Has Bobby Jindal Set Indian Americans Back 1 Week?

Comingle Male sent me this email a little bit ago:

Subject: That’s Jind-all She Wrote

the ups and downs of the diaspora.  it’s been a big week.  Slumdog wins, and Rahman shows up Jackman at the ceremonies.  then Jindal dominates the news cycle for 2 days, and it’s all good until he gives a speech sounding like Kenneth the NBC page.  then his own party calls him an idiot.
how do you feel?

How do I feel?  Same I felt all year – out of shape, lazy, fruitless, ineffectual, you know, the usual.  Jindal really has nothing to do with that.

Back in ’03, when Midnight Love was still on BET, trucker hats had officially become passe and cool kids were on blazers, I was an intern with the Indo-American Democratic Organization in Chicago.  Our cause was to promote grass-roots mobilization of Northern Illinois’ sizeable South Asian diaspora behind the Illinois democratic agenda, which, at the time comprised Gov. Rod Blagojevich, U.S. Senator Richard Durbin, and a young upstart from Chicago’s South Side making his way through the U.S. Senate primaries, Barack Obama.

When me and the other intern set a voter registration booth at the Indian Independence Day picnic off Devon Avenue on Chicago’s NW side, we dealt with a lot of questions about a young, rising politician of Indian American descent in Louisiana named Bobby Jindal.  Jindal was running for governor or something at the time.  Because we were an Indian organization, it was assumed we’d support his candidacy, but because he was a Republican, he didn’t fall under the purview of our Democratic Organization.

Either way backing him would sell-out one of the organization’s target constituencies. Some people understood, most people could have cared less and a few were markedly aggressive, but I think that had less to do with the IADO’s stance on Jindal and more with the tube top my coworker chose to wear that August afternoon.

South Asian support for Jindal comes down to the basic failures of early ’90s identity politics.  Representation in appearance does not necessarily translate to, you know, representation.  Jindal may look like me, he may sweat in social situations like me, he may wear a hat to flatten his hair like me, but he doesn’t vote like me.

While Slumdog, Rahman and Jindal may cap the most Indian week in America in recent memory it really means nothing in the end.  The global Indian population is so different from Mumbai to Calcutta to London to Chicago the phenomenons of Slumdog Millionaire and Bobby Jindal have little in common in terms of concrete meaning.

Slumdog was an aight movie; the soundtrack and score were aight, too; Jindal came off sounding like a small town sportscaster, and I shouldn’t say these things because like each and them, I’m small and brown.  If Jindal’s speech last night showed us anything, it’s that you can’t just be young and dark to be the next Obama.  America had its first taste of the Turbanator this past week, and all it means is that there’s only more to come.

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