Whenever I start feeling too arrogant about myself, I always make a trip to America. The immigration guys kick the star out of stardom. They always ask me how tall I am and I always lie and say 5 feet 10 inches. Next time, I am going to get more adventurous. If they ask me ‘what color are you?’ I am going to say white.
Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan on being detained at the U.S. Airport—twice. (Once, he was detained while promoting a film called “My Name is Khan” which was ironically about a person with the last name Khan suffering from repeated racial profiling.)
Multiple actors and other prominent individuals in the film industry with the last name “Khan” have been detained when entering the country. Irrfan Khan (The Life of Pi, Slumdog Millionaire, Spider-man) described the three times he was stopped—while on the way to receive honors for his roles in films such as The Namesake—as “humiliating.” Actor Aamir Khan was stopped and stripped searched in 2002. Director Kabir Khan, was reportedly detained at least three times in 2008 while filming in the United States. The New York Times ended up remarking on The Dangers of Fying While Khan
This much is clear:
- Despite being an incredibly common surname, in the United States, Khan is a racialized last name and those who carry it suffer from additional, insulting, stigma and scrutiny.
- There is no shortage of talented actors of South Asian descent whether from within the United States, from the UK, or Bollywood—and many of them even have the last name of Khan.
- With Star Trek Into Darkness the name “Khan” is once again stigmatized as antagonistic, but the actors named Khan, the Khans of the world, and those who look like Khans once again have no voice about how they are represented in American media.
If you’re an award winning actor named Khan, you will still get stopped and humiliated at the airport. When that rare character in American media finally shows up sharing your name, he will be played by a white British man. That actor will wear your name for one movie and sneer and strut to great critical acclaim. You will wear your racialized name, your skin color, and hope you don’t get detained another time.
Top Ten List of All The Reasons Why Iggy Azalea’s Bounce Video is Terrible
There’s the obvious culture vulture-ism, exotification of the other, buying into fetishization, disrespect of religion, going on in this video. But let’s really dissect this, shall we?
- Only M.I.A. can ride an elephant with seduction, successfully.
- White sari and no rain? What kind of white sari Bollywood symbolism is this? Wait - this isn’t pulpy Bollywood?
- Did she just say, “Iggy Iggy, gettin’ ‘em tipsy, Tippin’ in brah, to hundreds and fifties, Pullin’ up, NASCAR, black car, Shittin’ on everyone, sippin’ whatever we feelin’”??? No.
- Her song has nothing to do with being in India. Like, zero. It’s a song about bouncing. Even her desi dance moves are stretching on the bounces.
- Someone fix her sari. Her belly is showing.
- WHY is she in front of the sadhus?!?! Blasphemous.
- Did she just morph herself out of the Taj Mahal?
- The kids covered in holi colors - the kids are cute, but what does that have to do with “bouncing” at all? And how come with all that color flying, she still remains White?
- Uh. This.
- Hari Kondabolu said it best, “Just saw Iggy Azalea’s “Bounce” video. Finally something that can unite the Indian-American & African-American community in mutual hatred.”
Don’t fool yourself. English isn’t inherently superior, or easier to learn, or more sonically pleasing. Its international usage comes from forceful assimilation and legacy of colonialistic injection. It isn’t a deed that one should take pride in.
immigrants, poor people, queer people of color, disabled folks, women (esp trans women of color) and gender-nonconforming folks if you are in academia and you don’t feel smart enough, remember that you are in the playground and training grounds of the elite. academia was not designed to include you. you are surviving something that has been systemically designed to exclude you in order to keep power in the hands of white, middle class, able bodied cis-men.
knowing this, don’t let academia train you to believe that elitism is the right way to make it through school. you can learn shit, hold the knowledge of your people in your heart, discard shame for your humble beginnings and/or marginalized identities. move through this experience knowing that the changes it offers you don’t have to include accepting academic elitism, inaccessible language or superiority. you can can simultaneously own the privilege that comes with being college educated and connections to your roots. academia does not have to kill your spirit.
In all the [RSS] schools we visited in Delhi, there is a striking visual display of Hindu political symbols that blend militancy with sacredness. The two are then connected in a framework that is explicitly political and unmistakably oriented towards the RSS. Ram’s pictures are ubiquitous and several headmasters and headmistresses sported Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s posters and prints, calenders and small icons in their offices. Hindu leaders who fought against ‘Muslims’, like Rana Pratap and Shivaji were also omnipresent. The map of undivided India, straddled by a divine Bahartmata was also much in evidence.
[…] there is a strong, almost mystical emphasis on physical culture, including yogic practices that are considered to be invested in extra-physical and moral properties. Not only are they meant to turn students into formidable soldiers of the Hindu nation, they also impart spiritual qualities, Yoga especially, is considered a uniquely Hindu way of developing physical and spiritual strength in mutual harmony.
From Tanika Sarkar’s essay Educating the Children of the Hindu Rastra: Notes on RSS Schools, found in the Sangh Parivar: A Reader (ed. Christophe Jaffrelot).
Sarkar, in her usual brutally precise way points out the ideological and practical working of Hindu fundamentalist schools across India, the common thread is that they exist everywhere, only second to Government schools which have a mandated presence in almost every block of the country. I taught quite a few essays from this book (sidenote: I may be irrevocably in love with Jaffrelot, uhm, moving on) and the biggest problem with putting such points forward was students not being able to make out just what was so “wrong” with any of it. Sure, no one wanted to be “those” Hindus, who would take up arms in the name of religion—they just wanted to be the ones who celebrated Holi, Ganpati festivals and Diwali mostly (leading into various conversations about which communities are allowed to publicly engage in their religious festivals without being accused of having an ‘agenda’ to taint the rest of us). Sure, they didn’t agree with the undivided India nonsense, most were quick to concede that fundamentalist organisation run schools like these are fascist in nature, where history is torn from context (the “valiant” Hindus fighting against “Muslims” for instance) to produce a uni-linear retelling of history. What they had a hard time digesting was that *their* Hinduism was one that could very well espouse similar militant and fascist emotional responses from people—given that the Hinduism we know today, as it exists in our “secular” politics and public spaces that has come mediated via RSS/VHP/BJP tampering of Hinduism.
Earliest stories that I heard of Ram were bitter narrations of his failure as an “ideal” son, brother, husband and king—what can I say, my nani is great and she has always had a particular dislike of organised religion. Mum corrected that story with the Amar Chitra Katha books on the Ramayan, and suddenly this dude from being mostly useless suddenly becomes a warrior, who fights strange creatures, lower caste demons and ultimately avenges his wife’s sexual humiliation. In nani’s stories, Ayodhya was a fictional kingdom (like Hastinapur), and sure, Uttar Pradesh may have a city with the same name, but that wasn’t Ram’s Ayodhya. Of course, Amar Chitra Katha had different points to make, and before long, “Muslim invaders destroyed Ram’s temple and erected the Babri Masjid in its place” became the dominant narrative. Point is, in the past two decades, there is an unmistakable collapse between the sacred and the militant, one that isn’t co-incidentally formed—it can be traced alongside the rise of the Hindu Right in this country—to the point when I think of the ‘sacred’, I can no longer divorce violence from that imagination. Sadly, this narrative and journey aren’t in any way unique to me or the way I was raised, to be Hindu is to *know* and *endorse* all of this, maybe in varying degrees and magnitude, but it can’t be ignored or explained away.
When I see all these posts on the bindi, or on using say sacred “Indian” symbols in western texts—and that action is most definitely tied in with western imperialism and appropriation—but the defense produced is, [x] is scared, therefore HANDS OFF”, it scares the living shit out of me, when we are so ready to defend the “sacred”, without stopping to think just what it has come to mean in the past three decades of Hindu fascism, or even attempt to interrogate just how much of our faith is created by the same forces.
TL;DR: Tanika Sarkar is brilliant, Jaffrelot is a charming writer and talking about cultural appropriation on tumblr is like doing social suicide. The end.
“I was hiding under your porch because I love you” is one of my favourite lines. So good. I’m glad Pixar made it after Disney tried to veto it because they didn’t think they could sell enough Up toys or something.
US-centrism is people in Australia following the US news cycle incessantly about violence in Boston, but having no awareness of violence in Bangalore, and simply being desensitised to violence in Baghdad.
Oh yes we do the same here, following and reporting and writing about Boston violence, from newspapers and news networks to laypeople. US-centrism also allows us to neatly stratify these tragedies, on a large matrix, that decides some lives are worth talking about, others need not even figure in the same sentence.
And US-centrism is a compulsion. If you don’t empathise with these tragedies*, you’re immediately a monster.
*Empathy isn’t the point here. It’s the need to see empathy from everyone the US talks to, while they in turn are *allowed* and given *full impunity* to be literal and figurative monsters to the people they’re killing in “benevolence”, I suppose.