One summer at camp when I was in elementary school, I got into an argument with friends about the rules of a game we were playing. In anger, one of the girls said to me, “Go back to where you came from.” Stunned and confused by how to respond since the United States was the only country I’ve ever known, I went home and sought reassurance from my parents that I was a U.S. Citizen, just to make sure. And as I grew up, I learned that this would not be the only time I would confront anti-immigrant hostility.
Today, I continue to encounter individuals who feel the need to verify my citizenship status and question how I speak English so well, insisting to know where I was really from. And now as a parent, I am especially concerned with the increasingly hostile political climate against communities of color, immigrants, and refugees, including the Sikh American community. When my husband and I take our daughter for lessons on Punjabi and Sikhism on Sunday mornings, we sometimes see police cars and know that a horrendous act of violence occurred earlier. I also find myself worrying about threats and harassment and it has been difficult to convey the urge to be overly cautious with my kids.
However, I am proud to be a part of the Sikh community and to live by the American values of embracing diversity and working towards justice. Like other Americans, we strive to have healthy relationships, we worry about our kids, and we stress about career paths, and mortgages, and retirement plans.
Many of us live at the intersection of multiple identities; as a woman of color who was raised in the Sikh community by immigrant parents, I am often amazed at how I want to have all my identities acknowledged and embraced while also wanting to fit into the idea of what it means to be an American. I carry these paradoxes, questions, and concerns with me as I try to educate fellow citizens about my different communities and as I build a life and make a home.
To me, making a home means helping to create and implement laws and policies that are fair and inclusive. It means taking time to learn the specifics of these laws when voting on them. It means showing up and asking questions at town halls. It means communicating with government officials about concerns and then working to find solutions that work for everyone. It means making your voice heard with your vote. This election cycle has brought out strong feelings and fears for many but at the same time, it is a reminder that we must work towards a better outcome and participate by casting a vote.
You can find your polling place and review your voter registration at canivote.org.
Jaspreet Chowdhary is the Senior Policy Specialist for the 30 for 30 Campaign. In this role, Jaspreet will conduct public health research to move forward policy change. Previously, Jaspreet was the State Advocacy Manager at Community Catalyst and part of the inaugural class of the if/when/how Reproductive Justice Fellowship Program. She has also been part of public health research teams at Duke University Medical Center and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.