FedEx shooting: Sikhs in Indianapolis are grieving. Investigate if hate played a role.
The city of Indianapolis continues to mourn. Last Thursday, eight souls were taken from us in a senseless act of violence.
We know their names: Matthew R. Alexander, Samaria Blackwell, Amarjeet Johal, Jasvinder Kaur, Jaswinder Singh, Amarjit Sekhon, Karli Smith and John Weisert. We continue to honor their memories, and keep their families in our prayers and in our hearts.
We are also mindful of those who were injured and are still recovering. They, as well as those who witnessed this awful event but were fortunate to escape without physical injury, will carry the heavy memory of being terrorized in this way forever.
The Sikh American community — a community I have been a part of for decades, and one too often misunderstood or unknown in our country — has been thrust into the spotlight because four of those killed are among our families and friends. Some people are asking who Sikhs are and what we believe. We appreciate their efforts to learn more about us, as we are members of the world’s fifth-largest religion and have been part of this country for more than 125 years.
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But first, it is most important for us to say: Whatever the reasoning behind this tragedy, no community and no person deserves to be targeted by violence or hatred. We are grieving as a city and a nation, Sikh and non-Sikh alike. I mourn the loss of all eight victims because they are human stories — loves, hopes, passions, deeds, and futures — that were ended too soon.
What is the role of hate?
We also urge that the full investigation into this horrible crime continue, and that law enforcement consider all possible motives as they work to learn more.
We know, from the authorities and the shooter’s own family, that he had a troubled past. Police reports note he had apparently visited white supremacist websites. Though police have not yet determined a motive, authorities must investigate the role that bias and racist hate may have played in the deadly massacre: As a former employee, he knew the place he was attacking, and he knew they employed a diverse workforce — including many Sikhs, who are visibly distinct with our articles of faith, including turbans and uncut hair.
Kanwal Prakash "KP" Singh in Indianapolis, Indiana, in April 2020. (Photo: Family handout)
As our country grapples with racist hate that targets various communities, it is critical that we call on our leadership to stamp out hate. Doing so requires our authorities to investigate the role of hate in attacks like this one.
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In this time of grief, we call for unity and oneness among all people. When tragedy grips our hearts, it is our ability to come together as one humankind that sustains us. Only together can we begin the long process to healing, whether that means physical, mental or spiritual recovery. And only together can we call for action from our elected officials to make a safer and more inclusive society for all people.
And finally, as our entire country processes incidents of violence in Indianapolis and elsewhere, we also must look inwards and ask ourselves: What are we willing to do to make the world a better place? How are we extending our hands to our neighbors, sharing with those less fortunate, or serving our community in a selfless way?
By opening our hearts and embracing the things that make us similar to one another, we can triumph over the fear, ignorance, and hate that present a threat to us all.
Kanwal Prakash “KP” Singh co-founded the International Center of Indianapolis and is an Indianapolis artist, architect and author.
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