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USA Yuba City Not Immune From Teasing Of Sikh Children


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
When Sikh students get teased about their religion, the newest immigrants are the most common victims, students say.

Less Americanized students, whether they have been in the United States for two years or two months, are often the target of taunts and teasing by Western students — including those within the East Indian community, said Kiran Samra, president of the Punjabi-American Club at Yuba City High School. The students are mocked for how they dress, speak and even smell.

"There is such a standard when you get to high school. You have to dress this way, You have to act this way," she said. "People make fun of you if you are your own person."

Students who were born in the United States do not face as much harassment or discrimination because they have adapted to blend in with their classmates. Many join their American counterparts in the bullying of immigrants, said Samra, a Yuba City native.

"I'm not too sure they know other people make fun of them, but if they knew, obviously it would hurt them a lot," she said. "I think that's why they separate themselves so much from other Indians, to protect themselves so they don't get hurt."

Samra has heard other students tease or taunt during classes or passing periods.

"They say, 'Oh they smell,' or 'Have you heard the way they talk? It's hella funny,'" she said. "It's kind of sad because I think they should be treated equally."

Blending into society

The bullying is more verbal than physical, said Yuba City High School senior Manraj Singh Garcha. The 17-year-old said few people have made fun of him, but he admits it's probably because he was born in the United States, cuts his hair and tries to meld his American roots with his Sikh background.

"I kind of blend into society," he said. "It's more those that just came from India two or three years ago or two or three months ago."

One of the worst forms of taunting Garcha witnesses is when students call other students "fobers," a derogatory term for someone who recently immigrated. That and other forms of bullying sadden him.

"It's not something that you want to see around our society," he said. "You want to see people coming together and enjoying life and not to be isolated."

Amarpreet Everest, 20, now attends UC Davis but said the bullying she witnessed as a middle and high school student in Yuba City was subtle but very much an issue.

"I had a few of those times, too, where just because I was different I was kind of picked on," she said.

Everest remembers hearing the story of a girl whose long hair was snipped off by non-Sikh classmates, and can recall girls called "hairy," and boys being asked, "What's that rag on your head?"

"It definitely impacts you, especially for those people who are not in touch with their history," she said. "If they are being made fun of, and they don't have that knowledge, that pushes them away from their identity and their religion."

Breaking down barriers

The Punjabi-American Club aims to promote breaking down cultural barriers and student involvement in the community, said its adviser, Sutter County supervisor and Yuba City High teacher Jim Whiteaker. At the high school, he tries to correct bullying and prevent it when possible.

"Most of the time it's due to the ignorance," Whiteaker said. "A majority of the time people don't understand the difference between Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus."

Jasbir Kang, a member of the Punjabi American Heritage Society, agrees.

"There is nothing in the school books, nothing in the history books or social sciences or the school curriculum for the average kids to learn who the Sikhs are," he said.

People often make their judgments on outward appearances, but the Sikh values are just like American values, he said.

Kids find their own ways to cope with discrimination.

"A lot of kids just suffer through it, especially the boys," Kang said. "Some kids give up their appearance because they don't want to be bothered and some kids are strong and they want to make every effort for people to understand."

Bullying can also be difficult for parents, who want their children to be accepted among peers while still maintaining Sikh values.

"You think with the large population there would be better awareness, but I think kids just look for something that's different," said Yuba City Councilman Tej Maan, also a member of the Tierra Buena Sikh Temple.

Understanding of the Sikh culture has improved in recent years, he said, but the teasing and taunts continue.

The entire social system is to blame, because there is little encouragement for people to be outside the norm, Everest said. Education that fosters understanding of the Sikh religion is critical for putting an end to bullying.

"If you don't know who you are, how do you expect other people to know that?" Everest said. "There has to be someone who is willing to be different, to put themselves out there. And at the same time you have to have support, too."



Apr 3, 2005
"There is such a standard when you get to high school. You have to dress this way, You have to act this way," she said. "People make fun of you if you are your own person."

This world is full of double standards,When anyone tries to put dress codes on youngsters anywhere in world ,Youths start crying and give logic that we are living in free world and everybody has right to look wear or look what they like .On the other hand these same youngsters are biggest dictators in term of How a person Look ,or behave or the type of language he speak.The only difference is that they do it by making fun of person and that to an extent when the victim is completely broke down and starts feeling that he /she should fit in the majority.


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Cutting down a child because he/she is the child of an immigrant is also very painful. It does immeasurable damage. Not only is the child shamed because he is different and therefore "odd." The parents, culture and motherland are also shamed in the eyes of the child by these cruel, heartless words. Schools need to get a grip on this. It has been going on for centuries. It has serious consequences for society when the children who are constantly taunted and ridiculed seek to find support and strength in gangs -- which some of them do. Every generation of new immigrants in the US has seen a percentage of its youth (in every racial and ethnic group) make up the loss of pride in culture and trust in the new world by finding strength in gangs, children guiding children, down a crooked path.
Nov 14, 2010
I am giving this very situation a lot of thought lately.

I went to a gurdwara here in the US for the first time this past Sunday, and my boyfriend and I were the only white people there. We made the embarrassing faux pas of sitting together because there were only 3 other people in the room when we arrived (aside from the man who was reading and the woman up front who was singing) so it wasn't clear that the men and women should sit separately. :blushhh:

Once we realized we needed to sit on opposite sides of the room, my boyfriend very sheepishly moved to sit with the men. :blushh: People were very kind and no one said anything or even looked at us funny. On the contrary, everyone was quite gracious (though I could tell they were a little puzzled by our presence!). It was a lovely service, though the entire thing was read and sung in Punjabi so I did not understand a word, alas. :-/ I will be learning Punjabi sometime in the next year, but for the time being it is a completely foreign language to me.

All this is to say I am someone who is embracing this faith, and I *want* to learn more, but it is not easy to do even though I am proactively taking steps to learn more about it, about Sikh and Punjabi culture, and to see how I can successfully align those things with my own culture, language, and my own core values as an American.

So what I am wondering is what can *I* do to contribute to Sikh awareness? How can we make it seem more accessible and less "other" to people in the dominant white US culture? What could I offer this Gurdwara that would not feel like an unwanted intrusion of white/American/Anglo culture into their worship?

Part of what I'm envisioning is posting flyers around town saying:
"Do you believe there is only one God for all people?
Do you believe that men and women are equal in God's eyes?
Do you believe that people of all nations and religions deserve respect?
Do you enjoy worshiping God with songs?
Do you value earning a living and then sharing your abundance with others?
Do you defend the defenseless and protect the weak?
If so, you may be a Sikh! Come to an informational session this Saturday..."

...or something like that.

It's not evangelism (which I know is eschewed by the faith) so much as it is public relations and outreach to the local community. It would be important to offer services in English, I think, given that most Americans would be unwilling to worship in a place that requires they learn not only a new language but a new set of characters. (I *love* learning new languages so for me this is a bonus, but I realize I'm the exception in that regard rather than the rule...)

Any thoughts would be welcome here.


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Sri Kamala ji

I commend you for your desire to be part of the solution. This is only one person's humble opinion. Your effort and energy would go much further if you did not go it alone but joined forces with an organization that is already practiced in fighting these abuses. Find out how you can be part of local efforts through organizations like Sikh Coalition. See if there are local chapters of The Tolerance Project where you can become a local organizer and use the tried and true tools they have developed. Work with a local school district as part of their effort if they have anti-bullying projects. And remember that change happens one step at a time, one person at a time.



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