June 21's Fact of the Week: Balbir Singh Sodhi

Parallel to the death of Vincent Chin, on September 15, 2001, Balbir Singh Sodhi was murdered from a hate-crime that targeted Arabs and South Asians in an incident four days after the World Trade Center fell. Born in Punjab, India, Sodhi immigrated to the United States to chase after the American dream. After working two jobs at a convenience store clerk and as a taxicab driver, he made enough money to send back home to support his family and also to own a gas station in Mesa, Arizona. After the September 11 attacks, however, tensions arose in the community. Frank Roque was an aircraft mechanic at the time who was deeply flustered and angered. He wanted to enact revenge by “shooting some towel-heads” and stereotyped through appearance and dress attire. As a result, on the day of the murder, Roque drove to the gas station owned by Sodhi and singled him out for his turban, beard, and clothing. He fired his handgun from his truck and hit Sodhi five times killing him instantly before driving off to another gas station to continue his hateful attack. Sodhi represented the first of many hate-crimes that sprouted after the September 11 attacks. More than ever, after the shooting the community moved to educate and fight against racial profiling, hate-crime, and xenophobia, to prevent similar incidents from ever happening.