After Oak Creek: A Roundup

“On August 5, 2012, a mass shooting took place at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, with a single gunman killing six people and wounding four others. The gunman, Wade Michael Page, a white supremacist, shot several people at the temple, including a responding police officer. After being shot in the stomach by another officer, Page fatally shot himself in the head.” [via Wikipedia]

Below I’ve gathered together some of the reactions to the tragic Oak Creek shooting, presented without comment. Feel free to add your own links, or leave comments below. (Respecting our comments policy, of course!)

An American Tragedy, by Naunihal Singh:

The media has treated the shootings in Oak Creek very differently from those that happened just two weeks earlier in Aurora… Sadly, the media has ignored the universal elements of this story, distracted perhaps by the unfamiliar names and thick accents of the victims’ families. They present a narrative more reassuring to their viewers, one which rarely uses the word terrorism and which makes it clear that you have little to worry about if you’re not Sikh or Muslim.

Top Ten differences between White Terrorists and Others, by Juan Cole:

2. White terrorists are “troubled loners.” Other terrorists are always suspected of being part of a global plot, even when they are obviously troubled loners.

How privilege-blindness stops us understanding the roots of terrorism, by Priyamvada Gopal:

This marginalising of the real and present danger of white terrorism at a time when other forms of religious or nationalist militancy are under unprecedented scrutiny has to do with how “whiteness” itself operates.

Wisconsin shooting: Tragic extension of everyday hate experienced by Sikhs in North America, by Kamal Arora:

As a child walking home from elementary school, I witnessed children bullying my brother on a regular basis, calling him ‘teabag’ and taunting him for his long hair tied up in his topknot. I myself was the victim of bullying — my fellow classmates would often pull on my long braid and tell me to “just cut my hair” or threaten to cut it themselves with scissors. On family trips abroad, I witnessed the constant suspicion my father and brother were put under while undergoing security screenings at various airports.

…In an increasingly racialised world, I hope we all continue to stand up against such hate on a daily basis so that perhaps such large tragedies can be avoided and lives can be saved. While I condemn the horrible tragedy in Wisconsin, I refuse to identify myself as ‘not Muslim’ and thus validate hate crimes against Muslims, Indigenous groups and other racial and religious minorities.

We Are All Muslims: A Sikh Response to Islamophobia in the NYPD and Beyond, by Sonny Singh:

The roots of anti-Muslim sentiment in the Sikh community run deep in South Asia, from the days of the tyranny of Mughal emperors such as Aurangzeb in the 17th century to the bloodshed in 1947 when our homeland of Punjab was sliced into two separate nation-states. Despite these historical realities, Sikhism has always been clear that neither Muslims as a people nor Islam as a religion were ever the enemy. Tyranny was the enemy. Oppression was the enemy. Sectarianism was the enemy. In fact, the Guru Granth Sahib, our scriptures that are the center of Sikh philosophy and devotion, contains the writings of Muslim (Sufi) saints alongside those of our own Sikh Gurus. Nevertheless, historical memory breeds misguided hostility and mistrust of Muslims, especially in the contemporary global context of ever-increasing, mainstream Islamophobia.

Beyond Recognition and Misrecognition: the Shooting at Oak Creek Gurdwara, by Amardeep Singh:

But here’s the thing: I don’t know if the shooter would have acted any differently if he had really known the difference between the turbans that many Sikh men wear and a much smaller number of Muslim clerics wear — or for that matter, the difference between Shias, Sunnis, and Sufis, or any number of specificities that might have added nuance to his hatred.

As I have experienced it, the turban that Sikh men wear is the embodiment of a kind of difference or otherness that can provoke some Americans to react quite viscerally. Yes, ignorance plays a part and probably amplifies that hostility. But I increasingly feel that visible marks of religious difference are lightning rods for this hostility in ways that don’t depend on accurate recognition.

‘How to tell your friends from the Japs’ in TIME, 1941 vs. ‘Turban Primer’ in RedEye, 2012, by Sami Kishawi:

Two weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, TIME Magazine ran an article titled “How to tell your friends from the Japs”, an arbitrary and insensitive guide on how to differentiate the Japanese from the Chinese. Today, just over a day after the shooting in Milwaukee that left six dead in a Sikh house of worship, Chicago’s RedEye printed a “Turban Primer”, a similarly insensitive guide on arbitrary religio-cultural distinctions between, essentially, Brown people from South East Asia and the Middle East.

Roots of Love: On Sikh Hair and Turban, by Harjant Gill:

One thought on “After Oak Creek: A Roundup


    Are we looking in the wrong direction?

    While women can be ‘white supremacists’ too, ‘cultural difference related’ rampages are executed by men. Seldom old men, almost all are ‘mentally and socially’ isolated young men.

    My anthropological PhD (2013) is on thirty young men successful coming of age. They were mentally hospitalized, military drafted, incarcerated, humiliated in schools, criminal, violent, mad and most of time expelled from school.

    When young men are a) ‘disembedded’ from safe family, community and social bonding, and/or are b) marginalized and/or are b) structurally humiliated (destructively shamed and unacknowledged shame) the chance that he get in trouble (even rampaging) is predictable. (violence, crime, drugs addiction, mental/psychiatric and educational troubles).

    Boys and young men (and girls in their gendered complementary ways) express and signal all potential solutions of many social afflictions. If we are not able to ’embed’, protect, support and limit them in transforming (making social) their sexual and aggression drives.

    We need look no further to understand their horrifying and unexplained (even terrorist) murderous outbursts.

    Read Mehmet’s dramatic story: ‘To Belong and To Be Different: Balancing National and Ethnic Loyalties in Male Adolescents’ (on the net) of one the thirty young men participating in this research.

    2012 auguts 15th; The Netherlands
    Dirck van Bekkum
    Clinical and social anthropologist

Comments are closed.