NEW YORK — Among the tens of thousands of runners who crossed the finish line in Sunday’s New York City Marathon was Simran Jeet Singh.
It was the New Yorker’s fifth time running in the iconic race.
“Crossing the finish line is always fantastic,” he told PIX11 News. “I mean you’re tired as hell but it’s a good feeling.”
But as Singh made his way through each borough, inching closer to victory, the native Texan says an unforeseen hurdle crossed his path.
“There were a few racist incidents that I experienced during the marathon,” he said. “The first was a woman who refused to serve me water at the volunteer station and she called me a dirty Muslim.”
Singh who is not Muslim but of the Sikh faith, continued on with his run but then it happened again.
“There was another moment where a gentleman saw me and told the people in front of me to run faster because ‘that guy from ISIS’ was chasing them.”
The 32-year-old who is a professor of religion at Trinity University in San Antonio, is well versed with religious discrimination.
Not because he is on the receiving end of it but because he addresses these issues as a community leader part of the New York-based civil rights organization, the Sikh Coalition.
“It’s a mistake to think the types of racial discrimination we’re seeing today are new phenomenon,” he said. “These are deeply embedded in our society.”
“They’ve existed in the foundations of this country, they’ve continued and really what we’re seeing in the last year or so has brought them to the forefront.”
Racial tensions are now boiling over, according to Singh, an apparent bi-product of a divisive and ugly presidential election season.
Using social media to combat these racist attacks have been mostly effective. Singh and his story went viral after tweeting about his incident.
Last month, former Deputy Metro Editor for the New York Times Michael Luo, wrote an open letter to a woman who yelled at him and his family to “to back to China.”
The American-born journalist shared his story using the #ThisIs2016, encouraging other Asian Americans to share their stories of discrimination, starting a long over-due conversation.
“Just the fact of being public about it has made me feel empowered and that’s part of the story for me,” Singh said. “How do we make our communities feel empowered like they can actually own their experiences instead of having to be defined by them.”
Shortly after the incident happened Sunday, Singh tweeted about it, prompting officials with the New York Road Runners to immediately reach out to him – even before he crossed the finish line.
A spokesman tells PIX11 in a statement that “this behavior is not in line with the values we hold as an organization.”
“We take pride in our commitment to inclusiveness, tolerance and equal rights for all.”