Dilveer Singh Vahali writes an Op-Ed in the Los Angeles Times in which he reflects on when he was subjected to “terrorist” epithets in public:
I was on my way to lunch with one of the partners at a prestigious law firm when we both heard it: a random person on the street yelling at me, “Terrorist … hey, terrorist!”
I was in the process of trying to secure a job. Like any other law school student, I just wanted to fit in at the firm where I was spending my summer. I smiled and changed the subject, avoiding what would inevitably be an awkward conversation, even though the taunts tore me up inside.
As I read through his piece, I found his reflections paralleled that of my own. And, I too have been subjected to similar experiences.
I shared one such instance that occurred to me on the night of President George Bush’s re-election in 2004 in a recent interview with Multi-American, the blog for Southern California Public Radio:
Once, while going through a drive-through at a fast food restaurant, while I was attempting to place my order from my car window, a woman walked up to my car and accused me of being a terrorist, and that I was going to blow up the country. She asked me if I had a bomb in my trunk and said she was going to call the police. The person who was taking my order through the speaker must have heard, because an employee came out from the restaurant and took her inside.
As Sikh Americans, we are faced with reconciling different definitions of what it is to be American — Constitutional versus cultural. It is not an academic exercise but one that impacts our daily lives.
Further, Sikhs are often playing defense in this exercise and the strategy we often use is to demonstrate that our faith’s values mirror those enshrined in the founding of this country (despite that those values pre-date this country), the real struggle is on the cultural front, and is an indication of how out-of-step much of America is with its own stated values.
You can read Dilveer Singh’s full Op-Ed in the Los Angeles Times here.