SALDEF Discusses Post 9/11 Challenges at City Club of Cleveland
On April 14th, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) was invited to speak at the prestigious City Club in Cleveland, the oldest continuous free speech forum in the country, lauded for its tradition of debate and discussion. Past speakers at the club have included 6 former US Presidents, distinguished authors and artists, and other renowned speakers. The sold out event was broadcast on hundreds of radio outlets across 40 states.
The Panel discussion featured Dr. I.J. Singh , author of four books about Sikhs in the US and Canada, Paramjit Singh, City Club Special Program member, and Jasjit Singh, Associate Executive Director of SALDEF.
The title of the talk was "SIKH AMERICANS: Towards a More Perfect Union". Dr. I.J Singh began the talk by discussing how Sikh Americans add to the diversity of America. Dr. Singh suggested that instead of thinking of America as a 'Melting Pot' or 'Tossed Salad' we consider the metaphor of an Orchestra. "All the small chimes and bells add to the beauty and need to be protected," said Dr. Singh. "Notice that the lowly cymbals or the triangle, too, have a place. When they speak, even the naturally dominant violins and pianos listen. When the mighty and the small talk to each other without drowning the other, the conversation becomes heavenly music. That's how a rich performance is born."
Paramjit Singh added historical context for Sikhs in America by highlighting the contributions of Sikh American pioneers, entrepreneurs and social workers. His examples illustrated that the Sikh identity is an asset, not a hindrance to success. He also moderated the panel discussion following the talk.
Jasjit Singh reflected on the challenges Sikh Americans are facing in the US and his identity both as a Sikh and an American in a post 9/11 era. He highlighted the sharp increase in reports of hate crimes, racial profiling and school bullying after 9/11. He also discussed the imbalanced media coverage between the victims of the backlash and the cases of mistaken identity. In the end, however, he concluded, "despite all the challenges, I see 9/11 as a unifying event in our shared history - something that makes Sikhs an even more integral part of America." Jasjit Singh pointed to increased focus on education about Sikh Americans and stronger relations with several branches of government and the law enforcement community as signs of progress.
"Education and acceptance is very much a two way street, and regrettably, it took such a tragic event to make not just the Sikh American community, but our entire country, realize that we needed to come together to create dialogue and ensure that we live up to the ideals laid out by our Founding Fathers of creating 'a more perfect union'."
Listen to the entire program here.