The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

Bobby Jindal walks into a Dandiya

So a couple weeks ago I was sitting in the corner of the Santa Clara convention center, and as minds usually do, mine wandered to American of Indian Descent, presidential candidate Bobby Jindal. You see, every year a good portion of the Indian community gathers inside the hallowed convention center to while away a night dancing and eating overpriced pizza in honor of the festival Navaratri.

We dance in circles, in what we call garba, repeating ritualized steps passed down over thousands of years. We dance raas in paired lines as we hit our partner’s sticks in a dance style loved by the most beloved of the Hindu pantheon. We wait in line for 30 minutes to buy a Pepsi, open that Pepsi while waiting in line, drop the Pepsi and then casually move the line divider to cover up the spill before anyone else notices.

We call it Dandiya. Which brings me back to Bobby Jindal. Bobby Jindal

“Does he know how to garba,” I wondered. “What type of raas sticks does he prefer: wooden, metal or reinforced glass?”

Of course, Bobby Jindal is most famous for renouncing his roots as a hyphenated American. His current election tagline is “tanned, rested and ready” which seems to avoid the inconvenient truth that Jindal is, well, ethnic.

Voters just going on his official portrait as Governor of Louisiana, in which Jindal’s skin tone best resembles the Crayola skin colored crayon, might be forgiven for believing otherwise.

“What color kurta top would Bobby have worn,”  I muttered. “According to Yahoo! Answers, dark colors make skin seem lighter.”

Racism, despite what Bobby Jindal chooses to believe, is still alive and well around the globe. We look at ourselves and come to the conclusion that our skin and the heritage it announces is the obvious barrier to our future success. Every time I visit my grandparents, I watch the ads that promise dark skinned women a brand new shot at the lives they deserve to lead, if they’ll only coat themselves in bleach. (All this for only $6!!!!!) In one sense, Bobby Jindal shouldn’t be held accountable for a society that has forced him to believe that his dark skin needs to be erased from the political narrative he crafts. It’s not his fault he thinks he’s at his most attractive when he fades away into the marble background.

I think Bobby would have worn a purple kurta: a deep purple, almost black, though to be quite honest he probably wouldnít have attended at all.

You see, that’s the problem with Bobby Jindal. He’s arguably the most prominent Indian-American in U.S. politics, and he’s used his platform to renounce all ties with his heritage. Bobby Jindal anglicized his name, mispronounces Indian cities and insists that he is of Indian descent, as if his brownness is of the one drop variety rather than comprising his entire bloodstream.

This is, of course, his choice. Bobby Jindal can choose to renounce his history, just as I can choose to say I would rather stab myself in the eye with knitting needles than vote for him. In fact, I frequently remind myself of the fact that many of the things I hate most about him are the things I hate most about myself, that the internalized racism he perpetuates is something I struggle everyday. I go by a shorter version of my legal name, one that fits better in the anglo mouths of authority figures. I ruthlessly butcher words across every Indian language, lengthening syllables meant to be short and hardening my tongue to a soft consonant. One time someone told me that I was the whitest Indian they knew, and I swear that my smile could have lit up the night sky.

In short, I needed someone like Jindal to sit in front of the cameras and announce that his name was Piyush, that his family was from Punjab, that yes he was Indian-American, thank you for asking. Yes, he was proud of both aspects of his heritage. Yes, he was proud of his skin.

Do I understand Bobby Jindal? More than I feel comfortable admitting. The difference between us is that Iím a 17 year old who has identified my internalized prejudice and is working on accepting both sides of my duality.

For example, a couple weeks ago I attended a dandiya.

Bobby Jindal, most decidedly, did not.

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