One of the most explicit challenges in my journey thus far has been getting in touch with Sikhs outside the “middle class.” The term middle class itself means quite a few different things and has many self-identifiers. I view the middle class as those fortunate enough to provide a sustainable lifestyle for themselves, those who have established themselves in these Americas and are living decently above the poverty line. It’s easy getting in touch with this class. Most of my contacts and their networks fall within the lifestyle rings that identify as middle class. But middle class does not define all Americans and it definitely does not define all Sikhs here in America.
So many Sikhs, like any other demographic are still facing everyday struggles to make enough money to put food on the table for their families. Hopes of opportunity and new life is what brings people to America, but what happens when the capitalist dream requires capital – economic, symbolic, or cultural? Sometimes, the capital just doesn’t add up in the best way. Taxi cab drivers, truck drivers, gas station workers, day laborers, farmers – these are all occupations that contribute to the makeup of the Sikh American population. We aren’t all “professionals” in the quotidian use of the term. These are populations I cannot necessarily contact through email or even in English. I need phone numbers, guides, and people more integrated than I to talk to the men, women and children of the Sikh working class. This is harder than I thought it would be but it is now becoming a significant focus of my documentation efforts.
Peace to you,
P.S. An anonymous comment on the “Gurdwara Politics” post pointed out that I may not have contextualized my particular background as well as I could have. Thank you for the comment. I do come from that ‘middle class’ background. I recognize the privilege that such a background gives me and I am hoping to break down and understand that privilege on this journey. I am undertaking this project because I want to capture the stories of all Sikhs – regardless of socioeconomic background and as part of that goal, there are real and practical obstacles to accessing individuals of different class, education, cultural, and language backgrounds. It’s a learning experience and I hope that this blog enables others to learn with me.