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United Sikhs Sikhs Advocate to be Counted Separately by the US Census Bureau

Discussion in 'Sikh Organisations' started by Admin Singh, Aug 24, 2009.

  1. Admin Singh

    Admin Singh
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    San Diego, CA, USA: The Sikh community of San Diego and Imperial Counties joined hands with UNITED SIKHS to launch an effort to count Sikhs separately in the US Census on August 19th. Speaking at a Regional State Convening Event in San Diego that was organized by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's Office and co-sponsored by the Sikh Complete Count Committee of Southern California, Sikh community representatives expressed their concerns about how Sikhs have not been counted by the Census to date, and how Sikhs should be enumerated. UNITED SIKHS is filing a petition with the national US Census Bureau requesting proper tabulation of Sikhs when they mark "Other" and write in "Sikh," and is organizing Sikh Complete Count Committees in states with major Sikh populations around the country to ensure maximum write-ins to support the need to be counted.

    The Census, Constitutionally mandated to be taken every ten years, is used by government for a variety of reasons, including how congressional seats are reapportioned, legislative districts are drawn, and how a large portion of federal funds are spent. It also is used, as most of the general public is not aware, by the federal government to monitor and enforce compliance with civil rights statutes, including voting, employment, housing, lending, education and anti-discrimination laws. The accuracy of the census directly affects the nation's ability to ensure equal representation and equal access to important governmental resources for all Americans. The request by the Sikh community to be counted correctly is based on similar public opinion expressed in public hearings on the Census to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) at the White House, where public opinion emphasized the importance of self identification along with the need for correct tabulation to monitor and prove discrimination in political or social access. Jaspreet Singh, Staff Attorney, UNITED SIKHS, commented, "It is in the interest of the Government and the American people to correctly count all people that make up the diverse fabric of America. Public hearings on the Census previously showed that the public wants their specific communities to be counted, and the Sikh community is no different."

    [​IMG]
    Representatives of the Sikh Community of San Diego and Imperial Counties (from left to right) Rosey Kaur, Jaspreet Singh, Niranjan Singh, Jesse Singh, Harminder Singh, Arvinder Singh, Amritpal Singh, Nirmal Singh, Ranbir Singh, Paul Singh, and Baljit Singh

    UNITED SIKHS has been in detailed discussions with the U.S. Census Bureau and has been informed that, even if a Sikh marks "other" and writes in "Sikh," the write in is automatically tabulated and coded as "Asian Indian." While many other communities are able to ask for special disaggregation and receive data specific to their community after the Census is completed, data about Sikhs is not disaggregated separately. Sikhs have been in America for over 130 years, and have a rich history spanning the nation. Rough estimates place the Sikh population of California at 200,000, and the entire population of Sikhs in America between 400,000-1,000,000. While speaking about the effort, Niranjan Singh Khalsa, representing the California Sikh Council commented, "For the first time in America, the entire Sikh community is going to make a dedicated effort to engage in this very important effort, and have every Sikh counted in the 2010 Census."


    [​IMG]
    (From left) Jesse Singh, Niranjan Singh, Jaspreet Singh, Nampet Panichpant-Michelsen, and James Christy

    UNITED SIKHS has been in detailed discussions with the U.S. Census Bureau and has been informed that, even if a Sikh marks "other" and writes in "Sikh," the write in is automatically tabulated and coded as "Asian Indian." While many other communities are able to ask for special disaggregation and receive data specific to their community after the Census is completed, data about Sikhs is not disaggregated separately. Sikhs have been in America for over 130 years, and have a rich history spanning the nation. Rough estimates place the Sikh population of California at 200,000, and the entire population of Sikhs in America between 400,000-1,000,000. While speaking about the effort, Niranjan Singh Khalsa, representing the California Sikh Council commented, "For the first time in America, the entire Sikh community is going to make a dedicated effort to engage in this very important effort, and have every Sikh counted in the 2010 Census."
    [​IMG]
    Jaspreet Singh and Niranjan Singh presenting the Sikh request to be counted separately

    According to Professor Bruce LaBrack, a professor who has written extensively on the Sikh community, Sikhs have been recognized as an ethnicity in more than 60 countries worldwide, and the Census should support self-identification of people. Sikhs have a common literature, language, faith, and a distinct identity, among many other qualifiers that make the Sikh community a distinct and recognizable community. Post 9/11, the lack of awareness about Sikhs proved dangerous for the community as Sikhs were wrongly identified as "terrorists," due to their unique identity and many Sikhs have been targets of hate crimes, bullying, racial profiling, and in some cases police brutality.


    [​IMG]
    Jaspreet Singh, James Christy, and Nampet Panichpant-Michelsen with representatives of the Laos community of Southern California

    At the event, James Christy, Regional Director, Los Angeles Regional Office for the U.S. Census Bureau expressed concern over the tabulation of Sikhs and said that he would investigate the matter at the national office. He also commented that this Census, being the first after 9/11, is a particularly important census for people to participate in.
    The State Convening event for the Census was attended by a diverse cross section of communities in Southern California, including African American, Native American, Filipino, Sudanese, and Laos communities. Nampet Panichpant-Michelsen, Partnership Specialist for the Thai and Southeast Asian communities and Jesse Singh, Partnership Specialist for the Sikh community, were instrumental in coordinating the effort. Commenting on the effort, Harminder Singh, a local Sikh leader in San Diego stated, "It is our responsibility as community leaders to educate our community to participate in the 2010 Census so that we get counted to qualify for federal funds for future generations and to ensure a better future for our community."
     
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  3. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    I dislike being a contrary person in regard to this effort. But 2 things strike me as difficult to reconcile.

    Sikhism is a religion. So if Sikhs in the US wrote Sikh for religion and Sikh for ethnicity by writing in "Sikh" for "Other" then some mathematical problems will arise when accounting for ethnicity separately from religion. This can be worked out. However, Jewish people who also share a history and language (see definition given in above article) typically count themselves as white or in any other racial group that applies, and select Jewish for religion.

    The second problem is bound to stir up an argument. Sikhs may want to count themselves as an ethnic group, but it makes me wonder if this is actually appropriate. Ethnicity implies more than cultural affinity; it implies a shared lineage of family and/or tribal membership. Are some Sikhs confusing Punjabi with Sikh? A common heritage, language, and FAITH constitutes a cultural identity NOT an ethnic identity. But who knows? The definition of ethnicity may in the end be revised and redefined by this advocacy effort.

    But would in all seriousness someone explain to me how Gurmustuk Singh executive leader of Sikhnet (just an example, and please forgive me Gurmustuk ji) could be "ethnically" Sikh? Gurmustak did attend school in India. However, he was born in LA and raised in Brooklyn NY of US born parents who converted to Sikhism (followers of Yogi Bhajan). How is one a member of the same "ethnic" group as, for example, a forum member who was raised in family of Punjabi origin anywhere in the world, in a Punjabi speaking Sikh family? It doesn't add up for me. We who gravitated toward Sikhism and who do not share the Punjabi language as our native language, nor Punjabi lineage, but do share the religion, IMHO are not ethnically Sikh. We are however initially united by faith, not ethnicity.

    In time we who gravitate toward Sikhism learn Punjabi, read SGGS in the Gurmukhi script, attend sangat events, adopt Sikh values for living, study Sikh and Punjabi history, celebrate gurpurabs, adopt Punjabi clothing, learn to cook Indian food, socialize with Punjabi people, read Punjabi literature, engage in Punjabi cultural practices like bhangra...the list is endless ... Do we become ethnically Sikh because we are immersing ourselves in culture and heritage? Or do we become culturally Sikh?

    I found it a bit strange to see the news-article photos of Niranjan Singh ji supporting the notion that he is "ethnically" Sikh. :confused::confused::confused::confused: But you know, Gyani Jarnail Singh may talk me out of my confusion.

    Yet - If the plan works - YES I shall definitely go against my intuitions about this. I will write in that I am ethnically Sikh.
     
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  4. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    It gets interesting.

    The US Census Bureau definition for ethnicity may or may not adapt well to what US Sikhs is attempting. For the purposes of this thread it is the only definition that would apply, if one were basing federal benefits on census information. Let's see if forum members can help me out.

    The definition is from Wikipedia but is based on US federal sources. It uses Hispanic or Latino as an ethnic category and explains how the category of ethnicity works.

    Ethnicity

    The Federal government of the United States has mandated that "in data collection and presentation, federal agencies are required to use a minimum of two ethnicities: "Hispanic or Latino" and "Not Hispanic or Latino.""[10] The Census Bureau defines "Hispanic or Latino" as "a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race."[10] For discussion of the meaning and scope of the Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, see the Hispanic and Latino Americans and Racial and ethnic demographics of the United States articles.
    Use of the word ethnicity for Hispanicity only is considerably more restricted than its conventional meaning, which covers other distinctions, some of which are covered by the "race" and "ancestry" questions. The distinct questions accommodate the possibility of Hispanic and Latino Americans' also declaring various racial identities (see also White Hispanic and Latino Americans, Asian Latinos, and Black Hispanic and Latino Americans).
     
  5. Jagmohan Singh

    Jagmohan Singh
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    LIKE OPENING A PANDORA'S BOX
    I prefer "HUMAN or HU-WOMAN - by RACE, RELIGION, CREED"
     

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