Before 9/11, Deepjyot had only accumulated positive experiences while growing up in rural Ohio. Her teachers were caring, her classmates — though different than her — were welcoming, and she was able to find balance between her Western identity and Sikh and Punjabi roots.
When the attacks took place during her first year of high school, everything seemed to change in an instant.
"All of a sudden, kindness and open-mindedness weren't the norm; stares, questions, and judgment were. My turban-wearing father and brother were no longer interesting aberrations from 'normal' dress; they were deemed to be potentially affiliated with violent and scary terrorists."
"Overnight, I became afraid of the terrorists who had committed this horrific crime upon my country and afraid of people in my country who were judging and attacking people who looked like my family, who looked like me."
As she got older, Deepjyot realized people's biases about appearance were at the root of the problem.
"I fear the insidiousness of normalizing certain appearances and othering those that do not mirror the accepted norm. This kind of persistent othering is powerfully infiltrative through its subtle and nuanced messaging."
According to Deepjyot, the heart of the solution lies in intention.
"To offset a universally recognized image like that of Osama bin Laden can feel impossible. To oppose discrimination based on race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or any 'other' will require a deliberate intention to expand what we accept as 'normal' and to reexamine what we distinguish as 'other.'”