Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I recall one year when I was close to Yuba City, California, I journeyed to an event called, Nagar Kirtan. Imagine the most colorful carnival-like event in your life with the most delicious home-cooked Indian delicacies. Yes, free food!
I kept waiting for a cashier to pop up from nowhere with the lunch tab or security to hall me away to wash dishes for the next 12 years of my life.
Instead, I received hot chapathis, paneer, dahl, and other mouth-watering Indian sweets and delicacies. There were dozens of booths set up and each and every one of them were filled with joyous Sikhs distributing better food than most Indian restaurants I’ve eaten at.
“Am I still alive?” I asked myself. “Is this heaven?”
The fact the Sikhs have mastered the art of Bhangra dancing and the free food at their holy events made me want to convert to this religion on the spot.
Are you suggesting I’m a counterfeit for wanting to jump religions for music and food? How dare you!
Now, what the hell does this have to do with hate?
It’s one reason that I LOVE this religion, its people and everything Sikh. Scrumptious food and dancing aside, Sikhs live their faith everyday of their lives, serve generously in every community they live in and are committed to the equality of all people.
Imagine now, being a Sikh man taking a leisurely walk in your Harlem neighborhood after dropping off your wife and 1 year old son at home. Imagine being surrounded by a group of rowdy and misguided youth attacking you for believing you were Muslim, Osama bin Ladin, or a terrorist, simply because you were wearing a turban and had a beard.
This is the violence that was perpetrated upon Columbia professor and physician, Prabhjot Singh, last week.
This case isn’t far from the norm. Sikhs in the United States continue to suffer the misplaced hatred aimed at Osama bin Laden. Incidences like the one which impacted Dr. Prabhjot Singh are much too common all over the United States. Sikhs continue to be harassed, racially profiled, bullied and physically attacked all over the country.
For simply practicing their faith; not cutting their hair, wearing a turban, carrying the kirpan (a small ceremonial sword).
Each one of these incidents towards people practicing their faith disturbs me to the very core. While those who devoutly follow their path seek the highest ideals of their faith, worship God and embrace love, they are bullied and harmed for no reason other than ignorance.
How do we stop the violence and hate against people practicing their faith?
Here are 10 ways to reduce hate in the world.
1) We can continue to educate ourselves and the general public more about the principles of faith of other religions, including religious diversity training when talking about bullying in schools. Please take a few minutes to learn more about the Sikh faith in the video I share above. (A follow up video is here)
2) Continue to monitor, track and compile statistics of hate crimes so policy makers can make informed decisions about the allocation of resources and priorities.
3) Love more. Much of the threats posed by racism stem from hatred and fear. We can each individually continue to live our own lives from a place of love, than fear. You can give more of yourself to others in service. When you radiate love in the world, it is harder for hate to thrive.
4) Practice your own religious traditions more faithfully. It doesn’t matter what faith you are but practicing your faith more will help you practice more kindness, compassion and generosity towards all. You can be the light that radiates acceptance and peace.
5) Gratitude. Dr. Prabhjot Singh, now a victim of a hate-crime, finds reasons to be thankful even under the horrific attack – thankful to bystanders who helped, thankful the injuries weren’t more severe and to his supportive Harlem community.
6) Confront and acknowledge your personal biases and prejudices towards other races, religions and faiths. Once you become more conscious of our hidden fears and prejudice, you’re better able to transform your thoughts of judgment to compassion.
7) Stand together with others when confronting hate. One way you can stand with Dr. Prabhjot Singh is to send a note of support or prayer to him and his family. Many supporters of Dr. Singh have rallied around him during this challenging time and have called for more tolerance and education so events like this don’t happen again.
8) Organize your community to stand up to injustices and hate. The best kind of education starts with you engaging your family, friends and neighbors about issues of racism, stereotypes and hate. What collective action are you willing to take to promote peace?
9) Chardhi Kala – The Sikh concept of staying positive, optimistic and joyful. Even when facing racism and hate crimes, the Sikh community inspires all of us to stay positive and constructive. How can you use tragedy and acts of hate and transform it into good?
10) Forgiveness. The Sikh faith promotes forgiveness. “Where there is Forgiveness, God Himself is there,” states the Sikh Holy Scripture, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Slok 155, p. 1372 Can forgiving hate-mongers sow the seeds of love in you and in them? Are you able to forgive those who commit acts of hate against others?
When confronted by hate, it’s easy to feel like fighting back with equal and greater hate. Our own anger can propel militancy and violence, or simply judgment and bitterness.
Have you confronted hate in your own life because of your race, gender, religion or your beliefs? How did you handle it? How can others? I look forward to seeing your comments below.