A Dream in Doubt began in the dark hours following the flood of images featuring 9/11’s turbaned and bearded terrorists. My Sikh-American friends — who also wore turbans and beards in accordance with their faith — immediately felt the backlash of misdirected anger, but no one was truly prepared for Balbir Singh Sodhi’s murder on September 15, 2001. This was America’s first post-9/11 revenge killing, a Sikh gas station owner shot to death in Mesa, Arizona. Though many Americans recall hearing about this story, it was ultimately a blip in the media amidst the chaos of the 9/11 attacks.
Over the next two years, I watched as this phenomenon received no national analysis or significant media coverage. Why wasn’t America talking about this hate? I was raised in a small southern Tennessee town, as the daughter of civil rights activists and a United Methodist minister. My childhood dinner conversations included discussions about promoting inclusion, and how “each of us is personally responsible for insuring it.”
Although I am not Sikh, I had previously produced an educational media project for the Sikh-American community, and felt I could gain access to the Sodhi family to tell their story. When I contacted the Sodhis in May 2003, I learned that another member of the Sikh community had recently been shot in a hate crime. At this point, with support from my parents and a Sikh-American co-producer, I knew there was no turning back. I began chronicling the Sodhi family’s experience, which represents the hate that many Americans have endured throughout the years; though this time there weren’t white hoods and burning crosses, but rather, Americans attacking their fellow Americans.
Today, five years after 9/11, the issue of hate crimes against “suspicious-looking” Americans continues to be germane. As Hollywood films dramatizing 9/11 hit theaters and the “global war on terror” continues, Americans who are, or appear to be of, Arab or Muslim descent, regularly face questions about their faith and loyalty to America. While there have been other post-9/11 films about national security, civil liberties, and honored heroes, A Dream in Doubt is the first to explore hate crimes on a familial level. It offers a uniquely personal perspective about life in post-9/11 America. And for me, the Sodhi family’s story represents the country’s core values of freedom, justice, and the American dream.
— Tami Yeager
Tami Yeager, Producer/Director
Yeager made her independent feature documentary debut with A Dream in Doubt. She previously produced award-winning films for national television networks, public broadcasting, and nonprofits. Prior to beginning production on A Dream in Doubt, she co-produced an hour-long documentary about infertility for MSNBC, two half-hour documentaries about education for ABC News and PBS, and a comprehensive film-based school curriculum package about Sikh children. She has covered a wide range of subjects, including youth issues, culture, criminal justice, religion, science, health, and the arts. Previously based in San Francisco, she currently resides in New York and is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C.