March 23, 2012 – The Sikh Coalition yesterday was one of seven South Asian organizations who collectively released a report entitled, In Our Own Words: Narratives of South Asian New Yorkers Affected by Racial and Religious Profiling, which documents the experiences and stories of New Yorkers who live in a climate of racial and religious profiling.
Through an 18-month collaborative documentation project that included surveys, focus groups, and interviews, the report discusses ways in which South Asian New Yorkers, including Sikhs, continue to endure profiling by national and local law enforcement agencies.
The report results were startling:
- 73% of respondents surveyed were questioned by law enforcement about their national origin
- 66% reported being questioned about their religious affiliations
- 85% reported being questioned about their immigration status
Additionally, the report reveals that an alarmingly high percentage of community members surveyed were selected for secondary airport security screenings more than half the time they traveled. At a community and media briefing yesterday releasing the report, Amardeep Singh, Director of Programs at the Sikh Coalition said that extra, unnecessary scrutiny of Sikhs at US airports has become a fact of life for Sikhs, something that is expected as the irrational “price” society extracts from Sikhs for simply following their faith.
The report also revealed that while Sikhs experience high volumes of profiling by airport security, there are many other facets of life in which Sikhs have experienced profiling by government agencies.
One young Sikh man recalls:
“There was a couple who started calling us names, referring to my turban, like ‘Osama bin Laden – I wouldn’t want to mess with you. God knows what you might be hiding in that…’ The staff of that cinema not only noted what he said but contacted the NYPD and said there was a possible terror alert. We were escorted out and detained by 12 cops and 3 undercover detectives.” – 23-year-old Sikh man
This report is a joint project by the New York City Profiling Collaborative, which the Sikh Coalition is a part of, along with partner organizations, such as Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM), UNITED SIKHS, South Asian Youth Action (SAYA!), Coney Island Avenue Project, and Council of Peoples Organization, coordinated by South Asian Americans Leading Together.
The report can be accessed at www.saalt.org.