Shortly after a shooting in an Indianapolis FedEx building left eight dead, four of whom were Sikh, Jagpreet Sodhi, a sophomore at the University of Georgia and treasurer of the Sikh Student Association, received a concerned phone call from his parents.
They told him it would be better if he stayed home for a few days, and Sodhi agreed.
The shooting was the latest in a series of violent crimes resulting in BIPOC casualties. Less than one month earlier, eight were killed in three metro Atlanta massage parlors, six of whom were of Asian descent.
Following the shootings in Atlanta, Harshpreet Kaur, a freshman at UGA and secretary of the Sikh Student Association, said her parents cautioned her against drawing attention to herself. They feared if she made her opinions pronounced, she could be a target for a hate crime.
“Don’t try to pick a fight with anybody. We don't know if something could happen to you. Just stay calm in all the situations so there's no backlash,” Kaur said her parents advised her.
Still, Kaur and Sodhi remain unwavering advocates of social justice and equality, which they said is a central belief to the Sikh faith.
“When all of these [anti] hate movements started, even if it wasn't related to us, necessarily, we [Sikhs] made sure that our voices were heard and that we showed our support,” Sodhi said.
According to the Sikh Coalition’s website, all Sikhs are expected to serve humanity while also cultivating their own spirituality. The idea is that every Sikh should aspire to be “both internally focused while also contributing to the world around them.”
“We’re just like everyone else. We're just here to help people and live a good life,” Sodhi said.
Simrit Kaur Pandher, a freshman at UGA and member of the Sikh Student Association, said a step towards ending xenophobia toward Sikhs and other forms of racism in America is education. This education, she said, begins at home with parents who can teach their children anti-racist values.
Pandher said the burden of promoting anti-racist values also falls on institutions like UGA, which she said have a responsibility to denounce racism on campus.
“They need to make sure that the presence of racism is no longer here on campus because some of the buildings are still named after racist people,” Pandher said.
Sikh students at UGA reflected on hateful acts in America as a call for people to step outside of their experiences and follow the golden rule: Treat others as you would yourself.