I am almost always selected to be "randomly searched" at security checkpoints when I'm in a U.S. airport.
It's not because I look threatening.
It may be because of the color of my skin.
But it is most probably because I am traveling with my father, and he wears a turban.
It's not a coincidence that out of a whole line of people, the TSA officers always decide to make "friendly conversation" with me, inquiring about the nature of my trip, how long I'll be traveling for, and where I'll be staying. If they asked my father, it would obviously be racial profiling. So they ask me, the brown-skinned girl traveling with the "suspicious" man in the turban.
I find it incredibly sad that here in the 21st century, in one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world, the mere presence of an article of faith will immediately arouse suspicion.
The suspicion is not derived from hatred. It stems from simply not knowing.
It is often argued that ignorance is a byproduct of a lack of education. I could not agree more. But when I refer to ignorance, I do not mean the blatant disregard for learning or lack of desire to be educated. I mean the absence of an opportunity to learn.
People like to point fingers when it comes to ignorance. I hear it time and again – "Sikhism is the 5th largest religion in the world. If people don't know about it, it's because they are ignorant." But let's get one thing straight - you can't expect someone to understand your beliefs if you don't give them the opportunity to learn. Did you do your part in educating them? If we all sit here silent, expecting other people to figure it out for themselves, we're going to be stuck here for a very, very long time.
Fortunately, most people in America do practice tolerance when it comes to religious beliefs. They don’t go around protesting or persecuting people who follow a different religion. But tolerating and understanding are two different things. Tolerance and ignorance can coexist. Understanding and ignorance cannot. So the only way to really eradicate ignorance is through education.
Yes, ignorance is a problem. But it’s not just their problem. It’s your problem too.
Let’s do our part in educating the public before we play the blame game.
Here’s to a better tomorrow, unclouded by suspicion.