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Millennium Post

My name is Khan and I’m not a ...

My mother bore me in the southern wild, and I am black, but O! my soul is white...
-William Blake


I am transracial. I am a rich, white man trapped in a middle-class brown guy’s body. I transcend race and related dimensions severely. My condition, if you may call it so, makes me somewhat good humouredly vulnerable. There have been occasions when my sweet megalomania has cost me much heartache in this wild goose quest for race privilege. This is not a valid argument for identity politics.

It’s not a legitimate place to shout a slogan from. Many might consider this state of being wretched, if not pathetic. Conscientious racepolitik will be downright disgusted. It’s tragic really, they might say. ‘What do you want to be, the next Michael Jackson?’ I’d probably reply, ‘No, I’m thinking Barrack Obama. He does it far better than Jackson.’ My transraciality does not involve a desire to change appearance as much as to climb the ethnic ladder in terms of what counts. Still, it’s a more or less a barren place where philosophical fruits refuse to grow on the cacti of bastard accents.

To make matters worse I own the physicality of a brown Muslim. It puts me in a precarious position as far as contemporary breaking news go. My transraciality prevents me from playing the victim, maybe because I have lived a sheltered life like most young bourgeois Muslim Indians of my generation. The only time I ever encountered Islamophobia flavoured bigotry is when I tried to rent apartments in Mumbai and Delhi. And that’s pretty much it. At the moment, I am 29 years old and an Ivy league (or some such) Ph.D. hopeful, nay…wannabe but am scared of the stark difference between the self-imposed cuckoo world of white assumptions I float in and the security paranoid First World and in particular, the US.

A series of recent events have jolted me out of my reveries of WASPy argyles and oak leaves. Namely, the Boston bombings, the Woolwich attack and the release of the movie, The Reluctant Fundamentalist. I am positively unnerved at the idea of being the next victim of a flying brick that reads, ‘Paki go home’ or a Reddit style witch hunt or something worse. I shudder at the thought of being criminalised by default. More so, I am not ashamed to say that I shudder at the thought of a cheeky TSA finger up my ideally, rosy but evidently, chocolate sphincter. Blue latex sheathed or not. More than the intrusion, it’s the realisation of my brown Muslimhood that would be oh-so violently driven home. A sudden identification of what and who I really am. Someone who cannot be trusted to not blow up people because he is not really white in the first instance.

The second is of course my surname, Khan. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was white but a cover story of the magazine, fixed that minor anomaly by painting him and his brother effectively darker to fit the profile of an ideal suspect. We may call it forced transraciality. The colour of my face looks to be as unstable and quite frankly, I don’t know how much choice I have in its sovereignty, anymore. It’s the kind of face that does not call for a Miranda warning. It must be endlessly humiliating to always be a terror suspect. If I am frisked on a New York street by a police officer (yes, they are actually at complete liberty to do that to innocent pedestrians), strip searched, anally intruded or whisked off to be questioned without any sound reason, how will I convince them that I am white from the inside and therefore, devoid of any Islamic fundamentalism, reluctant or otherwise? Rather, will I want to? If I refuse to step into an ionising radiation cabin or body scanner as they are called, then I’m certainly in for the latexed finger. Won’t I recoil from it all and return to my homeland like Changez, despite the tough love of a patron like Jim?

I don’t know. I am far away from such possibilities. I am comfortable in my own country just trying not to be too conspicuous a Frankenstein made by Hollywood and a certain Thomas Babington Macaulay. Still, it’s sad that the scrumptious first world pie that continues to rise in ROW ovens cannot be mine. Technically, I am not supposed to have a problem at all because everyone is screened at the airport. Three-year-olds’ hands are swabbed for explosives. Security paranoia seems to affirm in a perverse manner, we are all equal and we are all white so calm the hell down and spread your legs. What I do have is a critically conditioned visceral drive. If it looks like shit, smells like shit, guess what? I find it hard to accept that there is little or no race/ nation-origin/ faith based bias that colours the war on terrorism and related invasive surveillance. That the first world is actually simply weary of wondering, ‘Why do they hate us?’ Allow me to play the perfect victim even though, I have not known drone attacks or been to Abu Gharib or escaped like Harold and Kumar from Gunatanamo Bay.

‘Why do they hate us?’ is a question to which Moshin Hamid replies, politely expressing, like me his love for a wonderful land of opportunity with a misguided foreign policy that may be reconsidered by the powers-that-be. You see, my motives are different; I will not appreciate a chance given to me or hope for a politically sound future. I will assume that it belongs to me and that is the failure of the Blakean romantic transracial child. He will haply walk into the hands of TSA or Reddit, blind folded by his education. He will scroll through deliciously attractive Ph. D. packages with full funding and stipends only to walk into a movie called The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

The author is pursuing Ph. D. in English at JNU and works for a public health advocacy group.
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