During my drive home everyday, I end up seeing a lot of things–some utterly boring, others insanely interesting. The one thing I’ve come to always expect is seeing familiar faces. It seems like I see a bunch of people everyday. There is this older guy who likes to read the paper by the pond. There is a tall lady with the day care center who always has 20 kids following her to the park. There’s even a shaggy haired kid who walks in the middle of the road and makes me slam my breaks every once in a while. I’d bet we all have seen these people in our lives. The type of people who we smile at not because we know them but because it just feels right. The type of people we know without really knowing. These faces are the ones we’ve come to love as our community.
In someone else’s community, there were two guys who would go on walks together. People would always see them walking the streets of Elk Grove, California, often chatting as they passed by bus stops and convenience stores. They were recognized. They were smiled at. People watched as one shared the experiences of his sixty seven years while the other would offer the wisdom of his seventy eight. They were not only loved and respected, but expected. They were just like the people many of us have come to recognize in our neighborhoods. But Friday, that was destroyed.
With no warning, Surinder Singh was found dead on the street. Gurmej Atwal was shot twice.
They’d survived heart attacks, raised families, traveled across the world, and accumulated more experience than many of us ever will, but at the end, it made no sense. Did someone decide to take their lives because their skin was a different shade, because they held onto to the traditions of their faith and proudly wore their turbans, because what? What makes this okay? More importantly, what gives us the right to ignore this?
It’s easy to repost a link on facebook or spend a few minutes writing about it, but that’s not what is going to make a difference. We need to work on our communities, within our group of friends. Stuff like this is happening to Sikhs, to African Americans, to Muslims, to Whites, to Jews, to Latinos–in essence, its happening to us, all of us. And until we begin to do something about it, nothing is going to change.
We don’t need a revolution to make a difference; we need to liberate our souls from the ignorance that refuses to leave power. We need to take the passion of those we see leaving their homes and taking to the streets, and turn it inwards: What kind of oppression are we responsible for? Who’s voices are we ignoring? Where are we going and who is following us there?
Moving our reality away from a culture of hate and ignorance and towards one of understanding and progress is going to begin with us. This change isn’t something we can afford to ignore any longer. Too much blood has been shed. Too many familiar faces have been forgotten.