Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Who is Piyush?

Piyush Jindal was just elected Governor of Louisiana. Educated at Brown University, he is a Rhodes Scholar and the winner of many prestigious awards. When he was elected to Congress he was in his early thirties and may have been one of the youngest people ever elected to Congress.

Do you know who Piyush is? You may know him better as Bobby Jindal.

Ok, strike one..

When Piyush was a youngster-pre-school age-his classmates renamed him Bobby-and the nickname stuck. While we can be grateful on his behalf that the nickname wasn't derogatory in and of itself, it may reveal the desire that he may have had to be more "American" and his contemporaries desire to-at best, make their lives easier by giving him a common name, or-at worst, consciously or subconsciously showing their biases and bigotry for people of color.

You might think that this arbitrary re-naming is something that has gone the way of the horse and buggy-but you'd be wrong. Just recently a Yahoo group that I peruse spent time and energy discussing a situation where a teacher had requested that a child "Americanize" his name because it was just "too difficult to pronounce." Yikes!

Even thinking of that makes my blood boil. Who can't take a few minutes to learn the correct pronunciation of someones name.

Unfortunately, in most of the coverage I have heard or read about Bobby Jindal, the lead is always that he has 'broken the color barrier', or that he is a first generation Indian-American who's parents came to the US from the Punjab region of India.

Strike two!

Bobby Jindal is truly a remarkable man-educated at Brown University, he is a Rhodes Scholar and has won several prestigious awards. When he was elected in Louisiana, he was already quite accomplished. He helped the University of Louisiana expand the number of endowed chairs and his policies were key in increasing the University's retention and graduation rates. And that is just the beginning.

While his politics are a little (ok, a lot) more conservative than my own, I can't help but be impressed by his accomplishments-none of which have anything to do with the color of his skin, his heritage, or where his parents were born.

Now, Bobby aka Piyush, may not be upset or offended by his renaming and the focus on his race and background, it would be nice if we could evolve to a place where the focus was on the man and his accomplishments. All of our accomplishments-Bobby Jindal's included-represent our 'whole person' and surely race, ethnicity, heritage form a part of who we are. But it isn't all that we are.

Like Dumbledore who was a kind, intelligent etc, etc who happened to be gay, shouldn't we talk about Bobby Jindal in the same way-a young, up-and-coming, newly elected Governor of Louisiana who is of Indian descent?

Wouldn't you want that for your kids?

So let's be careful with our own 'leads'-especially around our kids. By leading with a person physical, racial or ethnic background we send the subtle (or not too subtle) message that these things are the most important factors about a person.

I don't know about you, but I want my kids judged by her abilities and her soul FIRST. Her heritage is a wonderful part of that, but it isn't the only part. If we want our kids to be able to live and work with people of all shapes, colors, sizes etc, then we need to model that behavior-every day.

I almost forgot-congratulations Piyush Jindal!

With respect,

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