December 18, 2014: In the early morning hours after September 11, 2013, I got drunk and assaulted an innocent Sikh man. I charged him, forcefully knocking off his turban. He had done nothing to warrant my actions, I had simply hit rock bottom with my career and my drinking. He was simply in the wrong neighborhood at the wrong time.
After the assault, I fled.
The victim chased me and once the police arrived and I had sobered, I immediately knew I had done something horribly wrong; however, it never dawned on me that my assault could be prosecuted as a hate crime.
At the request of the Sikh victim I assaulted and the Sikh Coalition’s legal team, I was given 72 hours of mandatory community service. To my great surprise, the Sikh Coalition requested that I spend those hours volunteering with them. Over four months, those hours would permanently alter the course of my life.
During the time I spent with my Sikh colleagues, I was shocked to learn about the severity of the hate crimes, profiling, discrimination, and school bullying that the American Sikh community faces every day. The stories I heard, which now included my own, put my own problems to shame.
The Sikh Coalition’s work also encouraged me to look back on my own education and how it contributed to my prejudice. I grew up in an area of the country with some diversity, went to what many would call an “elite” university, but I understood very little about the Sikh faith and community. The education work the Sikh Coalition is doing across the country, like the recent textbook victory, is the critical first step. Policies won’t change until individuals change. I can speak to that firsthand.
I was moved by the unwavering commitment and professionalism that every staff member demonstrated to me, despite knowing what I had done. Through their work and kindness, they taught me that Sikhism is about the much broader collective well being of humanity. Through that process, I gained an incredible support system that inspired me to make dramatic changes in my life.
One year later, I have stopped drinking, I have a steady job, and I have continued to volunteer for the Sikh Coalition well past my mandated hours. I am an example of how working towards a cause bigger than yourself can truly change you, and the ripple effect that will follow. I will never forget the pain I caused, but the Sikh belief in restorative justice has turned my regretful actions into another voice advocating for change.
My journey over the past year is a testament to the work that the Sikh Coalition does. You must do everything you can to financially ensure that this good work continues in 2015 and beyond. Today, I ask you to join me in making a donation to the Sikh Coalition.
I am donating to the Sikh Coalition because I believe that more Americans, like me, need to learn and support the Sikh community. I am donating to the Sikh Coalition because Sikhs, like the man I assaulted, need an organization to provide legal support. I am donating to the Sikh Coalition because this community needs an organization that remains relentless in the pursuit of educating others.
Chardi Kala (in eternal optimism)!
The Sikh Coalition has agreed to use a pseudonym to protect the true identity of the author.