The core to Sikhism is: "In order to realize God and realize yourself, you must act, here and now."
This is the reason for Valerie Kaur's documentary, "Divided We Fall, Americans in the Aftermath."
Kaur, just down the road in her hometown of Clovis, decided shortly after the events of Sept. 11, 2001, that she would go on a journey across the country, even to some places around the world in order to capture a side of post-9/11 never seen before, a side that would bring to light some common misconceptions made about people with dark skin, beards and turbans.
After the events of 9/11 there was a surge of over 1,000 documented incidents of violence against people who "looked Arab."
The first man to be killed in what is being deemed as the first "9/11 revenge" incident, was a gas station owner from India who was living in Mesa, Arizona.
Why was this man targeted? He was wearing a turban.
One might say, as the documentary did, he was guilty by resemblance.
At just 20 years-old, Kaur set out with a personal video camera and her cousin Sonny to capture what wasn't being heard in the mainstream. Kaur, a Sikh, looks like your typical generation Y-er. She dresses in clothes of fashion, she speaks perfect English and goes to college, and she's a beautiful woman who would catch any gentleman's eye.
Is this the kind of description that resembles that of a terrorist?
Kaur shares a story of a man from New York, who, on 9/11, stood in horror in Lower Manhattan just like everyone else. As the towers fell, everyone ran. But he ran for different reasons. Numerous bystanders had observed this man, with his turban, and immediately blamed him for the incidents unfolding.
The man was chased, being screamed at and threatened, he ran for his life.
This, as the movie states, was before a face was ever placed on the 9/11 massacre.
The large majority of Sikhs wear turbans as a symbol of their religious faith, a religion that teaches them what Christianity teaches others, to be the best you can be to others in every way.
Kaur, now 25, is going across the country again, but this time to share the stories she has found and to talk to young and old alike.
"How could both be the face of America? This unity and this hatred?" Kaur questions in her documentary.
Her film appeared at San Joaquin Delta College this past week and in front of hundreds of people, a story unfolded that would show me a side to the terror of 9/11 I had never known, a side that showed those who were filled with the real fear were those with beards and turbans.
This film exposes the prejudice and misunderstanding of an entire population of people who are only among the rest of us to pursue the same dream we do in the greatest land of all.
Kaur, who sat next to me through much of the film without my knowledge, has done what years of post-9/11 propaganda has not even come close to doing. Identifying who is a terrorist and who isn't.
At one point, Kaur shows numerous Muslim men walking into a Mosque and begs the question, "Can you tell who's Muslim and who isn't?" As white men in collared shirts and African-American men in baggy pants walk in, I and the rest of the auditorium began to realize how racial profiling has become a norm in the post-9/11 world.
Kaur, driven by the violence and hatred only heard about by word of mouth, decided this film would be her answer to the tears and pain caused to those American families who lost their loved ones to retaliation filled by hate on their family members that were as hurt over 9/11 as the rest of America.
Having been able to chat with Kaur one on one after the film, I found that this woman, who is my age, not only shares the same passion as I do for storytelling, but shares the same philosophy I do regarding this country. "America isn't just a place, but a vision of what we want it to be."
The film left the audience with a quote from Kaur. "Stories can break down the wall dividing 'us' from 'them.'"
I highly encourage everyone to see this documentary for themselves. This film justifies that the skin of America isn't identified by a color but by the inspiration of the human race.
To learn more about this documentary, Valerie Kaur, and where the film is playing next, visit http://www.dwf-film.com.
First published: Tuesday, February 6, 2007