Racism is something that I have been aware about nearly my whole life. As someone who is mixed-race, it is something that I have witnessed against the Indian community, something that my paternal family, immigrants from Gujarat, have felt deeply in their experiences. However, it is increasingly important to address the attitudes towards the Black community in South Asian culture.
A prominent aspect of racism that I have noticed in the Indian community is colourism. The ‘ideal’ is fair skin, akin to the Western presentation of beauty as opposed to dark skin. It is unsettling to know that top Bollywood actors such as Shah Rukh Khan, Priyanka Chopra and Deepika Padukone have all promoted skin lightening treatments at some point; a testament to how prevalent the idea of colourism is within Asian culture. The obsession with lightening and bleaching is an ingrained concept, suggesting that the colour of your skin equates to your worth. This ideal holds an anti-black mentality which is sadly held by many Indian communities. It shocks me to realise how strongly this mentality is held by people, who even themselves, have experienced racism in the UK.
Compared to other ethnic minorities, Indian people have been favoured since colonial times and held up as a ‘model minority’, a stereotype that disproportionately boosts Asian families in society. Previously, I hadn’t realised this as much as I know that Indian people are still subject to prejudice, discrimination and racism in ways I have observed against myself, my family and community. Being a minority in this country does still present challenges.
However, we are the lucky ones. We are not consistently demonised in the media, swept under the rug for education and employment opportunities nor victims of widespread police injustices. Upon realising that 60% of British Indians achieve five passes at GCSE compared to Black Caribbean people whose pass rate is below 40%, it is evident to me that I am benefiting by the system in place. Although I am a POC, I cannot relate to experiences which so many Black people will struggle with in their lifetime.
Whilst it would seem alien to me to not support the Black Lives Matter movement and be anti-racist, it is true that Indian people have been complicit with the racism felt by the black community, with notable figures such as Gandhi holding overtly anti-black sentiments. It is therefore imperative that South Asian people should strive to support, educate themselves and empathise with the Black community. Supporting their fight for injustice does not invalidate the struggles of our community but shows a willing to understand that we have historically fed into the discrimination and racism felt by this community. It will help us understand and confront why we hold the standards of colour that we do. It will make the community stop and examine the oxymoronic idea of not wanting to be discriminated against yet still perpetuating an anti-black dialogue.
By supporting this movement, I believe it is a call to do better.
Silence Is Not An Option; Why South Asians Should Support BLM is a Boundless Ideas commission for 15-25 year olds to write opinion led pieces that speak to themes of Politics, Identity and Theatre.
Maya is an 18 year old creative with a passion for theatre, politics and literature. Growing up in Stockport, she has taken advantage of the theatre scene in Manchester, being a member of the Lowry Young Company and an Arts Emergency mentee. She plans on taking a gap year before deciding what is next in store for her.