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9/11- Through my eyes

POSTED September 10, 2013 9:58 p.m.

 

September 11, 2001. A day that shook the world, the country, and every single pair of eyes that watched those two towers go down. However, amongst the millions of pairs of eyes that were glued to the television screen watching these atrocities unfold, there was another pair that wasn’t looking at the screen. Instead, these eyes were looking at the faces of its family. Faces that stood with open mouths and wide eyes. These eyes were confused. These eyes were still only half open, because they had just woken up. These eyes belonged to an 11-year-old child from a small town in the Bay Area. These were my eyes. Every American remembers where they were and what they were doing that morning and how that act of terror changed their lives. Some mourned, some began pointing political fingers, some railed war cries, and some, began to live in fear. I was one of those who chose the last option.

 

Why? Because as long as I can remember I have worn a turban and after that date, it became much more than just a piece of cloth.

My family and I belong to the Sikh faith and one of the principles of the religion is to allow your beard and hair to grow as a testament to the faith you have chosen. Unfortunately, our faith became the source of a very sad and unfortunate hate. This hate was fueled by ignorance, fear and an unjustified sense of xenophobia.  In the months following the attacks of 9/11, more than 300 incidences of hate crimes against Sikhs were reported, according to the Sikh Coalition, an activist group based out of New York. And although that may not seem like a staggering statistic, it’s the reasoning behind that statistic that baffles me. Three hundred incidents of Americans, being attacked due their outwardly aesthetic appearance. The idea of an elderly man not being able to take a walk through his community without being harassed or being associated with terrorists who he nor his faith have any relation to, is what absolutely baffles me.

I understand that hate crimes exist and I understand that many of the times they are perpetuated by stereotypes. But, in this case, there was no correlation. Absolutely none. The only thing worse than hate, is hate fueled by a lack of knowledge. 

 

To be an American, even for an 11-year-old, means a lot. I am proud of the country I was born in, and I was even more proud to pledge allegiance to the flag that day in September. As a member of this minority group, I can continue to bash the ignorance that is prevalent in mainstream society. I can criticize those 70 percent of Americans who misidentify turban-wearers as Muslim (48 percent), Hindu, Buddhist or Shinto, when in truth, almost all men in the U.S. who wear turbans are Sikh Americans, whose faith originated in India. I can do that. However, nothing progressive will come out of that scrutiny. Instead, I would like to urge education and perspective. So, to those who continue to conjure thoughts of bigotry and violence, try looking through the eyes of someone who wears a turban, because who you choose to look at doesn’t make you a true American; it’s how you choose to look at others. Perspective, in every sense of the word, is everything.

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