By Navjot Pal Kaur
Queens County has seen a remarkable transformation in the way in which incumbent Democrats have been replaced with progressive legislators who actually care about the communities they serve. It’s more important than ever that we continue to identity and call out gatekeeping of community power within the hands of the few into the powerful force of the many. As a younger generation of Sikh Americans, we have a special obligation to make sure our family members are educated against misinformation, can understand how the issues apply to them and enhance their voting capabilities to ensure that we do not continue the status-quo and that we instead empower and uplift those who are marginalized in American society. Moreover, we should be community organizing to make sure we have a community discussion on how the Presidential candidates are a good or bad fit. Democracy starts local and ends up national.
I like to say that Democracy runs through the veins of the Board of Elections and then trickles down into our community boards and parent-teacher associations. But it also trickles through our houses of worship in which we find our own uplifting those who seek to marginalize, exclude and prop up the status quo, when we should be uplifting a newer form of governance. Sikhism has been founded on the very idea of fighting back against injustice and keeping the vulnerable safe. But as flawed and human as we all are, we tend to send mixed signals in what our religions actually preach vs what they actually do in real life.
Change begins with a younger generation of Sikhs who work in American companies, have their own businesses and know the toil and sweat of their immigrant parents driving a yellow cab in NYC to make ends meet. We know what it feels like to take Punjabi cuisine into school as lunch and have people roll their noses up at the pungent smell that is all too familiar to us and makes us feel comfortable vs something foreign and lacking for those who don’t know much about North India and the food that comes from there. This post isn’t about saag or daal but it’s about the unique experiences of the Sikh American generation that grew up post 9/11 and knows the struggles that come with trying to merge our parents identities with the ones we have now.
Back in 2016, when I was a sophomore in college I started working as a volunteer on the Bernie campaign. I was very vocal about supporting Bernie and frequently shared his content on my social media. In that same year, I saw that Sikhs for Trump had started coming out and attacking those who were supportive of Bernie and eventually, I too, felt the viciousness of their attacks. What started as a conversation about policy quickly devolved into touchy subjects like caste, how many gas stations one owned, etc.
With the election between a man and a woman in 2016, unsurprisingly but with great disappointment nonetheless, I was hearing older men in the Sikh community talk in such terrible terms of then Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Those words coming from men I had formerly respected and thought were wiser than me, was harsh. While I had severe reservations about Mrs. Clinton, I nonetheless accepted that she was the party’s pick to face Donald J. Trump in the general election. While she ended up with the popular vote, she nonetheless lost out to the electoral college and a concerted misinformation campaign on the part of Russia among other actors.
As the younger generation of Sikhs, we have the power to change the status-quo and to stop letting the few in our community make the decisions for ALL in our community. Having a family dinner or get together should be something that we do in order to make sure every eligible registered Democrat in our families knows unbiased, 100% accurate information about the candidates and the issues is tantamount to our success as a nation and as an emerging voting bloc. We shouldn’t let our faith leaders take us into the hands of neoliberal democrats. We need a revolution in the ways in which we let candidates for political office court our vote and really hold them accountable when they don’t deliver. The bottom line remains that our vote should be more responsible, informed and sustainable.
Navjot Pal Kaur is a 2019 CUNY grad and a higher ed, immigration, and voting rights advocate. You can find her on Twitter @SikhVotes and @KaurRepublic, and sign up for her newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/gORwLH