A young man’s racist Snapchat story is going viral after he implied a fellow flight passenger was a terrorist and that the plane was at risk, all because he had a turban. That guy, however, was Sikh, practicing a religion that believes one’s hair should grow naturally out of respect for God.
The Snapchatter, who has been identified as a student in the Eastern Hancock Schools in central Indiana, was on his way to Indianapolis when he posted a photo of the Sikh passenger with the caption, “Never mind I might not make it to Indy.” He added several updates, including one with the Sikh man sleeping and the words, “I’m still alive.”
Simran Jeet Singh, a senior religion fellow for the Sikh Coalition and an assistant professor of religion at Trinity University, publicized the Snaps on Twitter.
This series of snaps should give you a sense of what it's like for anyone who appears to be Muslim to travel by plane. *Thread* pic.twitter.com/9uHoVH4f6E
— Simran Jeet Singh (@SikhProf) June 22, 2017
Singh added that, as a Sikh who flies frequently, he is “no stranger to the uncomfortable stares and misguided fears people have of me.”
“I try to live my life by the Sikh maxim, “Fear none, frighten none.” I think about this teaching often when I travel… How do I retain my confidence and dignity on an airplane while also being thoughtful not to strike fear in the hearts of others?… I think twice about getting up to use the restroom. I feel self-conscious when opening the overhead bin to take something out of my luggage… I use my values to guide my decisions in these moments. It’s a shame that we even have to think about such things — but it’s our reality… I look forward to the day when our kids can travel freely, without having to worry about what others might be thinking or saying about them.”
After the thread went viral, the Snapchatter’s school district officials said they were aware of the “offensive, racially insensitive posts.”
Eastern Hancock administrators and staff do not condone, nor can we justify this type of behavior for any reason. As an educational institution, our priority is to prepare students to become successful members of a diverse world community. Therefore, we are seeking legal advice for avenues to address the student’s unacceptable behavior in accordance with national and state law, and local policy. Making an ugly situation worse, another local student embellished the post with false claims and encouraged public response. We are working with the administrators of that student’s school district for a legal resolution as well.
In this age of social media, it is imperative that educators and parents partner to make our students/children aware of the consequences of a picture or comment. Once information is out in cyberspace it cannot be called back, nor contained. Unfortunately, this incident, which may have been intended to be amusing, is not only deeply offensive, it has done considerable damage to many individuals.
I couldn’t agree with the school district more. If this was indeed meant to be a “joke,” it was an offensive and harmful one. The student not only wrongly assumed the Sikh man was a Muslim, he went on to falsely imply that all Muslims are terrorists. This racist behavior is indefensible, even as a joke, and it happens way more often than it should.