Priyanka, travellers aren’t same as refugee No, Priyanka Chopra is not a
refugee, nor an immigrant, or an outsider — she’s a traveller, at least that’s what her shirt on the cover of travel magazine Condé Nast Traveller (CNT) India says.
In the latest issue of the luxury travel mag, Bollywood actor Priyanka Chopra graces the cover in her most casual look thus far: wet hair and a white tank top printed with text.
The problem lies not in her look but her choice of shirt. Of the four words on the tank, three; refugee, immigrant, outsider, feature a red strikeout and the fourth, traveller, has been left as is.
I find this incredibly problematic, not to mention insensitive.
What I feel the actor was trying to put across was that being a South Asian woman, she’s tired of being reduced to a stereotype. Priyanka must have endured her fair share of hardships, especially while breaking into Hollywood: 1) She’s brown, 2) She’s a woman, both of which in Hollywood, an industry which has been called out for racism and sexism time and again, must have been difficult obstacles to overcome for the Bollywood actor.
But here’s my issue: the above doesn’t justify the actor trying to take a stand by clubbing three serious issues with leisure. She could’ve chosen a better way to oppose the rejection and prejudice she faced. As the famous saying goes, ‘with great power comes great responsibility’, and I feel PeeCee could have been more mindful of her wardrobe for the shoot.
I mean, how can Priyanka Chopra, one of the world’s highest paid TV actors, relate to a refugee? Of what I know of the actor, I think I can quite assuredly say never.
So then why compare a refugee, an immigrant and an outsider to a traveller, especially when they are poles apart?
By calling herself a ‘traveller’ and comparing it to refugees, immigrants and outsiders, Priyanka has minimised the plight of these people. Travellers seek pleasure and entertainment, these are people who have the privilege and luxury to travel around the world, which is why the term is at odds with the other three.
Another issue is that it draws parallels among these four words, when in truth, they are all divergent and entirely unrelated.
Furthermore, in the interview with CNT, Priyanka mentions that she’s a ‘nomad’ and says, “You don’t need a house. You just need a great travel agent who knows amazing hotels, or rental apartments” when asked where she would like to live.
Of course it’s scripted to fit the bill, and why not? Her statement defines what ‘traveller’ means, but it is in conflict with what her shirt reads. So here’s a little perspective on the matter, because the status of refugees, immigrants and outsiders is not interchangeable with the status of a traveller.
Does a refugee = traveller?
Um, no. Speaking of one such current event of refugees, let’s take the Syrian refugee crisis. People, by the millions, are facing complete pandemonium. These are people who have been forced to pack up against their will and flee their country; leaving behind all valuables, running for their lives, in hopes of escaping the atrocities being inflicted in their homeland. They are running from home, from what they call ‘safe’ to the unknown, with their kids and family members. Many die while fleeing, others live to face persecution and other difficulties.
They definitely don’t sound like willing globetrotters to me.
Does an immigrant = traveller?
I don’t know whether CNT has lent an ear to Donald Trump’s ramblings, because if they did, they would know that the Republican is against the interests of immigrants in the US and called legal immigrants a security threat. He also said that once in their country, they “then plotted to kill Americans, [and were] sometimes successfully [in] doing so.” Now these are serious allegations hurled towards immigrants by a man who could be nominated the next US president.
These people don’t seem like they’re on an excursion to me. They’re facing real-life struggles trying to make their chosen country feel like home.
Does an outsider = traveller?
Studies state that outsiders are often victims of hate crimes. The ‘fear’ of an ‘outsider’ tends to make people feel insecure, convinced that the only solution is taking action against them. A few examples include minorities living in the US who have faced dire consequences of such crimes. Countless cases of hate crimes have been reported that have led to violent results, many a times even murder.
These people don’t sound like they’re holidaymakers to me. They’re fighting for acceptance and the right to coexist in a foreign land.
So here’s my question to the travel mag, and the Bollywood actor, subsequently: How does one equate a refugee or an immigrant or an outsider to a traveller? How are these four options even remotely related or associated with someone who has wanderlust? The answer is, they’re not.
I understand that Priyanka may have tried to highlight the constant stereotypes we brown people face. Trust me, I of all the people understand, but as a high-powered actor, drawing parallels between yourself and a refugee isn’t the way to go about it.