During the Washington, D.C. sniper hunt of 2002, you didn't want to be the person who owned a white van in that metropolitan area. That's because the alleged sniper, who randomly killed ten people and critically injured three, was supposedly driving one. Everyone was looking for that vehicle description, and if you drove a white van, you were a cold-blooded murderer.
It didn't matter who was inside the vehicle. Teacher, carpenter, mechanic, it mattered not. If you drove a white van, you had serious perception problems due to wide-spread hypersensitivity, caused by a traumatic event.
For anyone of Middle Eastern or Asian descent, the days, months and even years following September 11, 2001, were not a good time to resemble "those Muslims." "Muslim-looking folk" were the "white vans" of America, and it didn't matter what was on the inside - everyone was on the lookout for that vehicle description. All you had to do was have dark-skin in 2001 and, forgive the redundancy, you had serious perception problems due to the widespread hypersensitivity caused by a traumatic event.
Racial profiling and discrimination were rampant in America after 9/11, and worst of all, were justified by fear and panic. Just ask the Latino immigrant, who had the wrong skin tone at airport security, during that time. No one with a certain complexion was safe.
Hell, even an American-born, 19-year-old University of Texas Catholic boy wasn't safe from the anti-anything-foreign sentiment of that time. We know what you're thinking: "The boy sounds as red, white and blue as they come. Why would he have problems?"
It's because that boy was Bobby Moon. The Houston-born and bred overseas pop-singer was the son of Indian immigrants: two registered nurses, who worked their tails off to raise two doctors, and eventually one break-out musician. But their American Dream or their children's American upbringing couldn't protect their son from the racial-relations fall out of an unforgettable day.
If you're wondering what 9/11 has to do with Bobby Moon and how it shaped his life, you should, because it had a profound impact.
The days before September 11, Bobby was possibly on the brink of stardom. Having just inked a deal with independent Houston music label Goldman Records and a ready-to-blow album that featured Juvenile and the 504 Boyz, he and Goldman had Universal Records showing lots of interest in a possible lucrative distribution deal, but the day that changed America forever, would also change the course of Bobby Moon's music career. For better, or worse, is a matter of opinion.
After 9/11, Universal Records perhaps decided white vans couldn't be parked on CD covers because America wouldn't buy them. They were probably right. That's because signing an Indian artist, American born or not; Muslim or Catholic, wasn't going to fly in 2001. Seriously, no pun intended.
"After 2001, people of my ethnicity were pushed to the way side," Moon tells Rocks Off. "A few days after 9/11 we flew to New York and we got turned away. The interest wasn't there."
But there was interest in India and so Bobby Moon would venture down a road, which despite leading to a country that represented the very roots of his heritage, would be somewhat foreign to him, and ironically, would provide him a different kind of opportunity to break new musical ground.
After signing with Indian music label giant, T-Series, five years later, Bobby Moon released "The Rising" and became "the first American-born Indian to have a major album release in India," says Moon.
In 2006, pop and R&B was starting to catch fire in India and Moon's all-English album (except for one track) was timely and went double-platinum, but the Moon was only half-full, not completely satisfied.
[Ed. Note: Rolando Rodriguez originally reported Moon sold 2.5 million albums, but that was by the American double-platinum definition. One hundred thousand sold is platinum in India, Moon clarified. Rolando obviously got lost in the Indian-to-American translation, but he's found again. Our bad.]
"I spent a lot of time touring India singing to thousands of people, but in my heart of hearts, I wanted to succeed here in the U.S.," Moon says.
Yet, Moon was starting to see serious success in India as he landed the title song to the Bollywood movie, Jawani Diwani, and record executives wanted his music to become more relevant to the market, linguistically, at least.
"Hindi isn't my native tongue," says Moon. "I speak a South Indian dialect my parents speak. I wasn't being authentic in terms of what I was bringing to the music. I started recording music because I loved it. Somehow, I had gotten away from that path. I decided to come back home and hang my gloves up for a little bit and figure out how I ended up on a side street instead of on Main Street."
Four years of soul-searching later, Moon has a degree from the University of Texas and a sweet gig with pharmaceutical company, Eli Lilly. Musically, Moon has put in the necessary work to rise again. He teamed up with Houstonians Akil A.K. Kurji, Nadeem Rajani, and Jeff "JStarz" Ali to start On The Mark Records. and linked up with artists, like Akon, Paul Wall and Lil Flip, who do live on Main Street, and who can possibly help him gain residence.
His new album, which isn't titled yet, has the backing of Los Angeles-based Doggtown Entertainment Group. A Doggtown executive, visiting Lil Flip's video shoot, "Swagger," which Moon is featured in, was impressed by the H-Town singer and has since partnered with Moon's label, On the Mark, to make him a star. More unintended pun. Doggtown has also secured Snoop Dogg to executive produce the project and be featured on at least one track. Needless, to say, things are looking up.
You know, it turned out that a white van wasn't the vehicle carrying the Washington, DC snipers back in 2002. It was a blue car. Everyone had it wrong. Maybe Universal Records had it wrong, too. Depending on what happens, they might just have to face the music of that decision - Bobby Moon's music, that is.
Ironically, breakout star Jay Sean's success may have redeemed the "white van," at least in pop culture. They might not have ever been considered cool, but the Lil Wayne prodigy might just make them hip to drive, or at the very least, "OK" to drive again.
If more people like Bobby join Jay on a national stage, perhaps an entire community that's been unfairly chastised and speculated upon for almost a decade now can find new life in the eyes of mainstream America. Say it happens...I know the Latino immigrant trying to get through airport security might have an easier day.
One can only pray to the moon, for the sake of all our dark-skinned brothers and sisters.
Rolando Rodriguez is managing editor of www.redbrownandblue.com. Email him at Rolando@redbrownandblue.com.