Valarie Kaur: “Grieve with Us, Stand with Us, Reach Out to Us”

The civil rights lawyer, filmmaker, and Sikh American activist speaks out about the recent Indianapolis shooting, which killed four Sikh Americans.

Valarie Kaur speaking
Valarie Kaur speaks at a protest in 2017 (courtesy of Valarie Kaur)

The Juggernaut


April 19, 2021


8 min

After 9/11, Valarie Kaur, then an undergraduate at Stanford majoring in Religious Studies and International Relations, wanted to make sense of the world. She had been born in Clovis, California; her grandfather had left India in 1913 to settle in America as a farmer. Suddenly, people were calling men and women who looked like her terrorists. So she embarked on a journey across the country with a car, her cousin Sonny, a map, and the stories she was hearing within her community about the violence and discrimination against them. She would highlight what she found in the immediate post-9/11 world in a documentary called Divided We Fall (2006).

In the documentary, Kaur voices over: “it can be a little depressing to read about all the reasons people kill each other,” but there’s a “deeper truth”: the stories we tell ourselves determine whether we stand united as a community or divide ourselves based on differences. She captures the story of a Sikh man who was viciously attacked by boys with paintball guns; she memorializes Balbir Singh Sodhi, who was shot at his own gas station in cold blood; she meets with Swaran Bhullar, who was attacked with a knife while she was sitting in her own car.

Now, the Sikh community is grieving again. A shooting at a FedEx facility on Thursday evening left eight dead; four were Sikh American: Amarjeet Johal, 66; Jaswinder Kaur, 64; Jaswinder Singh, 68; Amarjit Sekhon, 48. Matthew R. Alexander, 32; Samaria Blackwell, 19; Karlie Smith, 19; and John Weisert, 74, were also killed. All were FedEx employees and were killed by a former FedEx employee, Brandon Scott Hole, 19. And since 9/11, in 2012, a gunman killed six at a gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.

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