Turban, not Wingtips

Vishavjit Singh as Captain American in NYC

In September, Salon.com contributor Vishavjit Singh, on the anniversary of his article “My Life in a Turban” and, of course, the 9/11/01 New York Trade Center attacks, wrote about his experience as “Captain American in a Turban.” Singh, a software analyst by day and an editorial cartoonist by night, took to the streets of New York City adorned in Captain America’s superhero, superpatriot garb to test perceptions — and reactions — of America.

It was the most unlikeliest of days for me. Hundreds of strangers came up to me. And we were able to lay to rest any anxieties or inhibitions in those moments — about other people, about the unknown, about ourselves, about violating other people’s personal spaces or not understanding their beliefs. We could simply meet. Say hi. Snap a memory of that moment.

Singh’s original inspiration from his own Sikhtoons.com

Singh recounts engaging a group of Puerto Rican Day revelers and pausing with NYPD officers, all of whom wanted a photograph with him. Only a few choice individuals he encountered on his “day on the streets of the Big Apple” were at all adversarial, yelling “Captain Arab” or “Terrorista.” (Singh, as an American Sikh of Punjabi origin, is, obviously, neither.)

Did New Yorkers take him into their hearts? Or was he a subject of spectacle? Either way, it seems a positive experience for Singh himself and for photographer Fiona Aboud who is planning a collection of Sikhs: An American Portrait that will include Singh.

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