My brother is not alone. According to a 2014 report by the Sikh Coalition, a majority of Sikh students experience bullying in our nation’s public schools because of their actual or perceived religion. A federal task force that studied bullying against Asian American students between 2014 and 2016 found that Muslim American students are also bullied because of their religion.
It is painfully obvious that children who torment others are learning this behavior from adults. There’s an old saying that, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” When parents lash out against immigrants and religious minorities, it sends a message to our nation’s youth that it is permissible to do the same in our public schools.
As Americans, we need to ask ourselves whether this is the kind of legacy we want to give to our children. Do we want to be positive role models, who encourage children to appreciate people who look different or follow a different religion? Or do we want to follow in the footsteps of bullies like Brigitte Gabriel, who thrive on stereotypes and try to drive a wedge between Americans?
My Sikh faith is based on a belief that the Divine light resides in each and every human being and that all people are entitled to dignity and respect. As Americans, we may follow different religious paths, but surely we can agree that our nation is strongest when people of all religions stand up for each other. If this is the message we deliver to our children, I am confident that our schools will be safer and that our future generations will build an even more vibrant and unified nation.
Aasees Kaur is a resident of Atlanta and a community development fellow at the Sikh Coalition, the nation’s largest Sikh American civil rights organization.