Meet Judge Singh, the First Female Sikh Judge in Texas

As a Sikh who has been born and brought up in the States, I rarely saw reliability or representation in American television, politics, media, entertainment, or anything remotely mainstream. Like many South Asian girls my age, I aspired to see women who had long black hair, black eyes, and the tan skin color that I so proudly embrace. - Harbani Kohli

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Judge Manpreet Singh looking at the painting of her being sworn in as Harris County Civil Court’s first Sikh judge. The painting is made by the widely known UK Sikh artist, Amandeep Singh—most commonly known by his Instagram handle @Inkquisitive.

By Harbani Kohli | United States |

Manpreet Singh, a native Houstonian who has practiced law for over two decades was sworn in this year as Harris Civil County Court’s first-ever Sikh female judge in Houston, Texas. Making Singh the first ever Sikh woman to be elected judge in the state of Texas, a prideful victory for Sikhs in Texas and across the States!

Singh, a last name every Sikh can instantaneously recognize – Judge Singh’s historical win is a prideful moment for Sikh Americans nationwide. In 2023, Judge Singh’s historical win is a reminder to Sikh Americans, people of color, and BIPOC communities across the country that “through hard work, we too can fulfill our dreams and more importantly that we are not always burdened by the color of our skin, our background, our faith, our ethnicity, etc.” (Judge Singh in an interview with FOX26 Houston)

As a Sikh who has been born and brought up in the States, I rarely saw reliability or representation in American television, politics, media, entertainment, or anything remotely mainstream. Like many South Asian girls my age, I aspired to see women who had long black hair, black eyes, and the tan skin color that I so proudly embrace. Following Judge Singh’s election, one of her very first exclusive interviews with FOX 26 Houston talked about this lack of representation and how it personally inspired her to ‘be the change.’ As she says,“When I was in law school, I realized that everybody had somebody to look to, or a mentor, or a network, or somewhere they could kind of fall back on.” The lack of representation was a pivotal point for realization in her journey to coming close to her aspirations and instituting the change she so eagerly hoped to see. Today, her accomplishments inspire a new and growing generation of Sikh Americans and minority groups in America to take upon their dreams with strength, courage, and diligence.

SEE ALSO: It’s official. Harris County Judge Manpreet Monica Singh makes history

Breaking glass ceilings has never been easy, and for Judge Singh it was surely not an easy journey. Yet she accredits those rocky turns for making the present all the more fruitful. As a law school student without a network, formal connections, mentorship, folks she couldn’t fully rely on, her journey is a testament to consistency, assiduousness, and commitment.

Manpreet Monica Singh at the oath taking ceremony as Harris County judge in January 2023. Judge Ravi Sandill, the first South Asian judge in Texas, is seated on the right – Photo: ABC13 Videograb

Just months after Singh passed her Bar Exam and became a lawyer, the September 11th attacks occurred – standing in the way of her newly established career. Singh specifically notes that time period to be crucial in her legal career and realization of unawareness and ignorance surrounding her Sikh community. Following the collapse of the Twin Towers in NYC, many South Asians, especially the Sikh American community had to confront hatred and violence. Especially because turban-wearing Sikh men and women were confused with the Muslim community, in specific the perpetrators of the terrorist attacks. Sikh Americans nationwide became victims of physical assaults, shootings, and unethical discrimination in workplaces, schools, and their place of worship. Many Sikhs living in the States at the time of the attacks and following felt targeted and unsafe anywhere and everywhere. As Judge Singh recalls, “I was waiting for my bar results when that happened,” Singh said. “I think what was really important for our community here in Houston and across America really was after 9\11, how the first hit very first hate crime happened to Sikh Americans and, and it was one of the wakening moments for us to say, ‘oh, wow, very many people don’t know about us and we need to we’re kind of busy assimilating and being a part of American culture that we forgot to educate people as to who we are.”

Harris County Judge Manpreet Monica Singh and her kids after the swearing in ceremony

Although there are over 500,000 Sikhs that reside in America, making America the third largest home to the global Sikh diaspora after Canada and the United Kingdom (World Population Review), Judge Singh says misidentification and lack of awareness still plagues many American communities. Yet, it is reassuring to Sikh Americans now as Houston claims its first female Sikh judge and remains to be a huge win for BIPOC communities nationwide.

In Judge Singh’s words, “Anything is possible.” Those words now echo in my mind often as I recall the day Judge Singh took the oath. Indebted with gratitude to pioneering women like Judge Singh who continue to pave the pathway for aspiring women like me, I am confident that an entire generation of Sikh American girls will look up to Judge Singh for years to come.

(Harbani Kohli is the Leading Women of Tomorrow (LWT) Director of Special Initiatives. The article first appeared at the LWT website. LWT advocates for proactive solutions to the gender gap among public representatives. It strives to equip more undergraduate women with the skills, resources, and confidence to become advocates in their professional fields, with the goal of creating a broader network of change-makers in the next generation)

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US gets first Sikh female judge (Asia Samachar, 1 Jan 2023)

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