Friday, August 10, 2012

Discoveries in Central Park

By Alejandro Izquierdo (Chicago, IL)

When we were young, our parents always told us, “Don’t talk to strangers!” But this rule does not apply to journalism. In journalism one is encouraged—no! —obligated to talk to strangers for the sake of their story. Until this week, I had never walked up to people on the street and interviewed them, especially not in the famous Central Park.

On SJP’s annual trip to New York to visit news headquarters, we launched an investigation where we asked New Yorkers if they knew what Sikhism is. At first I was unsure about how it would be; throughout the week people had told me to expect to be rejected often in the interviews. I was mentally prepared to deal with rejections but I knew that I might become frustrated after a couple of rejections. But fortunately, that wasn’t the case.

My first couple of interviewees were pretty friendly, which allowed me to feel more comfortable. Eventually I ran into people who did not want to be interviewed. To this day I don’t understand why people don’t want to be interviewed, because I personally would love to talk and answer some questions. Perhaps that is only me, but I still think people should at least listen to questions and try to answer.

As I kept interviewing more and more people I became increasingly focused and lost track of time. After 19 interviews, about an hour had already passed, but it felt like only fifteen minutes. It was time to go back to the bus, but I wanted to stay back and keep asking people questions. I wanted to know exactly how many people knew what Sikhism is. There were many that did not know and I spent some time with them letting them know that it was a religion and that it had no relation to Islam.

After I finished my interviews I reached a conclusion that I was not to happy with: only 6 of the 19 interviewees knew what Sikhism was, none of those 6 were New Yorkers. Most shockingly, 5 of the 6 who knew what Sikhism was… were not American. I found this pretty sad: how can we call ourselves a melting pot and not know about some of our own citizens? We have to be more educated about the world and be more open minded to others' beliefs. This is how we can become better people and a better nation.

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