After the shooting in Indianapolis, a Sikh activist explains why we have to accept the realities of racism in America


On April 15, a 19-year-old opened fire at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis, killing eight people. The shooting ended when the man killed himself.

Authorities have not identified a motive for the shooting, but when they released the names of the victims, four were recognized as part of the city’s Sikh community. Police also said that about 90 percent of the staff who worked at the FedEx warehouse are also part of the local Sikh community.

The shooting reflected the well-known tragedies Sikhs experienced in the United States, including a shootout in 2012 when a gunman opened fire at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, killing six people.

The string of attacks against the Sikh community is “fueled by some kind of racial bias, the idea that these people don’t belong here, and [that] They are inferior to us, ”Simran Jeet Singh, a senior Sikh coalition official, told Amna Nawaz of PBS NewsHour.

Check out the discussion in the player above.

Family, friends and community members lay flowers and candles during a vigil in Indianapolis, Indiana on April 18, 2021 to remember the victims of a mass shooting at a local FedEx facility that killed eight. Photo by Jeff Dean / AFP via Getty Images

In the weeks since the April 15 shooting, the Sikh coalition, along with other Sikh groups, has called for greater transparency from the police and FedEx during the shooting investigation and calls for weapons reform. The local Sikh community remembered all eight people who were killed in the mass shootings on Saturday May 1st.

Jeet Singh, who had been in contact with the families of the victims in Indianapolis, spoke about how the community has dealt with their grief and why racism is not just banned to one area of ​​the country.

How are you all? How is the feeling there on the ground?

“These things are always there and always change,” said Jeet Singh, adding, “one thing that does not change is pain.”

Talks with the families of those killed at the FedEx facility were difficult because it was not only the Sikh families who mourn, he said. Those who do not identify as Sikh have also lost loved ones.

We’ll take a moment to remember the lives lost in the recent FedEx shoot. Although we still don’t know anything about the suspect’s motive, half of those killed were Sikhs. Simran Jeet Singh, a senior Sikh coalition official associated with the Indianapolis community, discussed with Amna Nawaz.

“I’ve thought a lot about it over the past week – just the reality that hatred and violence in this country – it doesn’t just affect those who look different and those who are typical targets. You can get any of us anytime, and we’ve seen that over and over again, ”said Jeet Singh. “I think just a week later, struggling with loss and grief, there is some progress in these communities, but there are still many questions about what led this person to massacre innocent people, many of whom were his former co-workers . “

Investigators try to determine whether there is a single motivation or a confluence of motivations. Authorities have yet to say definitively if this was an attack on this community, but the impact on the community is the same, right?

Jeet Singh said he could use this to speak not only as a Sikh American who was born and raised in the United States, but also as a colored person who comes from a marginalized community.

“In this country, it is difficult not to feel targeted when it comes to attacks like this, and at least not to ask whether it is a question of bias. And it’s such a sad state of affairs, ”he said. “It immediately speaks for where we are as a country [when] I received news of this attack and so many others around the country that we wondered what caused this person to kill us. “

Since the shooting, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department has announced that authorities had carried out a mental health check for thoughts of suicide on the suspect identified as Brandon Scott Hole in March 2020. His mother had told the police that she was concerned that her son would want “police suicide”. At the time, authorities said the hole was viewing white supremacist websites on his computer, IndyStar reported. Police also confiscated a firearm while he was in detention.

“We as a society do not act in a way that we make each other safer.”

Jeet Singh said it was his business to believe that racial prejudice could have played into the attack. He described his experiences growing up in Texas and living in New York and “knowing when people see me walking down the street that they have certain assumptions about who I am and what I’m about – and often these are Assumptions are negative and often these assumptions are wrong. “

“Just to live like that, every day, in the skin, in my turban and the context, the lived experience, knowing the story – all these things together really make us ask what was in this person’s heart, what did they have driven to it, and when will we be safe? I think that’s the really animating question for me, ”he added.

You have traveled a lot. They know what it’s like to be in different rooms. You personally have experienced the same racism in a place as diverse and cosmopolitan or sophisticated as New York as in other parts of the country.

Jeet Singh said when he moved to New York from Texas he hoped he would leave racism behind.

“I knew it was a diverse city. I knew it was open to the world. I thought that maybe racism was limited to those who just had no exposure or had no knowledge of people who were different, ”he said.

But he said he was in shock when he arrived in New York. “Looking back, I shouldn’t have been surprised. But I was really excited about the things people would say to me on the street. “

Jeet Singh described one of his earliest memories: Shortly after moving in, an elderly woman fell in front of his apartment. He went over to help her and held out his arm. She reached out to grab it, but when she looked up and saw him, she pulled her arm back and said, “Go back where you are from.”

“I was stunned for a second because she was here – she was in danger, she was in the middle of the street in New York City – but she would have preferred to be hurt [by oncoming cars] than to be helped by someone who looked like me, ”said Jeet Singh.

A vigil was held in Indianapolis on April 18 to commemorate the victims of a mass shooting at the FedEx facility. Photo by Jeff Dean / AFP via Getty Images

The moment stayed with him, because “that is the problem of racism in our country today: We would rather hurt ourselves further and be worse off together and individually than to allow other people into our lives and to humanize them. ”

“As much as we want to tell ourselves that racism isn’t true, it doesn’t live in our local communities – and I don’t want to admit that, I wish it wasn’t – but I think we’re all better when we acknowledge and accept our reality, for this is the only way we can ever move forward. “

How is the Indianapolis community dealing with such a tragedy? How are you progressing as a community?

“Unfortunately this is the pain of what it means to be human,” said Jeet Singh. “We all encounter pain and suffering in our lives and we all do what we can at such moments.”

This shootout was a particularly painful tragedy, he said, because the Sikh community felt targeted.

“We as a society do not act in a way that we make each other safer,” he added. “That’s part of it for me: you accept the reality of our own lives and the inevitability of pain.”

But he also said that he inspires the way the community comes together in times of need. Especially for the Sikh community: “This is part of our tradition that we come together in times of need. We don’t do this alone, ”he said.

Jeet Singh said he spoke to a woman who lost her grandmother in the shooting and noticed that it was noisy in the background. The woman told him that the relatives had passed since filming and that they just wanted to be together.

“When we sit in this pandemic moment and we are all separated from our loved ones, we can all relate to this re-prioritization,” he said. “You feel so much more visceral when you realize that you are feeling disconnected, or at least that life is fleeting.”

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