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Captain America in a turban

11 September 2013 Salon 3 Comments Email This Post Email This Post
A photo of the author (Credit: Fiona Aboud)

A photo of the author (Credit: Fiona Aboud)

Captain America in a turban

I wore that costume to challenge the way New Yorkers think about superheroes — and bearded Sikhs like me

I settled on a rock in Central Park, the New York skyline behind me. A glassy new skyscraper neared completion in its stretch toward the skies. I was striking a few poses in my superhero costume when a young boy perched higher on a rock chimed in.

“Captain America does not have a turban and beard,” he said. He had a child’s curious tone. No malevolence.

“Why not?” I asked him. “I was born here. We could have a new Captain America who is Sikh or black or Hispanic.”

He thought about this. Finally, he conceded that yes, maybe a black or Hispanic Captain America would be OK. But his brain couldn’t make sense of it: Captain America in a turban? Captain America in a beard? He’d never conceived of such a thing before.

That’s exactly what brought me to this park on a beautiful summer day. To make fresh neural connections in our collective consciousness. To leave a new image on the hard drive of that boy’s mind.vishavjit_singh_embed5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The idea originated with Fiona Aboud, a photographer based in New York City. For seven years she has traveled the country capturing stills for “Sikhs: An American Portrait” project. I’m an editorial cartoonist, who has been documenting the thrills and travails of real-life Sikhs in the aftermath of 9/11 through illustrations made on my computer touch pad. One of those cartoons, created for my first trip to Comic-Con, featured a turbaned and bearded Captain America. It made a three-dimensional spark in Fiona’s imagination.

I was going to be Captain America for a day on the streets of the Big Apple.vishavjit_singh_embed1

 

Thanks to inclement weather, we ended up shooting on Puerto Rican Day. It was bright and sunny as we stepped out of Fiona’s house. I was acutely aware of my tight costume. I caught the stares of passersby in the corners of my eye. There were a few gentle smiles.

I have been skinny all my life, and I felt a stirring of anxiety to be so exposed. Family and friends have pointed out my thin-ness for years, and the self-consciousness has sunk deep into my psyche. Before I could even confront the political statement of my costume, I had to confront my own inhibitions and body image. But I took a deep breath, and kept walking.

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3 Comments »

  1. […] El capitán América… barbudo y con turbante   […]

  2. I Love it ! ha ha ha
    I Will put on one of this Red, With and Blue suit with my CHARRO hat ha ha ha ! ! ! ( Charro) Mexican hat !

  3. I must thank you for the efforts you have put
    in writing this site. I really hope to check out the same high-grade blog posts from you later on as well.
    In fact, your creative writing abilities has motivated me to get my
    own, personal site now ;)

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