An Indian Woman’s Rant About Privilege: White Girls Wearing Turbans

Flickr / Die Reise zum Glück
Flickr / Die Reise zum Glück

Eva Mendes, the server at that restaurant I feel embarrassed for going to so often, and every junior at Brooklyn College; these are all the folks that have come out and admitted their love and affection for a “good turban.”

And I hate it.

I fucking hate it.

As much as I thought this newfound hatred bubbling in my scalp had more to do with my being a 20-something with no Instagram followers, it’s not.

Every time a girl with a turban is complimented on her avant-garde style, I think about my obsession with Gwen Stefani, No Doubt Gwen Stefani, not divorcee Gwen Stefani.

I was elated when she started rocking the bindi on her forehead in the late 90s. I was 11-years-old in an all white middle school and I thought: My moment is here.

Finally, all of the kids would come up to me and ask for my autograph, or at least ask me how I acquired a culture so rich that white rocker chicks like Gwen were interested in it.

None of that happened. Instead, when I decided to wear a bindi to school one day, I was teased for trying to be like Gwen Stefani.

Obviously they were right. I didn’t want to wear a bindi on my forehead because my mom had worn it, or because my nani had worn it. Gwen made it cool. Yet when the Indian girl wore it on her forehead, it was the equivalent of an orangutan trying to mimic some behavior they’d seen a human doing. When other white girls did it, well that was proof of how trendy it was and how cultured they were.

And so I give you the turban. It’s a tangled up subject for me because I lived in a pre- and post-9/11 world. I remember Disney trips getting ruined by these same girls because they’d shout: “Terrorist!” or “Condom head!” at my dad and brother. I remember how I’d bribe my brother every morning before school started, “If you don’t cry when they make fun of you, I’ll give you ten of my warheads.” That’s what the turban carried with it. That’s what the turban still carries for all of the Sikhs and Muslims who wear it.

So yes, I am bitter. Because when you, Stephanie, or Ashley, or Astrid, or whoever else you are, decide you are going to wear a turban because it’s “cute” or “cool” or “totally saying something,” you don’t recognize of all of those folks who were excluded from happy family trips, jobs, a safe walk, a pleasant dinner, because they were wearing their religion on their head. You don’t remember all of the looks you give to the older man on the A train with a beard and a turban.

You don’t have to remember it. All you have to do is smile and say “Omgosh, Thank you!” the next time someone compliments you on your turbaned Instagram post. TC mark

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