‘Go home’ and ‘white power’ spray-painted among other hateful phrases in Santa Fe Indian restaurant
by Aysha Qamar
Since Sept. 11, South Asian and Middle Eastern Americans have often been targeted in bias or hate crimes, including those involving everyday discrimination, harassment, profiling, and physical violence. These crimes against immigrant communities, which are often underreported, continue to rise amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Returning to his restaurant, India Palace, in Santa Fe, New Mexico on Monday, Bajit Singh was met with a shock. His restaurant was completely destroyed, with racial slurs covering the walls. “White power,” “Trump 2020,” “go home,” and other phrases promoting white supremacy in addition to threats covered the walls, doors, counters, and other surfaces of his establishment. In addition to the restaurant being vandalized and deemed completely unusable, religious statues were beheaded and items were stolen. Singh, who has owned the restaurant since 2013, estimated the damage to be more than $100,000. Among items stolen, he told the Santa Fe Reporter, were items used to create weekly care packages for the local homeless. “We do a bag full of food and hygiene products,” Singh’s son, Baljot Singh, told the news outlet. “We throw in some cash—$5, $10.” Singh added that he had no reason to expect a hate crime to occur in his community.
The attack was reported to police on Monday by Cameron Brown, a friend of Singh’s son who works with Baljot to prepare meals for the homeless. “As soon as I walked into the door, I saw the buffet laying on the ground, busted open. On the door, I saw white supremacist stuff,” Brown told the Santa Fe New Mexican. “‘Go back home.’ ‘Go back to your country.'”
The incident, declared a “sickening and appalling” hate crime Tuesday by Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber, has resulted in both community outrage and support for the family. Hate crimes are defined as crimes intentionally committed due to bias or “hate” against a specific group or individual based on their race, identity, religion, or disability. “We need to stand up as a community and denounce this despicable act,” Webber said. “We will find whoever did it and punish them to the full extent of the law.
“The Singhs are a long-standing Sikh family that has used its own resources to feed homeless Santa Feans through the goodness of their hearts. For them to be attacked this way breaks our hearts. We absolutely reject racism, intolerance, and hate,” the statement continued. “As Mayor and as a community, we rise in unity to support the Singhs and their employees.”
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham shared similar sentiments on Twitter, saying that she spoke with Singh to remind him that the “community is with him” and will not stand for hate. Community members and others nationwide have come together to crowdfund the restaurant with various campaigns, which have been ongoing since Tuesday.
Advocacy groups on a local and national level, such as the Anti-Defamation League’s Mountain States Region and Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), condemned the vandalism and xenophobic attack.
“This disturbing hate attack once again demonstrates that growing white supremacy, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and racism target every minority community and must be challenged by people of all races, faiths and backgrounds,” CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper said in a statement. “We call on President Trump, whose name was used by the hate vandals, to stop promoting bigotry and division and instead seek to bring our nation together at this time of crisis.” In the past, CAIR has condemned other attacks on Sikh individuals and noted that Sikh men who wear articles of their faith are often targeted by bigots who mistake them for Muslims.
The Sikh Coalition released a statement Tuesday saying that the FBI—as well as local and state government leaders—are looking into this incident. “No community should ever experience this disgusting bigotry and racism,” said Sim Jeet Singh, senior manager of policy and advocacy at The Sikh Coalition. “We expect New Mexico’s elected officials, business owners, and faith leaders to join the Sikh community in unequivocally condemning this act of white supremacist hate. These racist acts are meant to divide us, but we are strongest when we stand together.”
Since Sept. 11, members of the Sikh community have been the target of a variety of hate crimes. As xenophobia and Islamophobia continue to abound in the country, many members of these communities who wear their religious garb in public fall victim to violence and statements like “go back to your country.”
The incident of hate the Singhs faced is not isolated. Various reports have shown Sikh business owners being targets of violence in the U.S. In April, another incident took place in which Lakhwant Singh, a Colorado store owner, was brutally attacked by a customer because of Singh’s faith. This perpetrator used racial slurs, referring to Lakhwant Singh as an Arab.
Attacks based on a person’s skin color, race, ethnicity, or any aspect of their identity should not be tolerated. We must stand up to xenophobia and end the cycle of violence that U.S. officials such as Trump encourage and perpetuate.
First published on Daily Kos