Tragically, the turban meant to represent a commitment to service and justice has since marked Sikh Americans as targets in hate violence. Our family, alongside Sikh families who arrived in a wave of immigration after the 1960s, became American in law but not necessarily in the eyes of our neighbors. I was old enough to remember racial slurs and shattered windows after the Iran hostage crisis, the first Gulf War and the Oklahoma City bombing. Still, none of this could prepare me for 9/11.
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In the hours and days after 9/11, turbaned Sikh Americans became automatically suspect, perpetually foreign and potentially terrorist -- confused with Muslims, and so immediate targets in anti-Muslim violence.
Hate violence swept the country, and on September 15, 2001, a Sikh man was gunned down in front of his gas station in Mesa, Arizona. My family knew Balbir Singh Sodhi; it felt as though an uncle had been murdered. But the killing was not broadcast widely on national news.
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