Antiblackness in the South Asian Community - Rhea Singh
When it comes to the minority struggle, people often find it easy to lump the struggles of every POC – especially South Asians and the Black community – into a shared category, that every person of colour shares the same obstacles in a white-dominated nation such as America. However, this false equivalency does not address the specific trauma of being a Black person in America. This false equivalency creates a narrative that both Black and Brown people are subjected to the same discrimination and are united in the struggles they face against racism, when in reality, there is a deep-rooted anti-Blackness within the South Asian community itself. There has been a recent out-pour of support towards Black Lives Matter movement by South Asians, and while the unity and the togetherness of a global community in the face of horrific brutality is a hope-filled sign, this unity is tainted to a certain degree, due to the history of anti-Blackness and western-fascination within the South Asian community.
South Asians for Black Lives Via http://aacre.org/south-asian-solidarity-blacklivesmatter/
Casual racism goes largely unchecked in South Asian households. Think of the number of times a family member has used the word “kala” (black) in a derogatory way. Think of your friends who listen to hip-hop music, casually use the N-word, and appropriate black culture at their convenience, yet suddenly fall silent when the time comes to speak up. Think of the million-dollar fairness creams industry in India, which still promote the tagline “Fair and Lovely”. Celebrities like Priyanka Chopra choose to advocate for Black Lives Matter, yet are oblivious to their own despicable hypocrisy, and still continue to advertise fairness creams.
Colourism is rampant in Bollywood. The infatuation with Western beauty standards results in celebrities having their skin lightened, since lighter skin is associated with sophistication and the upper class. Instead of casting darker-skinned leads, Bollywood continues to blackface and brownface in their movies, especially when playing characters from lower-income disadvantaged backgrounds. Colourism isn’t even considered problematic in Bollywood, as prejudice is a means of entertainment that allows the industry to make cheap jokes at the expense of darker-skinned individuals as viewers continue to watch and laugh. The list is endless, and practically nothing is being done in Bollywood to address this stigma.
Brownface in Bollywood Via https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/anger-in-india-over-bollywood-brownface-bias-5rk3xcz8n
Additionally, black people aren’t only stereotyped in white households. South Asian families are complicit in their perception of Black people as thugs, drug-dealers, and aggressive brutes. This kind of problematic and racist behaviour goes unchecked in both the older and younger generations, and contributes to the stereotypes that Black people face, thus continuing the vicious cycle perpetuating violence against them. South Asians often benefit from anti-Blackness. As explained by Dr Fatima Rajina, “South Asian communities take comfort, basically, in knowing they are not Black, implicitly accepting their proximity to whiteness and that they will remain untouched.” South Asians are also often considered the “Model Minority” in the United States, which allows an inherently problematic claim to be made, that because South Asians contribute to academia and help the economy, they are “better” than the Black community. This, of course, discounts the large population of working class or undocumented South Asians who do not, fit this stereotype of a “model minority”. Not only does this baseless claim allow South Asians to continue benefiting from the injustice against the Black community, but it also allows an internalised belief of superiority, which manifests in the casually racist behaviour in households.
Silence is betrayal. It is being complicit to a system that benefits off of the exploitation of Black people. Anti-Blackness that is so deeply ingrained in our community cannot be resolved by a single black square posted on Instagram, or by other performative forms of activism. A #BlackLivesMatter hashtag is simply NOT enough. Continued conversations, accountability, and an open mind is integral in the fight against racism. Choosing to be uneducated on the issue allows people to remain blissfully ignorant of the domino effect of their racist actions. Call yourself and others around you out when you find yourself enabling anti-black behaviour. Question your thought process, reflect on it, and unravel the prejudices and biases that poison good judgement. Be an ally – your responsibility is to speak WITH black people, not over them. Call out celebrities and influencers with a bigger platform, especially when you notice hypocrisy. Though we face racial struggles as South Asians, acknowledge your privilege, for it is black people who continually face racial discrimination and police brutality – not because of a crime they committed, but simply due to the colour of their skin. All lives cannot matter until Black lives matter.
Here are some links you can use to help support Black Lives Matter:
Petitions and many other resources: https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/
Twitter master thread: https://twitter.com/rosiegguks/status/1266307905692864513?s=21
Pre Drafted email templates: https://sayitagain.carrd.co/
Lakshmi, Sanjana. "South Asians, It’s Time to Call Out Our Antiblackness." Wear Your Voice, 12 Oct. 2016, wearyourvoicemag.com/south-asians-antiblackness/.
Sarkar, Monica. "Why Does Bollywood Use the Offensive Practice of Brownface in Movies?" CNN, 9 May 2020, edition.cnn.com/style/article/india-bollywood-brownface-hnk-intl/index.html.
Soundararajan, Thenmozhi. "South Asians For Black Lives: A Call For Action, Accountability, and Introspection." Wear Your Voice, 15 Dec. 2015, wearyourvoicemag.com/south-asians-for-black-lives-a-call-for-action/.