the absence of an opportunity to learn

People like to point fingers when it comes to ignorance. I hear it time and again – "Sikhism is the 5th largest religion in the world. If people don't know about it, it's because they are ignorant." But let's get one thing straight - you can't expect someone to understand your beliefs if you don't give them the opportunity to learn. Did you do your part in educating them? If we all sit here silent, expecting other people to figure it out for themselves, we're going to be stuck here for a very, very long time

Fortunately, most people in America do practice tolerance when it comes to religious beliefs. They don’t go around protesting or persecuting people who follow a different religion. But tolerating and understanding are two different things. Tolerance and ignorance can coexist. Understanding and ignorance cannot. So the only way to really eradicate ignorance is through education. 

Yes, ignorance is a problem. But it’s not just their problem. It’s your problem too

Let’s do our part in educating the public before we play the blame game. 

Here’s to a better tomorrow, unclouded by suspicion.