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Sikh Community Mourns After FedEx Warehouse Shooting

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

The Sikh Coalition says there are between 8 and 10,000 American Sikhs living in Indiana. On Friday, four of them were among victims of a white gunman who carried a rifle into a FedEx warehouse and opened fire. According to the Indianapolis police chief, Randal Taylor, a significant number of the facility's employees are members of the Sikh community.

Satjeet Kaur is the executive director of the Sikh Coalition, and she joins us now. Thanks so much for being with us.

SATJEET KAUR: Thank you. Thank you for having us.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Deep condolences on your loss. This must be a terrible time.

KAUR: Yeah, absolutely. The community's heartbroken. We're all heartbroken. It's not just Indianapolis. Our community is really close and tight-knitted. And, yeah, this feels like one too many times.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I mean, it's not clear from what the investigators have said whether your community was targeted by the gunman in particular. But even so, as you mentioned, a tragedy of this magnitude in any tight-knit community is incredibly painful and frightening. I mean, we've seen a dramatic increase in violence against Asians and Asian Americans across the country. Can you share with us what your community has experienced?

KAUR: Yeah, of course. And like you said, while we don't know yet know the motive of the shooter and in no definitive terms can call it a hate crime, you know, he did target a facility that's known to be heavily populated by Sikh employees. And it's just that that impact that it has on the community very much feels like what we feel after every vicious attack, after every hate crime. The impact is very much the same, and the trauma is very much the same.

Community members yesterday were in tears as they were providing support to families who had lost loved ones or who were injured. And many of those - because, again, there's so many people that work in that one facility - are going to have to go return to that place where their friends, their family members' lives were taken, where they almost saw death. And so it's just a very real feeling of, like, what the impact actually has and how triggered the community is after any one of these vicious attacks.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: How are people coping?

KAUR: Supporting one another, finding strength in Sikhi, in the faith, finding strength in community, serving one another, supporting one another and also leading, leading by showing that we we have to stand stronger, we have to do more, and we have to find a way to make sure that this doesn't happen again. Enough is enough.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Tell me what that looks like in your view. When you say stand stronger, what do you think needs to happen?

KAUR: You know, it's a couple of things. I think that all communities, everyone needs to come together and find more sensible solutions to the threat of violence and all types of violence. Way too often, marginalized communities like ours are targeted, and we need to find those sensible measures to ensure that everyone feels safe, whether it's at home, whether it is at a place of worship, whether it is at school, whether it is at work or the movie theater. It doesn't matter, right?

So we need to change our tone and make sure it's not divisive at the top. We need to build stronger programming in our schools to make sure that we are teaching empathy, respect and going way beyond tolerance. We need to include marginalized voices' perspectives so that we're building that type of solidarity right from the - at a grassroots level. We need to look at political and corporate leadership and make sure that they are taking these threats very seriously. And yeah, that includes all of us. Like, we all have work to do.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I would just like to say before we end our conversation that I understand that you are celebrating your new year today. And so I know that this is incredibly painful at a moment when you're supposed to be celebrating to have to endure this. So thank you for coming on.

KAUR: Yeah. Thank you. Thank you for sharing your Vaisakhi wishes, and, yeah, really appreciate the time.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Satjeet Kaur is the executive director of the Sikh Coalition. Again, thank you very much.

KAUR: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.