The New N-Word


This morning, at a press conference I attended at the offices of the Sikh Coalition, Sandeep Singh looked into a video camera and shared his story of being dragged through the streets of Queens by a pick-up truck. The video doesn’t show his scarring blisters from being burned by the asphalt, nor the 40 stitches that line his chest, but it does illustrate the emotional pain that his face cannot hide.

On July 30, Singh was run down by a man yelling, “Go back to your own country, Bin Laden.” The horror of this attack has been traumatizing for Singh and the Sikh community of New York City. Sadly, it is not an aberration.

This past Monday, Dr. Jaspreet Singh Batra came forward as the victim of another violent hate crime, again against the Sikh community. Batra was walking home with his mother in Roosevelt Island (celebrating her birthday), when a group of younger teens approached yelling, “Osama bin Laden” among other racially charged slurs. As they hurled barbs at his mother, Batra spoke to them about how she should be respected. They responded by beating him in the face and head.

This morning’s press conference was regarding these and other hate attacks. It was profoundly troubling but several things stood out:

  • The Sikh community remains steadfast in its message of peace and forgiveness.
  • The Sikh community continues to emphasize their openness to connecting with non-Sikhs and even the perpetrators in an attempt to educate others about their traditions.

These attacks were not singular events, but only the most recent string of hate-filled violence against one community within our American society. The acts reflect bigotry and hatred against a whole people simply because they have facial hair, wear turbans and practice a different religious tradition.

In his statement to the press, Dr. Batra made a poignant point: “My mother and I were called ‘Osama bin Laden,’” he said. “Is the ‘O’ word the new ‘N’ word?”

Joyce S. Dubensky, CEO