Bobby Jindal is So White: Reflections on Being South Asian in America in 2015
It’s hard being a South Asian in America. Just ask Bobby Jindal, he’ll tell you. It’s so hard, he’s white. After all, if you are South Asian you live your life in the public eye as a stereotype. As a doctor or a software engineer. A cab driver or an abused domestic worker. Or a terrorist. Bobby is no terrorist. He is a politician. He is the Governor of the State of Louisiana. And he’s running for President. That is why Bobby is white. That is why he can’t be brown. No way, no how. Think about it. When was the last time America had a brown president?
It is true America has a black president. Bobby knows Barry is black. But he doesn’t want to be black for the same reason he doesn’t want to be brown. His way of getting taken seriously requires him to be white. Anything else is exhausting for Bobby.
There have been a few times — as in, a few times every day when he passes a reflection of himself — when the thought has crossed Bobby’s mind that he might, really, when all is said and done, still be brown. Bobby doesn’t like that. He doesn’t like the unwelcome intimation of his possible brownness trudging wearily across the desert of his mind. Like some undocumented migrant worker crossing into Arizona from Mexico.
It’s exhausting for Bobby. Thinking about being a South Asian in America in 2015. Getting people to take you seriously as a politician because — no, make that, if — you are brown. Exhausting. Even though you were born in America. And have a certificate to prove it. Exhausting. Bobby doesn’t like being exhausted — so much easier to be white!
That’s why Bobby has invested in a tee shirt for his presidential campaign that reads “Tanned. Rested. Ready.” Clearly stated. Just so there’s no confusion in anybody’s mind who and what he is. He is a white man with a tan, not brown. Got that? And for good measure, Bobby’s also a Christian. He converted at a young age from his parents’ Hinduism. You can’t be white without being Christian in America. And especially not in Louisiana.
Bobby studied biology at Brown University, but don’t ask him about evolution. He doesn’t like to answer questions about that little scientific theory. As Governor of Louisiana, he has made it his business to give as much succour as possible to creationists, those Christians who believe that God created the world in seven days and evolution is a hoax. Dinosaurs? What dinosaurs? Has anyone seen one? Bobby hasn’t, which is why he thinks any good Christian, especially one who would be the president one day, should support creationism.
Bobby knows a presidential campaign is hard, really hard. Gruelling even. But Bobby is not worried. He is Christian, he is tanned, he is rested, he is ready. And most important of all—he is white. When you are a politician, it’s so, so much easier being a Christian named Bobby who is white.Then you don’t have to explain yourself all the time. You don’t have to explain, for example, why you are called Piyush, the name by which Bobby was once known to most people and which is still his real name. You don’t have to explain why you worship so many strange gods — since Christian gods are never strange in America. The alternative to being white is very exhausting for Bobby. He would have to try to change racist American society as a brown man. But why? After all, it’s so much easier to change himself into a white one.
No, Bobby can’t be brown. It just won’t do. Bobby is not a doctor or a software engineer. Or a cab driver or an abused domestic worker. Or a terrorist. He is a politician. The two-time Governor of Louisiana. And he is running for President. He can’t be brown — it’s just too hard being a brown politician. That is why he is white, so white. See his portrait, if you don’t believe Bobby.
Bobby Jindal is so white his first act as President would be to deport his own father for being brown.
(The writer is a novelist and a cultural critic. He teaches at the University of Hawai‘i and blogs at sshankar.net)