Three weeks ago 68-year-old Gurcharan Singh Gill was murdered in Fresno. The week before, another 68-year-old Sikh man was viciously attacked. Valarie Kaur, a Sikh advocate, lawyer filmmaker and Fresno Native told Mic that the violence is “part of a long history of racism and xenophobia that has surged to the surface in the wake of terrorist attacks throughout the last century and especially since 9/11.”
Reports point out that anti-Sikh violence in America has increased significantly in the last 15 years. In many cases, Sikh men have been mistaken for Muslims because of their facial hair, turbans and other distinctive features.
In Fresno, which is one of the most established Sikh communities in the United States, the phenomenon goes deeper. According to Deep Singh, acting director of California-based youth organization Jakara Movement, the perpetrators in the recent acts of violence would have committed the crimes even if they knew the men they were attacking were Sikhs rather than Muslims. One reason for the anti-Sikh violence in Fresno, and to some extent, elsewhere in central California might lie in environmental factors.
Fresno, for example, is one of the cities with the most concentrated poverty nationwide among Hispanics, blacks and whites. Local Sikhs, however, have generally been quite prosperous economically over the decades.
Simran Jeet Singh, a religion professor at San Antonio’s Trinity University, told Mic that the attacks are part of a broader pattern of violence and harassment against Sikhs. According to Deep Singh, the violence is basically rooted in decades-old American racism with periodic spikes of hate crimes and xenophobic violence.