I love hearing stories about grassroots efforts by individuals to stand up for the civil rights of themselves and others. After an exhausting week in DC knocking on the doors of Congress asking for the right for Sikhs to serve in the US Army, I was pleased to hear about resolution of an incident in Charlottesville, VA in which a Sikh UVA student was barred from entering a local restaurant because of his turban.
A variety of UVA student groups rallied around the student. In particular, the UVA Sikh Students’ Association (SSA) and the Indian Students’ Association (ISA) wrote to the restaurant, received a letter of apology in response, and met with the owners to discuss the incident further. In resolution of the matter, the groups are: (1) Conducting a formal training for the restaurant to prevent future incidents; (2) Taking steps to educate other local businesses about Sikhism and Sikh practices; and (3) Holding a “United Against Discrimination” event on April 22nd.
The students reached out to the Sikh Coalition for advice and resources, but did not ask us to intervene. It was great to see that the students were empowered to respond to the incident individually and collectively, and in a manner that addressed the concerns of the individual involved, the student body, and the wider Charlottesville community.
It is my understanding that the student who was barred was a freshman, and that SSA & ISA upperclassmen took the lead in responding to the incident. What a wonderful example they’ve set for the entire student body. Kudos to the students! Go Wahoos!