LOS ANGELES — Prateek Singh could not wait to get out onto the court.
With his friends and family packed tightly into a small high school gym, the basketball-obsessed, turban-wearing Prateek took the floor to warm up for his first high school game. It was 1992 and Singh was a sophomore at Burbank High School, a public school in north Los Angeles.
But his first taste of high school sport was interrupted by a brand of bigotry all too familiar to adherents of the Sikh religion living in the United States, including the diasporic hub of Southern California.
“One of the referees came up to our coach and said, ‘That kid over there — with that thing on his head — can’t play in the game,’” said Prateek, now in his mid-30s. “I still hold that to heart.”
That “thing” was Prateek’s dastar, or turban, a staple amongst devout male Sikhs that represents piety and self-respect. For the rest of the season, Prateek had to present a letter from the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) each game that allowed him to play in his turban.
Today Prateek is the treasurer of a top-tier mortgage company and a coach at the Singh Sensations Basketball Camp, a free, annual workshop for young Southern California Sikhs.