By Sukhvir Kaur | FRESNO BEE | US |
I’m the mom of two boys, ages 9 and 4, both of whom wear a patka, a head covering worn by Sikh boys that represents a Sikh’s commitment to equality.
As a mother in America in 2019, I’ve watched in horror as members of our faith, and other faiths, have been persecuted for no reason other than looking different. With the recent murder of a Sikh uber driver in Washington state, it’s hard to not wonder if his death was in part because of his turban and beard.
According to a Sikh Coalition survey, “60% of young Sikh males who wear patkas say they’ve been harassed and verbally or physically abused because of their faith. Half of those kids, almost 40%, reported being hit or involuntarily touched because of their appearance.”
I realize that now is the time to stop this cycle of hatred and it starts with educating our children.
My 9-year-old son, Anmol, has had to deal with harassment that no child should have to go through. Starting in kindergarten, Anmol was bullied because of the patka he wore on his head. Kids of all ages would call him cruel names like “tomato head” and “the weird-headed guy.” It got so bad that he would try to hide his patka underneath hooded sweatshirts. He would come home from school and ask me, “Mom, do I look American?”
My heart broke. But what hurt more was that these children were showing hate because of ignorance. It was then that I decided to take action to make real change.
Over the next two years, I worked with local teachers and administrators to help educate students about the Sikh faith. During that time, we learned that the National Sikh Campaign’s “We Are Sikhs” initiative and PBS were holding a casting call at the local Gurdwaras (Sikh worship centers) for a series of public service announcements they were producing to help educate children about the visual identity of Sikhs and our core belief in equality. In the end, Anmol was so excited to be selected as one of the boys to star in one of the videos.
Anmol’s PSA is one of four, 15-second videos that explain common questions children have about Sikhs, like why we wear a patka and why many of us have the same last name. The PSAs are currently airing on Valley PBS and will remind children to be kind and treat everyone equally.
Being a part of the PSA really helped Anmol. He will often tell people that he played a role in it and has a renewed sense of pride because it’s given him a way to tell people about his patka and the confidence to say, “This is who I am and I’m not changing.” These PSAs also take the pressure off of us as parents trying to explain the same things to adults. As a mom, it’s great to see my shy, quiet kid become more confident.
This year, when a child tried to remove his patka, Anmol worked with his teacher to bring the kids together and explained how disrespectful it is to touch the patka because it is a symbol of equality. I’m not sure he would have had the confidence to do this before being a part of the Valley PBS PSA program.
These PSAs will reach more than 94% of households with a television in their service area, and Valley PBS broadcasts more than 70 hours of children’s programming each week. So it is my hope is that it will inform people about our faith and reduce misconceptions as parents watch with their children.
To learn more about this effort, please visit: http://www.wearesikhs.org/pbs. To learn more about We Are Sikhs, please visit: www.wearesikhs.org
The story first appeared at The Fresno Bee (7 Feb 2020). Click here.
Bullied in the US (Asia Samachar, 18 Oct 2014)