In November 2008, three Sikh musicians boarded a US Airways flight from Sacramento to Salt Lake City. Like many Sikh men, they were wearing turbans and long beards.
They didn't make it to Salt Lake that day. After the men took their seats, US Airways removed them from the plane.
Why? It's difficult to know. US Airways has declined to comment. But according to a group that represents Sikhs in this area, US Airways removed the men because a passenger complained about being afraid of them.
If this is true, it suggests that both airlines and their passengers haven't progressed much since the fearful days that followed 9/11. Back then, passengers of various backgrounds were taken off flights, merely because of their appearance, in blatant cases of racial profiling.
In this most recent episode, the ACLU and a group called United Sikhs filed a lawsuit on behalf of the three men. Last week, the groups announced an undisclosed settlement with US Airlines.
Possibly that settlement will serve as a learning moment – reminding passengers that people wearing unconventional clothes are not necessarily their enemy. And perhaps it will remind people in this area that Sikhs have long been a part of the customer base of Sacramento International Airport.
Sikhism is one of the world's major religions, and the Punjab region of India is its historic homeland. Sikhs began emigrating to the Sacramento Valley more than a century ago. Yuba City, which has the largest Sikh population in the United States, has a mayor, Kash Gill, who hails from a Sikh family that goes back four generations here. Currently, the Sacramento area is home to 15,000 Sikhs.
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