What happens when a candid and, according to some, unflattering snapshot of a stranger is posted online and goes viral? Much of what you’d expect… taunts, ridiculing, insults. But when Balpreet Kaur, a young Sikh woman who happens to have facial hair, stood her ground publicly and oh-so-eloquently, what followed was surprising. And infinitely heartening.
Balpreet, a student at Ohio State University, found out the photo was making the cyber-rounds after a Facebook friend wrote about it. The fact that she gave a dignified defence on Reddit, where the picture was circulating, was impressive in itself. Balpreet touched on the importance of her Sikh faith and why she won’t alter the body she was born with: “My attitude and thoughts and actions have more value in them than my body… By not focusing on the physical beauty, I have time to cultivate those inner virtues and hopefully, focus my life on creating change and progress for this world in any way I can,” reads her statement in part. “To me, my face isn’t important but the smile and the happiness that lie behind the face are.” Balpreet even added a colon-hyphen-parenthesis happy face as a friendly touch.
And here’s what happened next. The creep who took the picture apologized. Loudly. He humbly reached out to Balpreet, to all Sikhs, and to anyone else who had taken offense. “Put simply it was stupid,” he wrote, according to a CBC news story. “Making fun of people is funny to some but incredibly degrading to the people you’re making fun of. It was an incredibly rude, judgmental, and ignorant thing to post.”
Astounding. And just as the original post was followed by cruel comments from all kinds of people, Balpreet’s response and this man’s genuine apology were followed by statements of support and admiration.
As Tanya Edwards of New York City tweeted: “Person says something ignorant on Reddit, gets educated and then apologizes. Internet, you’re not so bad.” Today, I think Tanya speaks for all of us.