I follow the Sikh faith, which requires that I keep my hair long and wear a turban and beard. The ROTC recruiters said I would not be able to enlist unless I complied with all Army grooming and uniform rules.
A humor site with 797,000 Twitter followers posted a picture of me in my Trinity basketball jersey and maroon dastaar (it was a home game) with a caption that read: "I'm not guarding him. He's too explosive."
As the first turbaned Sikh American to play basketball for an NCAA program, I knew I needed to voice my opinion when I learned Sikh players on India's team were told by FIBA they must remove their dastars before playing at the Japan-India game.
Despite public heralding of the brand new Pentagon rules signaling a renewed commitment to religious accommodation, the rules actually generate more confusion than promise. The Sikh American community in particular wonders, what will America's military finally look like America?
It is ironic that Sikhs, as one of the most visible people of faith, are invisible to the majority of people. While public education may be the solution, our education system bears a large share of the blame.
It's not uncommon for kids to ask their parents about "that thing" on my head. In most instances, the parents look at me uncomfortably, embarrassed that I might be offended in some way. But recently I had the most amazing experience.
Like too many others, I've been discriminated against because of my unique appearance. While I wouldn't wish it on anyone else, being the target of discrimination has helped open my eyes to various types of inequalities in our world.
Those who peddle hate lack a basic understanding of the history of Muslims in America, and the Constitution of the United States. In targeting the adherents of one faith they seek to undermine one of most basic tenets for the founding of this great nation: religious freedom.