The Michigan Daily recently published a piece by Jamie Bircoll called “In defense of ‘American Sniper’ ” that has apparently become “blinded by its own ideological trappings.” This take on the film not only highlights critical inherent biases (read: blind spots) of Mr. Bircoll, but also a form of white privilege in greater media that few Americans recognize. Where Mr. Bircoll is able to find the beauty while blissfully ignoring the real world implications of such a movie, people of color, like myself, have to live with those real world implications of the film. Mr. Bircoll can see the art in the film while people like me (read: brown people) deal with harmful repercussions of fear-mongering media.

Let me make myself clear: I have no position on this actor, and to a great extent Chris Kyle either, but I do have a strong take on the American film industry’s complex of developing highly profitable films based off of fear mongering via the depiction of geopolitical events. This fear mongering for the “other” as well stems off a highly common archetype in film where our country glorifies a white male character for killing people of color, or, in this film, “the outsiders.”

Whether or not we see the film as propaganda is irrelevant; the fact of the matter is that media does influence people in a variety of ways. How we choose to think about media and allow it to consume our consciousness is entirely up to us. However, we cannot choose how such films can influence others around us and the real ramifications that has.

When I leave the theatre after watching the film and hear people giddy with joy about wanting to “kill the sand ni**ers” or going to sign up for the armed forces in order to “get those god damn towelheads,” it is hard for me to see the ‘good art’ when I am worrying about the safety of my community. As a turban-wearing Sikh American, I constantly find myself navigating ignorance in the United States. You would be astounded walking behind me for a day and hearing misconceptions about those that look like me or even about those that share a similar skin color to mine. I have never had this experience living in London, studying abroad in Costa Rica or conducting research in Peru. Only in America. Why you might ask? The truth is that other countries have more educated populations and have more important things to worry about.

If you go on Twitter and type in the #ChrisKyle and #America, you will read the most hate-filled and ignorant excuses for a false sense of nationalism that you have ever read in your entire life. You will be bombarded with posts from thousands of Americans talking about how much they hate Muslims, or brown people, or people with turbans or literally people with foreign accents.

At this point you may ask yourself why this matters. So people are stupid from time to time and make uninformed opinions. Who really gets affected by some annoying words? Well, people that look like me get affected.

Most acts of violence that have been committed against Sikh American communities have been rooted in ignorance and from misunderstanding who Sikhs are as a people. To date, there has never been a terrorist attack committed by someone identifying with the Sikh faith in the United States. Yet by allowing cycles of fear mongering to perpetuate, people’s fears foster into hate and, in turn, into violence.

According to a report conducted by the non-profit Sikh Coalition organization, half of Sikh children report physical and verbal bullying in American schools due to being misidentified as terrorists. Last year, I had the honor of meeting Professor Prabhjot Singh of Columbia University, who was violently gang beaten in 2013 by several men in New York City after being mistaken for a terrorist. In August 2012, a white supremacist entered a gurdwara, a Sikh house of worship, in Oak Creek, Wisconsin and killed six Sikh Americans, having mistaken them as terrorists. Members of my religious family, the Sikh American community, have been killed. Today, there are still people who are scared to go to my local Gurdwara in Grand Rapids, Michigan because of the events that occurred on that day.

If we glorify the death of “outsiders” and do not acknowledge the political and real world ramifications of film, then it would be as if actions do not have consequences. If we create environment through media where disturbed people can think they are doing a service to society by killing people like me, then I think we would be fools not to understand the political and cultural ramifications that media can have.

So bless your heart, but I do not give a fuck about the art in “American Sniper.” I am more concerned with the implications of media, most prominently, it making it easier for people to justify hate and violence.

G.S. Suri is a Business and LSA junior.

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