U. S. Census Bureau Should Allow Sikhs to Self-Identify in 2020: United Sikhs

New York, NY: On April 30, 2017, United Sikhs responded to the Census Bureau’s request for comments on its recent proposed rule amendments and stated that there should be a distinct “Sikh” category represented. Stereotypes fuelled by the media, discriminatory policies and corrupted public attitudes toward immigrants, especially since September 11, 2001, exacerbate feelings of bigotry that result in backlash against the Sikh community like never before. To address this backlash the U.S. government must allow Sikhs to self- identify in future Censuses.

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Sikhs can trace their ancestry in the United States back at least 100 years when many came to California to work on the railroads. Then, like now, Sikhs faced bias, racism and xenophobia. Yet, to date, they are grouped into a general Asian-Indian category in the U.S. Census and this ignores their unique circumstances.

Sikhs should be represented as a distinct group in the Census because:

  • Federal and state governments rely on the U.S. Census to provide funding in order to address civil rights violations;
  • It is well known that the Sikh community has disproportionately suffered backlash, hate crimes and bullying since September 11, 2001;
  • Studies estimate that at least half of members of the Sikh community have been bullied, harassed or even assaulted at some time in their life because of bigotry and xenophobia;
  • The Census cannot assist in accurately identifying the percentages of hate crimes occurring in the Sikh community until it can provide reliable information about how many Sikhs there are in the United States;
  • Sikhs meet the criteria for representation in the Census as a distinct ethnic group;
  • Because it loops Sikhs into the general Asian -Indian racial group, the Census does not provide the necessary statistics that would enable the federal and state to act; and
  • Allowing Sikhs to self-identify in the 2020 Census, would go a long way to making everyone count so that action can be taken to address bullying and hate crimes against the Sikh community.

An U.S. Census that does not count Sikhs as a separate category of people does not fulfill its mandate. During the 2016 Sikh Summit in Washington, DC, United Sikhs advocates encountered widespread support from members of Congress who agreed to sign-on to a letter to the Census Bureau calling for identification of Sikhs as a distinct group in the Census. Young Sikh leaders with theUnited Sikhs 2016 Advocacy & Humanitarian Aid Academy (AHAA) also advocated for Punjabi language instructions to be sent to the community before the next Census to insure that Sikhs know their rights.

There are unique opportunities for everyone to become involved and get the word out that Sikh should have their distinct ethnic identity represented in the 2020 Census. You can help by calling, writing or emailing your representatives in Congress. Tell them “I want the Census Bureau to allow Sikhs to self-identify as Sikhs in 2020!”

In addition, from July 12-14, 2017, joinUnited Sikhs for the 2017 Sikh Summit and meet your Congressional representatives and tell them in person. From July 10-14, 2017, young adults, ages 17-32, can also be a part of the United Sikhs Advocacy & Humanitarian Aid Academy (AHAA) where they will learn and obtain practical experience advocating on this issue and other Sikh civil rights matters. Applications will be available beginning May 15, 2017.

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