Sunday, November 08, 2009

Nose-Piercing, Utah, and a Big Oops (Not Mine) [Updated]

On Thursday, I spoke to an AP reporter about a story in Utah last week, expressing some views about a girl in middle school in Utah who got suspended from her school for violating dress code, after getting her nose pierced. She and her family said she did it to get in touch with her Indian cultural identity -- she had the piercing done on Diwali just a couple of weeks ago. The school, however, had a strict "ear pierces only" policy, and was only willing to allow her to have a "transparent" stud in her nose, not the more obviously Indian nose ring she wore to school initially.

Here is the AP story that resulted. It's been printed in a fair number of newspapers around the country. The reporter quotes Abhi (from Sepia Mutiny), Sandhya (also from Sepia Mutiny), and myself. But something goes wrong here:

"I wanted to feel more closer to my family in India because I really love my family," said Suzannah, who was born in Bountiful. Her father was born in India as a member of the Sikh religion.

"I just thought it would be OK to let her embrace her heritage and her culture," said Suzannah's mother, Shirley Pabla, a Mormon born in nearby Salt Lake City. "I didn't know it would be such a big deal."

It shouldn't have been, said Suzannah's father, Amardeep Singh, a Sikh who was raised in the United States and works as an English professor at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. "It's true that the nose ring is mainly a cultural thing for most Indians," Singh said. "Even if it is just culture, culture matters. And her right to express or explore it seems to me at least as important as her right to express her religious identity." (link)

Um, wait a minute. Did I read that right? Take a look at it again: "...said Suzannah's father, Amardeep Singh, a Sikh who was raised in the United States..."

[UPDATED: The error has been corrected in the online version of this article.]

This is a really bizarre and unfortunate error. Just to be clear, I have one kid, and he's three years old. I am annoyed on my own behalf, but I also feel bad for the Pablas. (Suzannah has a dad, who is a practicing Sikh. It just so happens that most of the coverage of this story in the local Utah newspapers doesn't mention his name: see the Salt Lake Tribune, for example)

When I spoke to the reporter who authored this story, he was 100% clear that I was in no way related to the Pablas. Somewhere between that conversation and the story that has now run in 200+ newspapers around the country, that important fact fell out. I don't know who's responsible for the error -- it appears it's an editor who might have come up with this.

In the end, it's not really that big a deal; the only people who will really think anything is amiss are people who know the Pablas and people who know me. Still, maybe the moral here is to JUST SAY NO when reporters call you for a quote for a story that doesn't really involve you directly.

If there is a bright side of this, it's that I got to be photographed by a professional photographer: here.

Labels: ,


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I caught the typo. I'm sorry your annoyed but please continue to take the time to help educate us all. I ask many silly questions but most people will take the time to explain their religions or beliefs to me. I consider every question a step closer to eradicating my ignorance. I have found in the answers that we are more the same than not.

10:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do understand the situation you were put into but some stupid reporter and his boss and of course the whole news media piced up on it, however you still failed to say whether or not she was right to go against the school's regulations.

You see unfortunately, if come to America it's to be away from where you came from and being a Natural Born Citizen, it's not my position to ask why you came here, but I do take offense to the fact that someone needs to still practice their former home rituals or needs. If I were to move to Canada and become a Canadian citizen I would not ask nor expect anyone in Canada to abide by American Culture just for me. When you come to a country especially to be free, there is no your free to live here but practice living in a different country. We have gotten so tied up into I need to respect you, but you don't have to respect me and I was here first and didn't have to come in a plane or boat to get here. Yesterday I started getting advertisements on Myspace in Arabic and I refuse to learn Spanish let alone Arabic. When are people going to learn that when you come to America you have to respect the laws and rules here that keep us free. You don't come here to change the rules for you to keep your heritage alive. We are supposed to respect and believe in each other in America but everyone who comes here now wants all of us to change just for them. I ask, why did you leave the country that taught you how to live?? Your still not free if you still follow the rules and living ways from which you came.

10:59 PM  
Blogger Zack S. said...

With all due respect, I think you're overreacting a little. Granted you do say, toward the end, that it really isn't that big a deal, but I think your moral of the story is a tad much. The commenter above me calls the reporter stupid and arguably insinuates the same about his boss; perhaps it was stupidity on someone's end, but it looks more like a typo. The error could have technically been avoided had there been a period instead of a comma after "father." People might still think that Amardeep Singh is the father because of the (presumed) same gender and therefore the symmetry between father and the male name that follows upon what would look like second/next reference. It's most unfortunate that for whatever reason the father's name is not mentioned. On the other hand, it could have the silver lining of not making him a sort of target.

Because of one probably honest mistake, you shouldn't stop giving interviews on stories unrelated to yourself.

To quote Charlie Kaufman:
"I think that might have been my biggest revelation about starting to do press. Journalists are people, and why should I be surprised by that? When I come into this situation with nervous people, sweaty people, people who are playing me, people who aren't present and clearly have an agenda, or people who lie to me and will ingratiate themselves so they can get something and present it completely differently… And they aren't always like that. I've had some really lovely experiences with people, where I felt that the resulting article is really honest, and I appreciate that.",14322/

2:43 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

That IS a big oops! Glad they corrected it. It's an interesting story, though-- this trend of 'zero tolerance' policies for just about everything (piercings, aspirin, Pepsi shirts on 'Coke Day', etc.) is out of control. Who exactly is being hurt by her nose ring?

Hope the rest of your commenters are less ignorant than the one above...

4:32 PM  
Blogger Zack S. said...

Sarah, shall I presume you're referring to the second Anonymous comment? 'Cause I don't think I said anything particularly ignorant

10:25 AM  
Anonymous GamerzHill said...

It's most unfortunate that for whatever reason the father's name is not mentioned. On the other hand, it could have the silver lining of not making him a sort of target.

12:10 PM  
Anonymous Kamalakar said...

The correction in the online version seems to be missing in the link provided by you!! The case of a careless editor or culture jar?

12:03 PM  
Anonymous FLC said...

Hi, I'm the owner of a blog would like to share my opinion about this issue.
It's true that wherever we go, we must abide to the rules of the area that you visit, whether it's in real world, or in the online world.
However rules are made by human being, there can always be flexibility. It's really no big deal. However because of not knowing, one should be given at least a warning or a notice asking not to do certain things
I really don't agree on penalizing at the first chance..

well it's my 2 cents worth of opinion

10:48 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home