A year ago, a lone gunman walked into the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek, then shot and killed six people and wounded four others before turning the gun on himself. The shooter, white supremacist and U.S. Army veteran Wade Michael Page, acted alone and left no evidence of the motives for his actions. But a climate of anti-Muslim hostility is still palpable in the U.S., and when groups like Sikhs–who are not Muslims but are often similarly targeted–are attacked, it is difficult not to connect this crime to racist attitudes.
Rinku Sen, the Executive Director of our publisher the Applied Research Center, gave a heartfelt response to last year’s tragedy, with this poignant and still timely reminder of the significance of the Oak Creek shooting:
I despair for our country on days like these. How long before paranoia and fear, recast in the language of moral fortitude (stand your ground!), cut too deeply into the beautiful American friendliness, open-mindedness, and generosity that I have grown up with? How many Trayvon Martins, Brisenia Floreses and Balbir Singh Sodhis must there be before white folks question whether suspicion of brown skin is justified?
The Oak Creek anniversary events began on Friday, and included a courthouse vigil and a 6K walk and run, as well as temple services. Sikhs from across the U.S. and abroad came to pay their respects, with a mood branded by one attendee as that of “relentless optimism.” For the temple, this is an opportunity to bring their community together and to remember the victims. Events will conclude on Monday evening with a meditation and candlelit vigil.