The other day I was going out in the sun, so I put on a hat I had gotten in Chinatown. It’s a conical hat made of straw. In Vietnam, it’s called a “non la”. The hats are traditionally worn in Asian countries for protection from the sun, and it’s the perfect hat for the heat because it shields you from the sun but still keeps you cool.
But my friend rushed to stop me before I went out the door.
She told me I couldn’t wear the hat because it was racist of me. I told her I was only wearing it because it’s a great hat and it goes with my sundress, but she still wouldn’t let me wear it out.
I asked another friend if it was somehow racist of me to wear the hat and she just started laughing, and wouldn’t give me more of an answer than that. So I asked them if it was racist of me to wear a beret and they both said “no, it’s different.”
How could be different? Neither of them could explain it, only saying “it just is.” But I think they’re wrong, I think the racism is in them, not in me and my wearing the hat.
The way I see it, wearing either hat could only be racist is if the wearer thought the people who had originally worn the hat were less than themselves (like Mickey Rooney’s disgusting portrayal of the neighbor in Breakfast at Tiffany’s) and I certainly don’t feel that way.
But still I’m wondering. Am I wrong?
The last thing I want to do is be disrespectful of other peoples’ heritage. I don’t really have one heritage that I identify with (I’m kind of everything mixed together) so I’ve never been in a position to experience an insult to my people. However, my skin is pale and almost transparent (honestly I look like raw chicken in a clear plastic bag).
So even though I’m wearing the hat because it’s an amazing and cute design, should I still not wear it?
What do you think?