From everyday citizens to community leaders, let’s fight hate together

It is tempting to believe that hatred among people is inevitable, but I believe that progress is possible if schools, elected officials and interfaith groups take small but consistent steps toward combating bias.

AUG. 5, 2012, is a day Sikh Americans will never forget.

On that Sunday morning, a neo-Nazi gunman took the lives of six Americans and permanently injured several more at a gurdwara (Sikh house of worship) in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.

As Sikhs in Greater Seattle pray for those who lost their lives and loved ones five years ago, Americans of all faiths and political persuasions should pledge to make bias prevention a top priority.

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The Sikh religion was founded over five centuries ago by Guru Nanak. His message of universal equality and community service foreshadowed the highest ideals of America. The turban that Sikhs wear to express their faith is a constant reminder to lead an ethical life. Sikhs feel at home practicing their religion in America, but we have not always been welcomed.

More than a century before Oak Creek, a mob of xenophobic bigots assaulted Sikh workers in Bellingham and drove them out of town. In the post-9/11 environment, Sikhs have endured violence that is often rooted in confusion about what the turban represents.

In 2007, a Sikh taxi driver in King County was hospitalized after being attacked by a passenger who called him an “Iraqi terrorist.” Just weeks after the Oak Creek shooting, another Sikh taxi driver in Federal Way was assaulted by a passenger who called him a “raghead” and “towelhead.” This past March, a Sikh was shot and injured in Kent by a man who told him to “go back to your own country.” Ominously, the gunman is still at large.

Sikhs are not the only Americans who experience hate crimes. The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that there were 250,000 hate crime victimizations in our nation every year between 2004 and 2015. An attack on any person, for any reason, is a threat to…

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