White Supremacy and the Chirstchurch Shooting

In this episode of Sacred Tension I talk to multi-faith activist Tahil Sharma about white supremacy, the Christchurch shooting in New Zealand, and overcoming oppression. 

Tahil Sharma is a Southern California native born to a Hindu and Sikh Indian family. He is a nationally recognized leader promoting religious and secular pluralism, human rights, and social justice. Tahil works as the Faith Outreach Manager for Brave New Films, an organization that champions social justice issues by using a model of media, education, and grassroots volunteer involvement that inspires, empowers, motivates and teaches civic participation. Tahil also serves as an Interfaith Minister in Residence for the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, the LA Coordinator for Sadhana: A Coalition of Progressive Hindus, and as a Religious Director for the Office of Religious Life at the University of Southern California.

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9 thoughts on “White Supremacy and the Chirstchurch Shooting

  1. The shootings in Christchurch was not about white America. It saddens me that every time something like this happens in the world America instantly focuses on itself.

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    1. That’s an interesting observation, thanks for sharing. I do encourage you to listen to the full interview, because I think there might be some nuance Tahil shares that might be missed here. I want to make sure my guest is given a fair take. But your comment is very interesting, and worthy of introspection.

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      1. I have listened with care. To be frank, much of the world – and this comes from sharing with many friends across the globe, including all my friends in the USA – we are getting a little tired of the USA’s take on everything. This shooting was not just another white guy losing the plot, this was not just another shooting somewhere in the world, this was a significant first in Aotearoa New Zealand. For this young nation to go through this is one of the most traumatic instances in our short existence. To simply lock it in with similar instances in other parts of the world, or, as I have suggested, to turn the focus on the USA ( appreciating, perhaps, that that is where the majority of your audience is ) verges on the crass.

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      2. I really appreciate that perspective, and I thank you for sharing. I also appreciate you listening to the interview in full. I will include this comment in my weekly Sunday post, in which I list helpful responses. I understand how, as (I assume) a citizen of New Zealand, a discussion like this can be deeply hurtful to you. I accept that rebuke, and I will try to do better next time. I will also fully admit that America has a narcissism problem, and even as I am aware of that problem, those are the waters I swim in, so I probably perpetuate it.

        There are also a few counter points I’d like to bring up:
        – Tahil comes from a multi-ethnic, multi-religious background, and I personally hear him speaking from that posture. I get hearing American-centrism from me, but less so from him. Am I missing something in what he said?
        – I hear his primary message being one of showing up for religious minorities, no matter where they are. That’s the note the conversation ended on, and it’s the most significant piece that I (and I hope others) took away from this conversation. I think the message is for all people to say “fuck you” to supremacy culture by standing in solidarity with minorities, no matter where we are in the world.
        – Finally, and I might be completely off base here, I think that American culture does, in fact, play a roll in an incident like this. The alt-right online culture, which the gunman was steeped in, is a product of American and European white nationalism. He gave talking points in his manifesto which mirror those developed on 4chan, by numerous American, Canadian, and British reactionaries, etc. I think that, to a degree, America created the online culture which encouraged this gunman, and we absolutely should pause do a serious moral inventory.

        However, all of those things can be true while acknowledging your point about American centrism and naval gazing. It’s a difficult balance, and I accept my limitations. I more than welcome your response.

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      3. Thank you for taking the time to share your criticisms with me. I take them seriously. I was wrong to make the conversation first and foremost about American culture, while not acknowledging the horrible grief New Zealand must be living through right now. Many thanks for your comment, and please feel free to come back and comment any time.

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  2. Brgeem, greetings to you.

    I read and deeply appreciate what you said. I apologize if any of my comments came off as insensitive, harmful, or selfish as New Zealand continues to process and heal from the trauma of the attack.

    You are totally valid when the American standpoint, response, and media circus takes over a narrative. All too often, this is the unfortunate norm of a hegemon like the United States. PM Ardern’s immediate action and solidarity and the response of all the locals spoke more volumes to me than of anything that could’ve come as a response to this tragedy.

    What you even consider as borderline “crass” is fully valid. We have a tendency to do this and I also apologize for not recognizing how much our focus needs to be on the community (in the spotlight or not) and also giving the communities impacted the space and time to be able to heal properly without tangentially focusing on how we feel about this. It’s an important point that I actually have raised countlessly on social media, in conversations, and in the work that I do as an activist on the ground.

    To be honest with you, the reason why I speak from the perspective that I come from is of a few things:

    1) I’ve worked with communities of faith for years to be more civically engaged and inclined to work with their friends and loved ones from other communities of faith, spirituality, and moral conscience;

    2) I’ve been hearing parallel narratives that actually are intersecting; although the US does not need to give its opinion, the assailants/terrorists that attacked the two mosques were influenced and motivated by American pundits, politicians, and counterparts who committed similar attacks. The point that I want to make sure is that we are interconnected by the circumstances that led to the attacks just as much as by the solidarity that must be committed to in supporting victims; and

    3) My need to address this as a “White America” narrative is most definitely a more expansive message for majority communities around the world. I brought it up in the podcast that as we exit the comfort of our majority, the politics and need for representation changes and that we cannot ignore any message or narrative of injustice inflicted on minority communities. I would say the same for White America, Hindu India, a secular France or China, a Muslim Saudi Arabia or Iran, or anywhere else in the world.

    Please do not take my commentary as taking away from the heart and spirit of the Hakas or the rings of protection or the interfaith messages that came from the incident. What I bring to this is merely an introspective look on what we must learn and do better as New Zealand sets an example for the world on how to respond to hate, ignorance, and division.

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  3. Thank you for your heart warming response. One small point ( or large, depending on where one stands ) – there are voices on the North American continent who desire they swap their President with our Prime Minister. As the expression goes, hell will freeze over before that happens. People of the USA, you have zero hope on that one! Much love – Pax.

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  4. Haha, very well said. The desire is there, but the choice was (unfortunately) ours, however, we’ve set up our own system. A lot of work ahead that needs to be done. And we must do it together. Much love to our Kiwi community and glad to support however we can and should (and it some cases, shouldn’t.) 🙂

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