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As we cheer for Gursoach Kaur, the first turbaned female officer in New York Police Department, it is important to understand how it will affect the large population of American Sikhs, who have been fighting against racial discrimination.
The induction of Gursoach Kaur in the New York Police Department has come as a welcome step. More so, because Gursoach has now become the first female turbaned Sikh officer to join the NYPD. The Sikh Officers’ Association was ecstatic at the development and they ought to be, considering how there have been numerous incidents in the past when Sikhs have been looked at warily owing to their ‘turbans’. In 2010, Hardeep Singh Puri, who was the then Ambasador to UN, was asked to remove his turban at the Houstan airport for security screening. There have been a number of cases when turbaned Sikhs have had to bear the brunt of merely wearing a turban, which is an integral part of the Sikh faith.
Very few of us know that Sikhism is the fifth largest religion in the world. A large chunk of the Sikh population resides in the US. There are around 50,000 Sikhs in America. In 2015, owing to the increasing hostility towards Sikhs post 9/11, The National Sikh Campaign(NSC) and Hart Research conducted a survey titled, ‘Sikhism in the US: What Americans know and need to know’.
The results of the survey were startling to say the least. Only a meager 11 percent of the respondents were able to identify Sikhs. Moreover, the ‘turbans’ made them feel ‘conscious’, ‘nervous’ and even ‘wary’. But, the findings of the survey threw light upon the fact that there was little awareness about Sikhs and the ‘turban’ which is a symbol of their sect. Also, with the right campaigns, the ignorance and misconceptions that surround the American Sikhs can be dispelled remarkably.
In 2017, NSC , in order to create awareness about Sikhism and to address the discrimination faced by Sikhs in the US, came up with a campaign called ‘We are Sikhs’.
The campaign involved television ads which depicted Sikhs as your regular American neighbours, who are ardent fans of ‘Game of Thrones’ and who love watching ‘SpongeBob Square pants’. The campaign was a huge success as it drew in a large number of people and wheeled conversations around the pre conceived notions that were set around Sikhs because of their turbans and beards.
Not only this, the campaign received the top 2018, PR Week Award in the Public Cause category. The post campaign findings showed that the campaign was able to drive home the fact that these turbaned American Sikhs were ‘patriotic’ and ‘believed in equality and respect for all’.
Minorities all over the world are grappling with discrimination of various kinds. Racial discrimination has a long and dark history. The contribution of Sikhs towards the US economy is significant. And so, it is heartening that they are slowly but steadily acknowledging them. Gursoach Kaur’s induction in the New York Police Department has put across a strong message that America is ready to look beyond the turban and give the Sikhs an equal platform and help them thwart the discrimination one step at a time.
Image Source: Sikh Officers Association/Facebook
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