The Indian American son of a murdered Sikh worshipper and a former skinhead both spoke out against hate at a congressional briefing on hate crime violence.
Pardeep Singh Kaleka and Arno Michaelis, two individuals impacted by hate violence that has been spreading throughout the country of late, both spoke out at the briefing in Washington, D.C., Dec. 13, urging lawmakers to do more to combat and prevent hate in America, according to a Sikh Coalition news release.
The two illuminated the threats posed by white nationalist groups and proposed concrete strategies that can be employed to prevent future hate crime, the coalition added.
Kaleka is the son of Satwant Singh Kaleka, one of the six Sikh worshippers killed in the 2012 shooting at the Oak Creek, Wis., gurdwara. Michaelis is a self-described reformed racist skinhead who was deeply involved in the white power movement.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, Kaleka and Michaelis became close friends and co-founded Serve2Unite, a youth empowerment organization aimed at combating hate and creating a more compassionate climate, the coalition said.
At the congressional briefing, they detailed how their unlikely friendship was built and addressed the current state of racism and xenophobia, it said.
“Given the increase in hate crimes and hate crime threat against various communities in America, the time for urgent action is now,” said Kaleka and Michaelis at the briefing. “From governments to advocacy groups to individuals, we all have a role to play in creating a more peaceful world.”
Hate violence has been center stage in 2017 with several alleged incidents happening nationwide. Among the incidents included a Sikh man was shot in the arm in his driveway in Kent, Wash., after the gunman allegedly told him to “go back to your own country,” the coalition noted.
In addition, the Sikh Coalition has seen a dramatic spike this year in reports of school bullying. These incidents follow the larger national pattern of hate directed at religious and minority communities across the United States, it said.
“In this current political and social climate, we have seen our leaders espousing divisive rhetoric, which legitimizes bigotry at all levels of society,” said Sikh Coalition national advocacy manager Sim J. Singh. “Our elected officials must use their convening power and their platforms to create unity, celebrate diversity and strongly condemn white supremacy.”
The congressional briefing was held in collaboration with Serve2Unite and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.