When I was asked to interview for the CBS special “Religion & Identity in Young America,” I hesitated at the idea of sharing my experience of being bullied with a national audience. But I also recognized this interview as an opportunity to share how I turned a debilitating experience into a catalyst for growth.
While attending school in New York City as a young child, I was relentlessly bullied because of my religious identity by other students and even teachers – I would be referred to as a “girl” and a “terrorist” by those who were unfamiliar with why I wore a patka on my head. The bullying became so unbearable that my family eventually moved to New Jersey so I could attend a different school.
Over the years, my family and I received vital free legal aid and community support from the Sikh Coalition in order to deal with these bullying incidents. But there was a time when I considered cutting my hair in order for the bullying to stop. However, thankfully, I never succumbed to this pressure.
I’ve learned that no one should be bullied for practicing their religion. Keeping my hair is part of my Sikh identity and, ultimately, who I am. Now that I am in high school, I have also become very involved with other Sikh youth at my local gurdwara because I want to show them that despite the bullying problem, they can still embrace their Sikhi without fear.
On March 31st, CBS will feature my full story examining religious-based bullying in schools. It will also include the perspectives of other Sikhs, as well as the Muslim and Jewish communities. This will be an incredible opportunity to examine how Sikhs and other religious communities are working to combat school bullying.
More than anything, I hope the CBS special will inspire other Sikh youth to know that they can achieve their dreams without sacrificing their faith. The episode will begin airing in regional media markets across the United States and digital platforms on March 31st.