Choosing identity: American or Indian?

Simran Jeet Singh (photo: ING Runner's Nation Facebook page)

Simran Jeet Singh (photo: ING Runner's Nation Facebook page)

Simran Jeet Singh, who will be running the ING New York City Marathon (as a featured runner) in three days, writes in the Huffington Post  about his identities as a Sikh, American, and Indian, and the role that the Indian state-sponsored atrocities of 1984 against the Sikh people (and others since) has played into how he reconciles the various labels:

Yet I find that the values and ideals of my religion, Sikhism, resonate more closely with those of America. Like the Sikh religion, the U.S. is founded on freedom, equality and justice. This is the appeal of America and it’s precisely why my parents immigrated here.

Thinking through all this has helped me develop a deeper appreciation of how fortunate and proud I am to be American. It’s also become increasingly clear to me that I don’t identify with the Indian State.

I often use the terms “American Sikh” and “Sikh American” interchangeably, but being a Sikh is as fundamental to my identity as being a male human being.  I was born in India, and I’ve similarly reflected on how common the values of Sikhism are to those of the United States.  The events of 1984 in India has also played a large part in how I view myself in terms of nationality, and in that sense, when given the choice, it is easier for me to identify myself as an American rather than an Indian.

However, regardless of that choice, I will always be a Sikh, and it is a testament to the values of this country that I can do so freely.

PS: Simran Jeet Singh is one of six featured runners of the ING New York City Marathon who are sharing their stories as they prepare for the race.  One of these six will be chosen as the Grand Prize Winner based on the number of votes they receive each day.  You can vote (daily) for Simran Jeet at the ING Runner’s Nation Facebook page.


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