Sharing an Open Letter to the Community from Our Colleagues

Dear Colleagues,

As many of you may already know, there has been an attack on the Sikh Gurdwara (place of worship) and its members in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.  As members of the Sikh community, we would like to offer helpful resources about Sikhs for counselors, psychologists, social workers, and other helping professionals.  These resources (listed below) range from websites that deliver basic information about Sikhs to scholarship that may be used to strengthen cultural competence in working with Sikh individuals and communities.

The basic tenets of Sikhism include belief in one God, respect for all people, including respect for all other religions as we respect our own, service to humanity, standing against injustice, and sharing resources with others.  Sikh men and women have uncut hair and men are recognizable by their turbans and beards.  In fact, 99% of people wearing turbans in the U.S. are Sikhs.  Sikh boys wear a patka (a bandana-like head covering) before they begin wearing turbans.  Some Sikh women also wear turbans.  Because of these clear visible identifiers as religious minorities, they have been targets of both overt and covert prejudice and discrimination.  A tragedy such as the one in Oak Creek can re-traumatize individuals and underscore their vulnerability. (It is important to note that not all Sikhs have these visible identifiers, and yet may still have oppressive experiences).

We would also like to challenge the Islamaphobia that is often related to the hate violence Sikhs experience.  For instance, when the media reports on terrible tragedies – such as what happened to the Oak Creek Sikh Gurdwara – reporters endeavor to distinguish those of the Sikh faith from those of the Muslim faith (“These Sikhs were ‘mistaken’ for being Muslim.”).  We find the method the media uses to distinguish Sikhs from Muslims in this manner extremely troubling, as there is no religious community of color that is deserving of hate violence and Islamaphobia is unacceptable in our society.

Below, we have listed websites for five national Sikh organizations that are involved in education, advocacy, and the fight for social justice.  These sites provide information on issues that the Sikh community faces, as well as ways in which these issues are being addressed.  Next, we provide a sample list of journal articles for education and cultural competence development with this community.  As our community mourns our tragic losses, we encourage you to take time to discuss the complexity of hate violence towards Sikh people and communities, as well as the way Muslims, Arab Americans, and other groups of color experience microaggressions and macroaggressions in the United States.  Please see Community United Against Violence (http://www.cuav.org/ ) and Southern Poverty Law Center (http://www.splcenter.org/ ) for more information on challenging hate violence in your communities.

Sat Siri Akal (a Sikh greeting),

Muninder Kaur Ahluwalia   Anneliese A. Singh
(muninder.ahluwalia@montclair.edu) (asingh@uga.edu)

Websites on the Sikh Faith
Sikh Coalition
   Sikhcoalition.org

SALDEF    Saldef.org
(Sikh American Legal Defense
and Education Fund)

United Sikhs    Unitedsikhs.org

Sikhnet    Sikhnet.com

ENSAAF    Ensaaf.org

Articles about Sikh Communities and Counseling
Ahluwalia, M. K., & Pellettiere, L. A. (2010). Sikh men post-9/11: Misidentification, discrimination, and coping. Asian American Journal of Psychology, 1 (4), 303-314.

Ahluwalia, M. K., & Zaman, N. K. (2009). Counseling Muslims and Sikhs in a post-9/11 world. In J. G. Ponterotto, M. Casas, L. A. Suzuki, and C. Alexander (Eds.), Handbook of Multicultural Counseling (3rd ed., pp. 467-478). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Kapur, P. (2010). Sharing identity through dress: The case of Sikh women. Psychological Studies, 55(2), 101-107.

Mand, K. (2006). Gender, ethnicity, and social relations in the narratives of elderly Sikh men and women. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 29(6), 1057-1071.

Sandhu, J. S. (2004). The Sikh model of the person, suffering, and healing: Implications for counselors. International Journal for the Advancement of Counseling, 26(1), 33-46.

Sandhu, J. S. (2005). A Sikh perspective on life-stress: Implications for counseling. Candaian Journal of Counselling, 39(1), 40-51.

Additional Resources
The American Counseling Association has Disaster Resources for Counselors listed at the following link:

http://www.counseling.org/sub/dmh/resources.aspx

The American Psychological Association Disaster Response Network updated their consumer website, the Psychology Help Center (www.apa.org/helpcenter  ) to highlight the article “Managing Your Distress in the Aftermath of a Shooting.”  Below are some additional mass shooting resources that they provided.

APA – Psychology Help Center:
•                Managing Your Distress in the Aftermath of a Shooting <http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/mass-shooting.aspx>
•                Helping your children manage distress in the aftermath of school shootings <http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/aftermath.aspx>

Red Cross:
•                “Red Cross Support Colorado Community After Tragic Shooting”
http://rdcrss.org/PkaGkW
•                Taking Care of Your Emotional Health After a Disaster
http://www.redcross.org/www-files/Documents/pdf/Preparedness/checklists/EmotionalHealth.pdf

NYU Child Study Center:
•                School Shootings: Helping Teens Cope– A Guide for Parents. Institute for Trauma and Resiliencehttp://www.aboutourkids.org/articles/school_shootings_helping_teens_cope_guide_parents

CNN:
•                “Five Tips for Talking with Kids about Scary News”
http://www.cnn.com/2012/07/20/living/talking-kids-scary-news/index.html?hpt=hp_c2

SAMHSA:
•                Disaster Distress Helpline
http://disasterdistress.samhsa.gov/

PTSD Research Quarterly:
•                Impact of Mass Shootings on Survivors, Families and Communities
http://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/newsletters/research-quarterly/V18N3.pdf

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