September 15, 2017 marked the anniversary of the death of Balbir Singh Sodhi in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. SALDEF joined the rest of the nation in remembering and mourning the loss of Sodhi and the victims of the tragic attacks of Sept. 11th, when close to 3,000 lives were lost. On Sept. 15, 2001, a shooter killed Balbir Singh Sodhi, a gas station owner, in Mesa, Arizona. The perpetrator was said to have been seeking revenge for 9/11 and attacked four people after he shot and killed Sodhi. Regrettably, we continue to experience these attacks on our soil post 9/11, with many thousands of hate crimes and bias incidents stemming from this misguided ‘backlash’ targeting minorities and faith-based communities.
The attacks of 9/11 were a great tragedy that shook our country’s core, and we join our fellow Americans in mourning the loss of those innocent citizens and celebrating the first responders who saved countless others, at great loss to their ranks. We must also remember those innocent souls who were attacked twice; not just by the 9/11 hijackers, but also by their misguided fellow Americans, who perpetrated thousands of hate crimes across the country.
During the past year, we have seen a sharp rise in the divisive political rhetoric present in our political discourse. Consequently, now more than ever, it is important that we stand strong in our shared American values of inclusivity and unity.
In the past few months alone we have seen a Sikh college student stabbed in Idaho, two Sikh men murdered in California, a Sikh American woman was assaulted and told to go back to her country, and a Sikh American convenience store worked was murdered in Modesto, Calif.
At SALDEF, we continue to dedicate efforts towards educating local and federal law enforcement agencies on how to appropriately engage with the Sikh American community. In doing so, we have trained over 100,000 law enforcement employees over the past decade. We have also held 12 Know Your Rights eventsthis year to inform community members about their rights related to bias or harassment and to introduce community members to agencies and groups that can address complaints, incidents, or issues.
At this time, we must strengthen our resolve and affirm our commitment towards ensuring our communities are safe and free from harm’s way. We must also stand together with other minority communities which have been affected by this unacceptable violence to ensure we can live in a society free from hatred and violence.
Executive director, SALDEF