April 21, 2021
Dear members of the Mount Holyoke community,
Our hearts are in deep turmoil as we continue to witness unprecedented violence around the world — and more recently, specific attacks in the United States — targeting communities of color. Thursday night’s violent attack on employees at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis took the lives of seven people, with four of those individuals being members of the Sikh community. Over the years, there has been a significant escalation of targeting and violence towards Sikh people. It’s rooted in a deep xenophobia and racism: They have been accosted and even killed in places of worship, including a vicious attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, last year.
Over 500,000 Sikhs live in the United States. These individuals are often distinguishable by their articles of faith, which include wearing turbans and not cutting their hair. Recent estimates show they have experienced significant bigotry and bias from other Americans. The recent murders occurred as we were all reeling from the shootings of Daunte Wright and Adam Toledo, along with the trial of Derek Chauvin, who murdered George Floyd less than a year ago in May.
My hope is that every Sikh member of the Mount Holyoke community knows we are in solidarity with them around this significant loss. The Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion has partnered with the Division of Student Life, working closely with our colleagues in the Office of Community and Belonging and the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, to support students and provide educational programming, healing spaces and vigils to respond to these egregious acts. A multitude of student organizations across campus are engaged in activism and creating spaces for healing and building community. These include the efforts of the Association for Pan African Unity, the Mount Holyoke African Caribbean Student Association, Asian Center for Empowerment, Familia, the Jewish Student Union, MoZone Fellows, and the Muslim Student Association.
In the early part of last week, the DEI Office began planning a vigil in response to the murder of Daunte Wright. Yet just a couple of days later we learned of additional acts of violence involving 13-year-old Adam Toledo and the Sikh community members, alongside their co-workers, whose lives were also stolen in Indianapolis. As I write this message, I’ve learned of more shootings. Like many of you, I am conscious of the need for intensive self-care and reflection to be in community with others. Many Muslim members of our campus community are currently fasting for the holy month of Ramadan and we are conscious of the importance of this time for reflection.
We have also scheduled an additional healing circle for survivors of trauma. We encourage those who may need connection and opportunities for cultivating emotional support to avail themselves of this resource:
Healing from Trauma: A Focused Care and Restorative Space for Survivors
Date: Tuesday, April 27
Time: 5 pm
Register for the Healing Space
Please see the following additional online resources:
- The Sikh Coalition
- Kaur Life Counseling Support
- Sikh American Legal Defense Fund
- Racial Healing Handbook Excerpt by Dr. Anneliese Singh
- What you can do to fight violence against Asian Americans
- 11 Ways You Can Support Asian American, Pacific Islander Communities Right Now
- Therapy for Black Girls
- Beyond the Hashtag: How to Take Anti-Racist Action in Your Life
- Racial Equity Glossary for Terms to Better Understand Building Solidarity
- How to Cope with Race with Race-Based Trauma
- 8 Everyday Ways to Fight Racism
- National Asian AmericanPacific Islander Mental Health Association
With hopes for peace, justice and solidarity,
Kijua Sanders-McMurtry, Ph.D.
Vice President for Equity and Inclusion
Chief Diversity Officer