A Letter to Bobby Jindal: Even the Most Insensitive Words Can’t Whiten Your Skin

Dear Mr. Piyush “Bobby” Jindal,

You baffle me. I can’t tell if you’re truly unaware that you’re Indian or if you’re hoping that all the old white men around you will forget.

Do you honestly believe that if you take on their names, champion their bigoted views, and loudly proclaim their religion, that they will accept you? Let me tell you something, as a fellow second-generation immigrant and South Asian who grew up here and is every bit as American as anyone else:

They won’t.

Hate comes from ignorance. Usually. Of course, there are those such as yourself who use hate as a means for their own advancement, but your fear-mongering is pointed right at your own foot. Belief in racial or religious supremacy requires a certain kind of ignorance—so what makes you think they’ll be able to look at you and me, with our brown skin, and be able to tell the difference between an Indian Christian and a Pakistani Muslim?

They won’t.

Hate crimes against South Asians and Arabs and brown people of all backgrounds skyrocketed immediately following September 11th. To this day, it hasn’t stopped.

Across the country, Sikhs and Hindus, as well as Muslims, are assaulted simply for having similar physical features to the men who hijacked the 9/11 planes. I trust you remember the day a white supremacist shot six people at a Wisconsin Sikh temple in August 2012? How about the woman who pushed a Hindu man onto a New York City subway track in 2012? She told police upon arrest, “I hate Hindus and Muslims ever since 2001.” Do you think she asked him whether or not he was really Muslim or Hindu before she killed him? No, she just saw that he looked like one and decided that he deserved to die.

Mr. Piyush Jindal, the reality of the situation is, had you been at that train track instead of him, she would have killed you instead.

I know this may be hard to hear, but, Mr. Jindal, you are a person of color in the United States of America. And you’re promoting the interests of those who seek to oppress those people of color.

There is no point in me explaining to you that the gross majority of Muslims have no desire to kill anyone in the name of their religion or impose Islamic law anywhere. In fact, we’re almost as clueless as you as to what “Shari’ah law” exactly is.

I am not going to waste time explaining that your childish “our God wins” declaration means nothing, as the majority of Muslims believe their God and your God are one and the same. Had there been any chance of me convincing you at all, you wouldn’t be acting like a black man participating in a KKK rally in the ‘50s. You know all of this. The information is available to you, it has probably been given directly to you, and yet you decide to choose hate over rationality. Ignorant progression over humble humility.

It isn’t just the fact that an Indian man such as yourself can be mistaken for a Muslim or foreign terrorist by someone who is convinced Islam is the enemy. It’s the fact that, in the words of Dr. King, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. Every minority in this country—whether they be black, gay, an immigrant, disabled, or even a woman—has a stake in fighting our growing Islamophobia problem. Justifying prejudice towards any group is justifying prejudice, period.

You can try to direct the ignorance and hate in this country towards us, but it won’t save you. Your friends with money, votes, influence, your white privileged male friends, have not forgotten that you are a child of Indian immigrants. You are one of us, the collective “them”. Should you succeed in persecuting us, it won’t be long before your friends turn on you. You are in a position to fight for minority rights, to fight against hate of any kind, and doing so will benefit you and your children and their children.

Trust me, I understand the desire for your birth name to change from Piyush to Bobby, your skin from brown to white.

But it won’t.