Sikh Shooting in Wisconsin on Social Media: Our Role as Mothers

AnuBharma

By Anjum Choudhry Nayyar @masalamommas

Editor, Masalamommas

The shooting of the congregation at the Sikh Gurudwara in Wisconsin reminds us mothers that we are living in unstable times.

When news broke a few days ago, I was at home on Twitter as each bit of information about the horrific shooting crossed my screen. The death of innocent congregation members in a temple was just unfathomable. If you’re like me, you tend to get most of your news through social media. I am often amazed at how quickly I know about a breaking news event faster than my husband or family who aren’t as active on social media but watch TV news.

What I found so commendable was the number of active and vocal Sikh groups that constantly challenged mainstream news handles on their reporting of the facts of the event including the facts around Sikhs and Sikhism. How is it that the fifth largest religion in the world is unknown in the world’s largest national economy?

Many of us, as moms, can play a role in raising awareness about different cultures and tolerance right here in our own homes. While time isn’t always on our side, common sense is. If we can arm our children with the knowledge they need to talk to someone bullying another over religion or differences, or if we can help our children understand what it means to Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Jewish or any other faith, it can only help that other child grow up with, hopefully, with a different perspective. I sincerely believe unless education begins in the home, that next generation will simply repeat its previous generations mistakes.

Can we use social media and groups like those on Twitter to help arm ourselves with greater knowledge? That was my question to some groups and writers tweeting about the event this past week. We at masalamommas spoke to Anupreet Sandhu Bhamra, an award-winning broadcaster and web journalist based in British Columbia, Rupinder Mohan Singh, blogger at AmericanTurban.com, a blog about the issues and experiences of Sikhs living in America, and Razia Kosi, Executive Director of CHAI, Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides outreach, referral, and educational services to the South Asian community on issues related to mental health, about this issue.

 Here’s that Interview and what they had to say:

There are many very active South Asian groups on twitter, what was your reaction to the shootings?

Rupinder Mohan Singh, blogger at AmericanTurban.com

I was stunned when I first saw the headlines sprawled across the television screen. It really took me until Monday night to get over the shock of it all. To be attacked so violently in their own Gurdwara was the worst possible nightmare for Sikhs in this country who have for many years have suffered hate crimes, and on Sunday we saw that nightmare become reality. I also felt very remorseful about the loss of members of that community, and I am still praying for them.

 

 

Razia Kosi, Executive Director of CHAI Counsellors

I first found out about the shooting on my Facebook page. I had awoken after a cross-country flight and was ready to post about the first day of our visit with our dear friends when I was jarred with the reality that a horrific violent act had taken place in a sanctuary of worship. While my immediate reaction was to express a personal response of sadness and outrage, the step CHAI took as an organization was to join in solidarity towards a unified response. CHAI, as an organization, immediately shared our statement and joined other groups in crafting their response.

 

 

Anupreet Sandhu Bhamra, Journalist, Blogger

The first reaction was, “uh no!” I had just logged on to a news website and the shooting was the top news. Then I got more feed from social media and started following the story. At that time, the story was still unfolding. I was searching for answers and the knot in my stomach was tightening as I read the initial reports of kids being held hostage. On the active South Asian groups on Twitter, I think they did a commendable job. Dialogue is the key to a peaceful society. Most of the times, it is unfamiliarity of the “other” that makes a person react a certain way. Conversations resolve a lot of issues and it was encouraging to see that many Sikh groups, instead of returning hate for hate, encouraged a dialogue instead.

 

How can we use some of the great information provided (including insight) on religious differences, at times like these to educate our own children at home?

 

Rupinder Mohan Singh, blogger at AmericanTurban.com

I think the best thing is to follow recognized Sikh organizations and representatives, who are able to provide the most accurate information and in the most digestible way. Organizations such as SALDEF, the Sikh Coalition, and United Sikhs provide resources for education for children and adults. There are also many blogs out there, such as mine, who are trying to distribute this information as well. These websites have toolkits for children, and there are other South Asian educators on the web who can be useful resources as well. Also, it helps to use the power of social media to reach out and ask. In times like these, you will find many who are willing to help, especially in terms of providing resources for children specific to this tragedy. Just one person asking a question can turn out to help others who have been struggling in the same way.

Our mothers are often our best filters when we were children. It’s important that children can understand what they may be seeing on TV or hearing what is spoken among adults, but in a frame of reference that they can understand. It also can provide a unique learning experience about valuing diversity and being accepting of people who are different.

 

Razia Kosi, Executive Director of CHAI Counsellors

The goal of CHAI’s social media campaign is to inform and educated virally, and to connect people. From a personal & professional viewpoint, Facebook has helped me stay connected to South Asian activists, South Asian mental health professionals and others whose ideas and perspectives I value but to whom I don’t see or talk with on a daily basis. Trust and relationships are critical to this process and must be taken into consideration when we are turning to others for information.

Starting with our own sphere of influence, ourselves; challenge your own assumptions, fears and stereotypes as they surface. Speak with our families, friends and colleagues when comments stereotyping groups are being made. This may mean challenging our own fears.

Dinnertime conversations that happen habitually offer a routine and safe pathway for more serious content of information. Take into account the age and developmental stage of your child. Be aware of your own perspective when you share with your child. Is it a senseless act of violence or a hate crime targeting people who look like us because we are different? Thinking through your own beliefs about horrific events will help you begin conversations with your child. The truth may be that you do not have all the answers to questions your children may ask. It’s ok; make it safe for them to ask the questions.

 

Anupreet Sandhu Bhamra, Journalist

Social media is a great tool to look beyond traditional journalism. It happens in real time and with real people. Of course there is the added doubt of misinformation that can easily spread through it, but at the same time, lot of sources have become legit social media sources. Depending on how we dispense and consume information through social media, it is a very powerful real-time information tool. As mothers, or fathers, when we hear the overall fact story from traditional idea but get real-time comments, updates and clarifications from social media, we should use that to dispense information to our kids. If for example, traditional media interviews one person directly affected by a on the tragedy, and he/she responds in a certain way, the sentiment that goes out will be coloured with that sentiment. When the parent interacts on twitter/Facebook with followers/friends, he or she can get a broader sense of the issue and that can help to dispel misconceptions. In fact, traditional media is also linking stories to real time twitter updates, so it is becoming an integral part of media coverage. It is legit now. 
My daughter, who is five, watched this on the news with me and I let her. I explained that something bad had happened in a gurudwara. One bad person who got angry, got a gun and shot at people. I already have had conversations around death and soul with her, so that’s an open topic in the house. She asked if people died and went to God? I said yes, it was sad that it happened because one person got angry. I used it as an opportunity to tell her that anger was bad. To love others is a noble thing, because anger destroys everything. I also told her that it doesn’t make sense for people to have guns. And she nodded. Then with her innocence, she said, why didn’t police take the gun away from the bad man? I said I wish they had, but sometimes they can’t. I didn’t push a lot of information on her, just let her watch, and answered what she asked. I think we can’t cocoon our kids, especially in this day and age. It’s important that they get correct answers from us, instead of scrambling to find on Internet, through friends or learn half-truths and misconceptions at school.

 

All of us here at masalamommas are deeply saddened by this event. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families and all those grieving for the loss of life.

You can follow:

Razia Kosi at chaicounselors.org,

@CHAICounselors  (Twitter),

www.facebook.com/chaicounselors (Facebook),

and www.wordpress.com/chaicounselors (blog)

 

Anupreet at sandhubhamra.com

 

And Rupinder at: americanturban.com

 

For more information on talking to your kids about the Wisconsin shooting visit

Http://jakara.nationbuilder.com/Wisconsin

and the Sikh Research Institute’s video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i74sJGfB7v0

 

 

 

 

 


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