How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

'A woman walked up to my car and accused me of being a terrorist': Life as an American Sikh

Wisconsin Community Pays Respects To Sikhs Killed In Shooting Rampage

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

A man attends a memorial service for victims of the Aug. 5 shooting in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, Aug. 10, 2012

Two Sundays ago, a known white supremacist entered a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin and opened fire, killing six temple members before killing himself.

In the public mourning that has followed the murders of Satwant Kaleka, Sita Singh, Ranjit Singh, Suveg Singh Khattra, Prakash Singh, Paramjit Kaur, some seldom-heard voices have emerged. Several Americans Sikh writers have provided a glimpse of what life has been like for a little-understood minority in the United States, with roots in India, in the years since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

That tragedy that was soon followed by the tragic and sometimes fatal targeting of Sikhs, whose turbans make them stand out, along with Muslims. Sikhs are neither Hindu nor Muslim. But as blogger and English professor Amardeep Singh wrote in a widely circulated post that wound up in the New York Times, "I don't know if the shooter would have acted any differently if he had really known the difference between the turbans that many Sikh men wear and a much smaller number of Muslim clerics wear -- or for that matter, the difference between Shias, Sunnis, and Sufis, or any number of specificities that might have added nuance to his hatred."

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Dissecting culture's role in decision-making

Photo by Anthony Albright/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Choosing among the dozens of brands in the bread, peanut butter and jam aisle, February 2010

On the heels of weeks of Christmas shopping in stores filled with far too many perplexing choices, New American Media published a great Q&A this weekend with Columbia University business professor Sheena Iyengar, author of the book "The Art of Choosing."

Iyengar, who was raised as a Sikh, spoke with Sandip Roy on the program New America Now. She discussed how one's cultural background plays a bigger than expected role in the way decisions are made. An excerpt from the interview:

It’s not just about how choice is regarded from culture to culture—does culture affect what we regard as choice in the first place?

Absolutely. I give you a set of 10 sodas. Do you see that as one choice or 10 choices? That varies tremendously as a function of your culture. Asians wouldn’t see that as a choice, because they are wondering what is the host expecting me to choose. Americans see that as 10 choices. Members of ex-communist countries see that as one choice: soda. They see the differences between the brands as utterly meaningless.

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