Wisconsin Sikh Temple Shootings: Hate Should Never Be the American Way—But It Is

Today, we at MyBrownBaby take a moment to mourn the deaths of the six worshipers killed Sunday at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin by a racist terrorist convict who’d been  on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “hate watch” list for his neo-Nazi views. No one ever deserves to die for their religious beliefs and especially because of someone else’s ignorance, but here we are, in 2012, just a month away from the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, right here on American soil, watching as a community prepares its dead after some numbnut opened fire on them for wearing turbans and long hair and worshipping their God in the way that they saw fit.

So you know: Sikhs follow an ancient monotheistic religion founded in 15th century South Asia and the only thing they have in common with the Taliban is that they cover their hair with cloth. Pretty much. But, you know, this makes no nevermind to racist idiots who would just as soon wrap their bodies in blood and bullets than educate themselves on something as simple as the difference between Muslims and Sikhs or Taliban and peaceful Americans. Hate is too damn dumb for such folly. Make no mistake about it: America has a long, disgusting history of dummies who thought/think nothing of committing acts of terrorism against people who do not look, think, act or worship like white  American conservative Christians. Yup—let’s go on ahead and call it what it is: TERRORISM. Of the worst kind.

It is our duty as parents to teach our children better. I was just arriving back home from a blog conference when I saw news reports of the shooting on TVs at the airport, and immediately, I was reminded of a September 11th post I wrote two years ago, after some pastor somewhere threatened to burn Qu’rans to protest the building of a Mosque near the 9/11 site in lower Manhattan. Today, I present that post again, in honor of the six Wisconsin Sikhs who were needlessly, brutally, stupidly killed.

Burning Qur’ans, Zealots, and A Lesson On Tolerance:
The Best Way to Honor the Victims of September 11th

I will tell them the story…

about the day we fought with Mari for the remote control and insisted the grown-ups in the room watch the traffic update on the local news instead of another episode of Barney, only to watch in horror as the TV played over and over again a clip of a plane circling the towers and piling into the windows and the steel and the concrete, forcing a grand, raging ball of bright orange fire into the sky.

I will tell them the story…

about how we thought it was a mistake—surely, a horrible, tragic mistake—until the second plane crashed. And then the third and the fourth. And the smoke wailed. And the phones went dead. And the people started leaping. And the buildings, full of the friends and colleagues and acquaintances we made in this beautiful stretch of Manhattan where we’d long worked… crumbled.

I will tell them the story…

about how their daddy and I, having watched planes rain down from the most perfect blue sky… having watched two of the most important buildings in our city fall to the ground… having considered that hundreds, if not thousands, of people—white, black, Latino, Asian, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, atheist, male, female, heterosexual, gay, rich, poor, white collar, blue collar, Americans, immigrants, old, babies, important and invisible—died in that concrete and that twisted metal and that fire and that smoke and that utter chaos in those beautiful streets… fell to our knees and cried—cried—as we begged God to bless the victims and heal their hurts and soothe their families and open the gates of Heaven for the dead innocents whose only fault lay in getting to work on time that day.

I will tell them the story…

about how we couldn’t go back to work for several days and that when we did finally make it back, we could smell smoke and chemicals and fire and death—saw it settle like a thick fog over Manhattan—all the way over and beyond Park Avenue South and 23rd, almost three miles away… and how we wore sneakers and sweat suits to work for weeks, just in case someone else decided to fly more airplanes into more buildings and we were forced to make our way across the Brooklyn Bridge or onto a ferry headed for Jersey City.

I will tell them the story…

about how I met and fell in love with their father for the first time at City Hall, just blocks away from Ground Zero… and how we used to walk past and admire the beauty of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church on our way to lunch… and how just moments before I got married to Nick, my mother adjusted my dress and kissed my face and told me she loved me on the beautiful spiral staircase of the Marriott World Trade Center, which, because of the attack, is no more… and how Nick and I were scheduled to have a book signing on September 12, 2001 at the Borders just down the street from the towers but couldn’t because that building fell, too…

And I will tell them the story…

about how as much as this diehard New Yorker abhors the crazy zealots who attacked our city, our country, our home, our way of life, our beliefs, our freedoms, we could never use what happened on September 11th as a license to feed on hate and fear of the religions, cultures, races, ethnicities, backgrounds and differences of others… to go against every single, solitary ideal our great country was built upon… to close our eyes and ears and hearts to the American promise to open its arms to all, even those with whom we do not agree, because it is their right, as it is our tenet, to support freedom of expression and ideas and thought, even if they do not jibe with our own.

And I will tell them…

that the Americans who hate on Muslims, and try to tell them where, when and how to practice their religion, and who threaten to burn (or actually burn) ancient holy texts like the Qur’an, and who terrorize fellow Americans who don’t think or look or roll exactly like them, and who turn their backs on this rare jewel—this jewel of freedom—for a fleeting moment in the spotlight or some sick, doofy, racist-disguised-as-patriotic rush, dishonor the 2,973 Americans who died at the hands of lunatics.

And I will tell my girls this story on this September 11th, when I show them the picture of my mother kissing my cheek in the grand staircase at the Marriott (to recall the sweeter memories), and we say a prayer for the 9/11 victims and their families (with the hope that they find peace and know that they did not die in vain), and we march them to our nearest bookstore to purchase a Qu’ran (so that our babies not only can see up close an ancient, religious text read and studied by millions of people throughout the world, but read it in the name of peace, unity, tolerance and the profound understanding that learning about , understanding, and embracing the religions, cultures, backgrounds and beliefs of others is our way, even if these days, it doesn’t seem like the American way).

I will tell them the story.

And my babies will know.

Our prayers are with the Sikh community in Wisconsin and the many other Americans who have suffered at the hands of the ignorant for minding their business and practicing their faith. With peace and love, we are with you.

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.


  1. Beautiful Denene. ♥ I couldn’t have said it better. Thank you for always speaking the truth with love.

  2. Angela Akinniyi

    Ashe – Thank you!

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