A year ago on the 5th of August, Wade Michael Page embarked on a shooting rampage on a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Six were shot dead and four were injured. Just less than two weeks later, another Sikh citizen was shot dead in an attempted robbery of a grocery store in Milwaukee. The second shooting only served to further send shockwaves throughout the modest ethnic community who were still distraught over the temple shootings.
As a Birmingham Sikh, hearing about this tragedy affected me and countless other Sikhs in the UK. Despite there being more than three times as many Sikhs in Birmingham alone (over 30,000) compared to Wisconsin and Chicago combined (each having over 3,000 and 6,000 respectively), world wide it is still a pretty modest group, and a sense of attachment especially in the Western world exists strongly. That feeling of attachment perhaps comes from, just like those of the Jewish faith, a strong sense of maintaining an identity and culture. I guess with cruel mindless shootings and reported hate crimes experienced by Sikhs in some States of the US threatens that very identity.
The first shooting was deemed racially motivated as 40 year old Wade, an army veteran and a known White supremacist began his attack on Sikh worshippers of the Oak Creek temple.
The affect of this shooting was felt just as strongly in Chicago and the rest of Illinois, which neighbors the state of Wisconsin. A candlelight vigil was held last year in Palatine, IL by the Sikh Religious Society which people from all faiths attended. 17 year old Sikh youth Amrit, known by his rap alias Alpha Singh attended the vigil.
“Yes, I attended with my family, a few days after the shooting. It was a truly amazing experience to see not only Sikh Americans, but folks from all over the area come to support the Oak Creek gurdwara.”
I also asked the aspiring rapper on the reactions from Sikhs in Chicago after the temple shootings and the attempted robbery of a grocery store in Milwaukee.
“Everyone here was really affected by the Wisconsin shootings.” On the second shooting, “It was really a similar reaction, but oddly enough, not as many people came together as they had earlier.”
Amrit also told me of his shock and anger of the Oak Creek shootings which claimed six lives. “I can't really describe how I felt. Initially it was sadness, but to be honest I walked away from it pretty angry. I'd say more than anything I was angry at Wade Michael Page and other people like him.”
I echo those sentiments as when I first heard of the tragedy, I was upset and in shock myself. I have a few friends across the pond of different ethnic groups, one of which from Chicago in her attempts to assure me, told me it was just a ‘crazy person.’
Please read my previous article on Sikh hate crimes by clicking here.
You can see Amrit's (Alpha Singh) thoughts in full by clicking here.
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