“I’m not the one that’s a freak, I’m fully Sikh”
Sukhjit Kaur Khalsa, 21, delivered her heartfelt poetic performance and left Australias Got Talent with an unforgettable message…
The audience, judges and home viewers were all hit loud and clear, with an overdue message, on arguably one of the nation’s biggest and most shameful issues – discrimination and racism.
In order to understand the girl behind the voice, have a read of our latest interview with Sukhjit herself.
What does it mean to be Sikh?
3 principals guide our day: daily spiritual practise, working hard to earn your keep, and sharing your wealth with others.
Singh and Kaur: Founders of Sikhi wanted everyone to be at an equal playing field. So they raised everyone to a platform. Made everyone kings and queens. Elevated society not brought it down.Guru Nanak rejected exclusivism and caste hierarchy or existing religious traditions. Instead, he created a highly egalitarian society in which all human beings were treated with dignity and seen as equals. I endeavour to practice these teaching in my daily life.
Everyone assumes that to be a Sikh or a Khalsa, it’s unattainable or something you do when you’re old and wise however I believe it is possible to be spiritual and practice your values in everyday moments. We need to break down the boundaries of what a Sikh looks like or acts like as everyone has the right to express themselves and we, as a society/community, need to embrace individuality instead of shunning down our youth. I believe we are all equal and I was lucky to be given this surname Khalsa by my parents so I will wear it with pride. The Sikh message promotes equality so despite me being grown up in the west, that shouldn’t change the fact that I want to make a difference and be proud to be a Sikh. I want to practice what I preach.
Sikhs been around for at least 200 years. Sikh Doctors and businessmen created the foundations of Australia and fought as ANZACs. Many left during White Australia era. Some continued to stay in small farming communities in Australia. The Sikh vision seeks to create an open, progressive society while developing an organised resistance to injustices.I believe in respect for all, no matter what your background is, Sikh, Muslim, Christian, Atheist, everyone has the right to practice their values as long as it doesn’t harm anyone.
When people abuse my family, it questions my Australian identity. Nothing’s stopping me from being an Australian Sikh. If an open progressive society isn’t Team Australia, then what is!
Who is your inspiration and why?
Rosa Parks. Like our Gurus, Rosa stood up for what she believed in despite being marginalised due to the colour of her skin or gender.
Nina Simone. Nina uses singing/performing to shed a light on political and social issues.
My family. Each one of them have curated a little part of me and I owe my success to them. If I didn’t have the freedom to express myself and explore Sikhi and my femininity – I believe I would be a very different Kaur today.
What is the meaning of discrimination, based on your experiences?
A hate crime (also known as a bias-motivated crime) is a prejudice-motivated crime, often violent, which occurs when a perpetrator targets a victim because of his or her membership (or perceived membership) in a certain social group.
This movement isn’t just about spreading awareness about who Sikhs are. It’s about standing up as a human being and voicing our intolerance towards discrimination.
Whether you are Indigenous, an asylum seeker, have a disability, are marginalised for the colour of your skin, religion, gender, sexuality or status in society – you have rights.
The right to live in your country.
The right to be respected by members of society.
The right to be free.
What makes you Australian? Is it mateship? If so, why is my dad called a terrorist and not your mate. Is it a fair go? If so, why are 37 Australian born babies being deported to danger on #Nauru and NOT given a fair go?
I Googled Australian Values and this is what came up:
· Respect for the equal worth, dignity and freedom of the individual
· Freedom of religion and secular government
· Equality of men and women
· Equality of opportunity, regardless of race, religion or ethnic background
· A spirit of egalitarianism that embraces mutual respect, tolerance, fair play, compassion for those in need and pursuit of the public good
These values are aligned with Sikh values and the core of a lot of faiths. So why do we only see the differences instead of how normal, human and REAL we all are.
Your message…Is to fight racial discrimination, not through anger but love and compassion. How did you come to this understanding?
It’s that message of courage to face our fears. Standing up for what we believe in. Standing up for human rights. The right to live in a country and belong to a country. Practising Sikhi in our everyday lives with love and compassion.
Remembering that Guru Nanak Dev Ji was a rebel for his time. He shifted the paradigm. Even when society was against him, he wasn’t afraid to share what he believed in.
In a post 9/11 era, I’ve grown up in a society that can be harmonious and accepting as well as intolerant and discriminatory. We have the power to educate and sometimes people forget there are different avenues you can do that in. Before they shut down the arts, and the road less travelled – maybe it’s time to open up our minds to a new progressive way of thinking!
A lot of people in our community are proud to be a Sikh and are proud to share that message with society but when they are tested at a point where they get racist comments spat at them. What do they do with that anger? They turn it into hatred for ‘the other’ and shoot fire right back! I don’t think that is the Sikh way to deal with things. We need to spread awareness strategically with love, compassion, and creativity.
My message isn’t about igniting anger in those who have ever received discrimination in the past. My message is about igniting passion to make a positive change. Standing up as a Sikh with Sikh values and a Sikh upbringing and using those tools to help those who are voiceless. The disabled. The marginalised. Those persecuted due to their religion, gender, race, sexuality, etc.
What advice would you say to any sikh girl facing racial discrimination anywhere in the world?
I have a passion for theatre and acting. I love how it can transform an audience to a new realm of thinking and how it has the ability to teach. I believe as a young woman from the Sikh Diaspora, I leave the house every morning with a duty to represent the Sikh community to the best of my ability.
Redefining beauty standards that the media portrays..
Some of you might be thinking why I don’t hide the hair on my legs. Not only it being part of Sikh Identity and Feminism, it is simply practical! Growing up in Perth’s heat you kinda have to adapt. While the external is just a percentage of what makes you a Sikh, I believed it is something that is important to me and is a symbol for accepting and loving the way I was created. Feeling of freedom as I go for a run and the cool breeze blows through each individual hair. I love that feeling! So no, Veet, – THIS is what beauty feels like.
When I was a kid my brother once told me that, ”Sukhjit, you have to make sure your personality is just so exuberant that no one honestly even pays attention to what your external looks like because they are too busy in awe of your internal awesomeness.”When people stare at my hair on public transport or in a Woolies line, I just smile or spark up a convo and have a joke about it!
Be Brave. Be Beautiful. Be that Lioness!