(Washington, DC) January 19, 2008 - Today America celebrates a great leader, one who made this country a better place for all to live. Martin Luther King led Americans through the civil rights movement. Without the advances he and others made in the 1960s, without their struggle for equal rights, America's Sikhs would not have the protections we enjoy today.
In the wake of today's celebrations, Mr. Barack Obama will tomorrow take office as the first
minority President of the United States. Mr. Obama, an ardent civil rights advocate himself, has pledged to make his administration and this country more accepting of those who have been excluded from the public space thus far.
In his responses to the Sikh Coalition's 2008 Sikh-American Presidential Candidate Questionnaire, Mr. Obama told us "There is simply no excuse for any American to suffer because of who they are or where their family came from, and it will not be tolerated in my Administration." He promised Sikhs specifically that "As president, I will ensure that the officials in my Department of Justice and in all other federal agencies who have responsibility for guaranteeing our civil rights and combating racial and religious discrimination make ending racial profiling a top priority."
To hold him true to his promises, the Sikh Coalition has spent considerable time briefing Mr. Obama's team in recent months. In December, the Sikh Coalition had a direct meeting with and submmitted a memorandum to the Obama transition team. In our memorandum, we highlighted the need to address racial profiling, exclusion of Sikhs from the armed forces, school bullying, and employment discrimination against Sikh Americans. We also asked President Obama to ensure that Sikhs are included at the table in conversations that shape policy in our nation.
In addition to our transition team memorandum, the Sikh Coalition briefed both the McCain and Obama campaign teams about our concerns regarding possible profiling by the Transportation Security Administration before the election.
These are our first steps towards creating a political culture that is inviting and inclusive of Sikh Americans under the new administration. Reverend King once said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." We continue to live by those words as we fight for the Sikh American community today, a generation later.
Congratulations to all on MLK Day and may Waheguru Bless our new President.