During this past presidential election, some people were left under the impression that the United States isn’t for everyone. This presidential election has also paved the way for people who were silently intolerant to express their racism and discrimination in word and deed.
A Muslim girl by the name of Janna was kicked off the school bus at Provo City School District in Utah. The bus driver via the bus’s intercom called to Janna, “Hey you with the blue hair thing, get off the bus, you don’t belong here” because she got on the wrong bus, which was on the same bus route she’s been taking to school since Middle School.
According to Janna, after asking the bus driver if she can stay on the bus, the bus drive used her arms to block the walkway in the bus, and told her again to get off the bus. Can you imagine being in her shoes at that moment, being singled out and told she didn’t belong on the bus in front of all her peers? This bus driver caused Janna unwarranted humiliation and rejection. This makes one wonder about the intention of the bus driver, since it is a common route and she’s rode with other bus drivers without a problem. The bus driver showed her ignorance of Janna’s faith and religious garment by humiliating her and then kicking her off the bus to fend for herself in the cold. As noted in the article, “I think had Janna not been wearing a hijab that this would have perhaps been handled differently” (The Arab American News).
Long before people in the United States learned that the name of the headdress is “hijab” many referenced it as a headscarf. Unfortunately, the bus driver called it a “thing” to minimized the hijab’s significance for Janna and the millions of Muslim girls and women who wear it. Not to mention, the bus driver may have probably known how to reference the hijab or scarf, but instead used the term “thing” due to her lack of cultural sensitivity and tolerance.
The problem is, we have people who do not care to learn about different cultures and religions, and similarly others who do not want anyone different from them to be in their communities. Unfortunately, there is no room for this kind of attitude in today society; where minority groups have become the majority. People must embrace their humanity and the humanity of others no matter what their race or religion is. When we isolate and alienate people because they are different, we are also isolating and alienating ourselves from our fellow human beings that have more in common with us than differences.
We are going to be tested constantly on our ability to care for one another, our ability to be knowledgeable, respectful, and appreciative. We need to embrace our vast diversity and create a bond no one or group can break. The world was made for everyone to coexist. No barrier or wall can take that away, and it should be our mission collectively to protect freedom of religion and expression.
The silver lining in Janna’s incident, is her parents saw the ignorance within the school district and called upon the district to implement cultural sensitivity training for its personnel. I applaud them for seeing the necessity to do so. This should be a mandate for every school district in the United States. When the adults we entrust our children with for half of their waking hours can see beyond the color of their skin, the language they speak or their cultural dress, our children will feel comfortable to learn and develop the self-esteem they rightfully deserve.
Our quest should be to help school professionals embrace diversity through thoughtful and meaningful training that will leave each professional to feel that every child they work with is no differently than their very own.