Tracking Hate Crimes, Tracking the FBI’s Crimes

[Ever since the criminal/hate massacre of Sikhs took place on August 5, 2012, in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, the shock and anger at that horrifying murderous act by a white-supremacist gunman has fueled an intense discussion and debate within the Sikh community and South Asians, and among all who stand in solidarity and in common humanity with the targeted Sikh community.  Some have argued that Sikhs should embrace the FBI and other instruments of government repression, and try to get the FBI to take action against fascist attackers.  Others have said that Sikhs should draw more closely together, and join forces with all victims of white supremacy, of racial profiling, of Islamophobia and of xenophobia, in more determined and forceful community alliances.  While some have argued combining these methods, others have argued the incompatability of these two strategies, because of the key role the FBI has played in both supporting and initiating attacks (racial and Islamophic profiling programs) on targeted communities and activists of (non-white) color and (non-Cristian) religion.  The following is from a Sikh blog, The Langar Hall. — Frontlines ed.]

The Oak Creek community mourns the loss of the shooting victims from the Oak Creek Sikh temple at a group wake and visitation service in the Oak Creek High School gymnasium on Friday.

September 18th, 2012

Over the last month since the horrific tragedy in Oak Creek, WI, Sikh civil rights organizations and other leaders in the community seem to have come to a consensus on what our collective demand should be to move forward — getting the FBI to track hate crimes against Sikhs.  A few weeks ago Valarie Kaur wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post entitled, “Sikhs deserve the dignity of being a statistic,” in which she convincingly articulates the basic argument that many are making:

The FBI tracks all hate crimes on Form 1-699, the Hate Crime Incident Report. Statistics collected on this form allow law enforcement officials to analyze trends in hate crimes and allocate resources appropriately. But under the FBI’s current tracking system, there is no category for anti-Sikh hate crimes. The religious identity of the eight people shot in Oak Creek will not appear as a statistic in the FBI’s data collection. As a Sikh American who hears the rising fear and concerns in my community, I join the Sikh Coalition and Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) in calling for the FBI to change its policy and track hate crimes against Sikhs.

We’ve all probably gotten numerous action alerts to sign petitions, call our Senators, and, most recently, to attend tomorrow’s Senate hearing on hate violence in Washington, DC.  The Sikh Coalition’s email advisory today about tomorrow’s hearing begins, “Be Present and Request that the FBI Track Hate Crimes Against Sikhs.”

It seems like a sensible request.  The FBI is a government agency responsible for investigating hate crimes, so of course they should be looking specifically at attacks targeting Sikhs and have a category to enable them to do so.  While I am sympathetic to this cause, I am a bit troubled by it, or have some questions about it, as well. Continue reading

Statement by DRUM (Desis Rising Up and Moving) on Wisconsin Gurudwara Shootings‏

Unity and Accountability in the Wake of the Wisconsin Gurudwara Shootings

The members of DRUM-Desis Rising Up & Moving express our deepest sympathy and solidarity with our sisters and brothers of the Sikh community after Sunday’s shootings in the Oak Creek Gurudwara in Wisconsin. The shootings have been followed closely by an arson that burned down a mosque in Joplin, Missouri.

While the shootings have shocked us all, it is unfortunately part of a history of targeting of communities of color that all too often goes unchecked and remains rooted in a national climate bolstered by state policies. This climate of racism and intolerance targeting Sikhs, South Asians, Muslims, Arabs, and Middle Easterners, particularly since 9/11, has been fueled by frequent media distortions, governmental policies of racial and religious profiling, and the rise in hate groups. Yet, the media and public discourse mistakenly puts the Sikh and other religions on the hot seat rather than the vast network of organized hate groups whose impacts have been severe-from attacks on Sikhs and Muslims to crafting of anti-people of color and anti-immigrant legislation like SB1070 in Arizona.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has stated that it had been monitoring the alleged gunman, Wade Michael Page, for over 10 years for his ties to white supremacist groups, attempts to purchase weapons from them, and use of violent lyrics about murdering Jews, black people, gay people, and other communities of color, through his membership in racist skinhead bands. Since the use of racial and religious profiling by law enforcement agencies focuses on identity as a marker of threat, rather than actual acts, (leading to the broad profiling of communities of color, religious minorities, and activist groups), organized white supremacist and hate groups remain largely unchecked. In 2009, when the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) put out a report on the dangers of right-wing extremism in the US, it received severe backlash from many conservative policy makers. As a result of the criticism, the DHS dismantled and cut funding for the intelligence team that monitored such threats. Continue reading