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What to Do About Discrimination: Pocket Guide

by Sikh Mediawatch and Resource Task Force, (SMART)


  1. Stay calm and show respect.
  2. Do not argue, resist or run.
  3. Keep your hands visible at all times.
  4. Comply with all requests for identification.
  5. If you are about to be searched and you are carrying a kirpan, alert the officer that you are wearing an article of faith known as a kirpan. Do not pull out the kirpan to show the officer unless you are instructed to do so.
  6. If you are arrested, make no statements to the police, immediately ask for a lawyer (and/or your parents). Thereafter you have the right to meet with a lawyer before and during questioning by the police.
  7. Write down all you can remember right away. Include the incident, officer's names, badge number, patrol car numbers and tags, witnesses' names, and other important things. Note any discourtesy or physical intimidation or contact.


  1. Seek safety immediately if you feel your personal safety is at risk.
  2. Document the incident as soon as possible after it occurs by writing down every relevant detail. Do not forget to get the names and phone numbers of witnesses.
  3. Call the police and file a report. Obtain a copy of the report for your records. If you are an immigrant and are uncertain about your status in the US, consult an immigration attorney prior to filing a report. You may additionally report the incident to the FBI or the Department of Justice.
  4. Contact the municipal, county and/or state prosecutor’s office about the incident and request that the matter be investigated and prosecuted expeditiously.
  5. Contact the bias crime or human rights office at the county, state and federal levels and request assistance with your case.
  6. Report the incident to SMART @ (877) 91-SIKHS.


Even if you are not a citizen, you have the right to be hired, and to work at your job, without discrimination based upon your race, gender, religion, or nationality. State and federal laws guarantee these rights. If you are a victim of such discrimination, make sure to:

  1. Inform your supervisor and human resources department in writing about the discriminatory incidents.
  2. Document the discrimination by keeping a detailed journal, saving memos, noting the presence of witnesses, and the dates.
  3. Report the discriminatory action in writing to the company management.
  4. Contact local county, state civil rights agencies and/or EEOC to educate yourself about legal options.
  5. Contact an attorney to discuss your case.
  6. DO NOT sign any document or resign without consulting an attorney.
  7. Contact SMART @ (877) 91-SIKHS to file a report.


You have the right to rent, purchase, sell, and finance a home or apartment without discrimination based upon your race, gender, religion, or nationality.

  1. Inform in writing all agents involved, including the realtor company and the lender/bank, in the housing transaction about the incident.
  2. Document the discrimination by saving all evidence of the housing transaction at issue and keeping a detailed journal of each incident, and the dates of the activity.
  3. Contact local, county or state civil rights agencies, or the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to educate yourself about your options.
  4. Contact an attorney to discuss your case if you wish to file a lawsuit.
  5. DO NOT sign any document without consulting an attorney.
  6. Contact SMART @ (877) 91-SIKHS to file a discrimination report.


As an airline passenger, you are entitled courteous, respectful and non-stigmatizing treatment by airline and security personnel. You have the right to complain about treatment that you believe is discriminatory.

  1. Ask to speak to a supervisor.
  2. Inform the supervisor that it is against federal law to discriminate, and ask if you have been singled out because of your looks, dress, race, ethnicity, faith, or national origin.
  3. Ask for the names and ID numbers of all persons involved.
  4. Ask witnesses to give you their names and contact information.
  5. Write down a statement of facts immediately after the incident. Be sure to include the airport, flight number, the flight date/time, and the name of the airline.
  6. Contact SMART and FAA to file a report. If you are leaving the country, leave a detailed message with the above information at this toll-free number 1-877-917-4547.


  1. Act quickly. Each incident must be dealt with when it happens, not when it is convenient.
  2. Determine all facts of the case. Try to get a response from the other party.
  3. Mobilize community support by informing the local gurdwara and community members.
  4. Decide on the appropriate action to be taken: Meet with appropriate officials, issue a statement from community leaders or local gurdwara, hold a press conference, or organize a letter writing campaign.
  5. Ask for attainable results like issuing a public apology or committing to change their policy.
  6. Stay on top of the situation by following up and keeping everyone involved informed with regular updates.
  7. Announce results. When the incident is resolved, make an announcement to all people and organizations involved. Send thank you notes to all individuals and officials who helped.

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© 2001 Sikh Mediawatch and Resource Task Force (SMART), PO Box 1761, Germantown, MD 20875-1761; tel: (877) 91-SIKHS; fax: (202) 318-4433;; Reprinted here with permission.

Founded in 1996 to promote the fair and accurate portrayal of Sikh Americans and the Sikh religion in American media and society, the SMART is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, grassroots membership based organization. Its mission is to combat bigotry and prejudice, protect the rights and religious freedoms of Sikh Americans, and provide resources that empower the Sikh American community. Membership in SMART is open to individuals, gurdwaras and Sikh organizations that share its goals and mission. Learn more in the SMART Partner Organization profile @ AAV or visit is committed to presenting diverse points of view. However, the viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at IMD.

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