The day after terrorists bombed the World Trade Center, a bearded man in a turban on the New York subway wore around his neck a laminated card with the following words printed in bold letters: “Proud to be an American and a Sikh.”
Connected to a monotheistic religious tradition of Punjab, India, requiring him to wear the turban and beard, this man knew his appearance alone could be misconstrued in the aftermath of the attack.
He wanted those around him to have no doubt about his origins and his loyalties.
Ravi Bhalla felt the same way. Born in Passaic and raised in West Paterson as a soccer player and son of a typically diehard soccer mom, 9/11 brought forth for him a double tragedy.
“First, there was the unspeakable loss of 2,000 Americans, and then there was the difficulty at times of walking down the street with people yelling racial epithets at me and people mistakenly believing that we had some role,” said Bhalla.
Now one of six candidates in the runoff election for Hoboken City Council less than four weeks from now, part of Bhalla’s mission to this point has been to represent his community, demonstrating the Sikhs’ engagement in American civic life, and building on his and his brother’s work as civil rights attorneys.