Chandra Dharma Sena Gooneratne was getting a doctorate at the University of Chicago in the ’20s. Originally from Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), he traveled around America lecturing on the need to abolish the caste system and on India’s push for independence from the British, among other topics.
In a recent article about Gooneratne, Desai notes that visiting scholars from Asia and Africa, like Gooneratne, were startled to encounter anti-black discrimination. But some of these people, who were lugging around colonial baggage from their own countries, found a way around racism.
Gooneratne, for one, used his turban while traveling in the Jim Crow South to avoid harassment, and advised others to do the same, Desai writes.
“Any Asiatic can evade the whole issue of color in America by winding a few yards of linen around his head,” Desai quotes Gooneratne as saying. “A turban makes anyone an Indian.”
…Routté [the Reverend Jesse, a black American Lutheran pastor] had traveled to Alabama in a turban and robes, put on an accent, and quickly realized that it was quite easy to fool everyone there into thinking he was a foreign dignitary — and to be received as one.
“Then it kind of goes viral in 1940s terms,” says Kramer, “where the press picks it up, it becomes this colorful story that people are talking about.” When an article appeared in The New York Times, he says, people started pulling up examples of other cases.
“He’s not the first person to pull this off,” says Kramer, “so it’s not entirely a novelty.”
But Kramer says Routté is the sole representative of the first category of African-American turban wearers — those who did it to make a political statement.
Routté’s experiment began after he traveled to Mobile, Ala., in 1943 for a family engagement. He wasn’t happy with how he was treated.
“I was Jim Crowed here, Jim Crowed there, Jim Crowed all over the place,” he later told reporters. “And I didn’t like being Jim Crowed.”
So he went back in 1947, with a plan.
Before he boarded the train to Alabama, he put on his spangled turban and velvet robes. When the train reached North Carolina during lunchtime, Routté walked over to the diner car where the only vacant seat was occupied by two white couples.
One of the men said, “Well, what have we got here?” to which Routté replied in his best Swedish accent (he had been the only black student at a Swedish Lutheran college in Illinois), “We have here an apostle of goodwill and love” — leaving them gaping.
And that confusion seemed to work for Routté on the rest of his trip. He dropped in on police officials, the chamber of commerce, merchants — and was treated like royalty.
At a fancy restaurant he asked the staff what would happen if a “Negro gentleman comes in here and sits down to eat.” The reply: “No negro would dare to come in here to eat.”
“I just stroked my chin and ordered my dessert,” he said.
that was part of obamas appeal. he was an AfricanAfrican American.
not a nonAfrican African American.
like the rest of us.
the irony is that even nonAfrican African Americans liked him better than they did their own. look at how they excoriated any nonAfrican African American who had the audacity to criticize him. case in point, Cornel West.
Steve Harvey is typical in chastising the foremost black critic of Obama. Typically he used a racial slur to do it, calling West a monkey. Of course he would have been highly outraged if someone had called the African African American a monkey. https://youtu.be/F3K1ZQlWkUU?t=7m