A college student who posted a mean spirited photo he shot of a fellow student to the online community site Reddit.com just got a life lesson in tolerance he’ll never forget.
The Ohio State University student who goes by the handle “European_Douchebag” posted the image seen above with the caption “I’m not sure what to make of this” in a “funny” section of the site. The image captures a woman with facial hair that does not to alter or manicure her appearance because she is a baptized Sikhs who “believes in the sacredness of this body.”
The woman in the photo, Balpreet Kaur, also a student at Ohio State, was unaware she was being photograph but found her image online hours later after several friends alerted her on Facebook.
Reddit is an of online community where users vote on content like news stories, pictures or YouTube videos that other users submit. The site dubs itself the “front page of the internet” because it allows users with similar interests to quickly discover new content.
One of the more than 4,000 communities on the site is the “funny” community, where registered users called “Redditors” submit hundreds of pictures with hopes of other Redditors voting their submissions up so they can end up on the front page of the funny community.
By the time Kaur found her image online she was on the front page. Her image was trending and hundreds were commenting on her appearance. Some defended her but most deconstructed her image and made negative comments.
What happened next is extraordinary.
With an open heart, patience and love Kaur posted a comment on thread “European_Douchebag” started. Below is her response published in its entirety:
Hey, guys. This is Balpreet Kaur, the girl from the picture. I actually didn’t know about this until one of my friends told on facebook. If the OP wanted a picture, they could have just asked and I could have smiled :) However, I’m not embarrased or even humiliated by the attention [negative and positve] that this picture is getting because, it’s who I am. Yes, I’m a baptized Sikh woman with facial hair. Yes, I realize that my gender is often confused and I look different than most women. However, baptized Sikhs believe in the sacredness of this body - it is a gift that has been given to us by the Divine Being [which is genderless, actually] and, must keep it intact as a submission to the divine will. Just as a child doesn’t reject the gift of his/her parents, Sikhs do not reject the body that has been given to us. By crying ‘mine, mine’ and changing this body-tool, we are essentially living in ego and creating a seperateness between ourselves and the divinity within us. By transcending societal views of beauty, I believe that I can focus more on my actions. My attitude and thoughts and actions have more value in them than my body because I recognize that this body is just going to become ash in the end, so why fuss about it? When I die, no one is going to remember what I looked like, heck, my kids will forget my voice, and slowly, all physical memory will fade away. However, my impact and legacy will remain: and, 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. So, to me, my face isn’t important but the smile and the happiness that lie behind the face are. :-) So, if anyone sees me at OSU, please come up and say hello. I appreciate all of the comments here, both positive and less positive because I’ve gotten a better understanding of myself and others from this. Also, the yoga pants are quite comfortable and the Better Together tshirt is actually from Interfaith Youth Core, an organization that focuses on storytelling and engagement between different faiths. :) I hope this explains everything a bit more, and I apologize for causing such confusion and uttering anything that hurt anyone.
Now what happened next is even more incredible. A post believed to be published by “European_Douchebag” included a sincere apology:
I posted this link a few days ago: http://www.reddit.com/r/funny/comments/109cnf/imnotsurewhattoconcludefrom_this/ I know that this post ISN’T a funny post but I felt the need to apologize to the Sikhs, Balpreet, and anyone else I offended when I posted that picture. Put simply it was stupid. 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. /r/Funny wasn’t the proper place to post this. Maybe /r/racism or /r/douchebagsofreddit or /r/intolerance would have been more appropriate. Reddit shouldn’t be about putting people down, but a group of people sending cool, interesting, or funny things. Reddit’s been in the news alot lately about a lot of cool things we’ve done, like a freaking AMA by the president. I’m sorry for being the part of reddit that is intolerant and douchebaggy. This isn’t 4chan, or 9gag, or some other stupid website where people post things like I did. It’s fucking reddit. Where some pretty amazing stuff has happened. I’ve read more about the Sikh faith and it was actually really interesting. It makes a whole lot of sense to work on having a legacy and not worrying about what you look like. I made that post for stupid internet points and I was ignorant. So reddit I’m sorry for being an asshole and for giving you negative publicity. Balpreet, I’m sorry for being a closed minded individual. You are a much better person than I am Sikhs, I’m sorry for insulting your culture and way of life. Balpreet’s faith in what she believes is astounding.
“European_Douchebag” went to post messages later and said his letter is “more of a general apology to Reddit, the Sikh community, and anyone offended.” He said he also sent an apology to Kaur in a private e-mail and that they play on meeting up at Ohio State soon.
“I don’t think I did anything special, it was just an apology. Just because you’re anonymous doesn’t mean you can be an asshole,” he went on to say.
Kaur is seen wearing a Better Together - Interfaith Youth Core t-shirt. According to her bio on the site, she’s an interfaith leader with the program that seeks to build a movement of people from all faiths and traditions working together to change the world.
Kaur’s bio also says that she wants to “one day, save the world - one step at a time.”
Seems like she’s taking giant steps so far because she just infused the front page of the internet with an extraordinarily dose of love, patience and tolerance.