I can’t be racist! I’m Asian!

So, I was reading about the Hey Hey debacle this morning. It appears that the reboot of a popular Saturday night Australian show, Hey Hey It’s Saturday, has got the world buzzing because of a blackface routine. That’s not what I want to write about. Two-thirds into The Age article, we have the following:

The Sydney plastic surgeon who played Michael Jackson in the skit — in white face — yesterday professed surprise at the response. “It’s quite ironic that I’m an Indian and five of the six of us are from multicultural backgrounds. So to be called a racist, this is a first certainly for me,” said Anand Deva [thus also proving that -- although he may be a plastic surgeon (he's made of plastic perhaps?) -- he has little grasp of the English language -- ksa].

Oh puh-lease! As much of a post-colonialist, grumpy, waaaaay too intense, anti-imperalist leftist pinko commie scumbag that I am, PLEASE do not make the argument that — just because you don’t have white skin — you can’t be a racist. You can be in a crowd of Asians from all kinds of countries, without a single orang putih in the mix, and you can still see, hear and experience racism. Or, to put it more properly, bigotry.

(TANGENT: You may say I’m being unfair targetting the language abilities of a person, but look at his profession. He’s a plastic surgeon! Wouldn’t you expect someone who is cutting and rearranging various of your bits (notwithstanding your own ethical stand towards plastic surgery) to, at least, be able to communicate in a clear and unambiguous fashion? Doubly so if it’s a medical doctor? And, if they come from India, where English is the prized language among the middle class, then there’s really no excuse. So, no. If anyone is in a position where they have to slap down many thousands of dollars for procedures that may lead to their death — no matter how low the very real risk — then I expect the recipient of that money and that life responsibility to be utterly precise in what they say. And, to be honest, the last thing I’d want is a surgeon masquerading as a music-hall artist with sloppy language skills. But, onwards ….)

In Australia, my white-skinned husband was discriminated against because he spoke with an accent. Fluent English, but with an accent. He’s from Europe you see. In Asia, it can get much worse. Like my Malaysian Chinese aunt getting insulted by Hong Kong Chinese on a shopping trip because her skin was “too dark”. From her indignant retelling, she said that they even commented, in earshot, that she must not be a “proper Chinese”. And, mind you, Aunt Jen is pretty fair-skinned to my eyes.

You can almost understand the Australian reaction. After all, we’re talking about a different race. But to have one subset of your own ethnic group diss you because of the colour of your skin? That’s harsh.

Closer to home, let’s tackle Anand Deva’s group. Everybody knows that an Indian family always hopes for a fair-skinned daughter … if they’re cursed to have one at all. This is because a fair-skinned daughter is easier to marry off because she’s seen as more desirable. It’s a lesser consideration, but still there, with prospective son-in-laws. Do you really want your daughter to marry a dark-skinned man? Think of the children! What colour will their skins be? If it’s too dark, opportunities slam shut like a bank vault door. Even marriage must be thought through like a multi-generational battle strategy because of the innate and manifold bigotries of Indian society.

And, in a brilliant two-fer, I offer a recent article from Sexis contributor, Mandy Van Deven that talks about the prevailing attitude in India towards white women. It starts off with a bang (pun intended):

“Memsahib, we can go have sex?”

It takes me a moment to process that the skinny teenage boy selling dupattas on the streets of Kolkata (Calcutta) whom I met only thirty seconds ago just asked me to fuck him.

“Ki aschorjo! Amake eta jigesh korcho keno? I am not a whore!” I yell at him in mixed Bengali and English …. This is not the first time this has happened to me, and I doubt it will be the last.

Van Deven continues:

If a product being sold is sexual in nature—for example, condoms or panties—then the woman advertising it is white. In Mumbai talent scouts roam the tourist areas in search of Western women to pose for such pictures …. The sexual exploits of Western women are so suspect that many hotels refuse to provide accommodation to them and some restaurants refuse them entry if accompanying an Indian man for fear that their reputation will be tarnished as being a place that allows prostitution.

Go read the whole thing. It’s an eye-opener for Westerners. So, oh no, Anand Deva, Indians can’t be bigoted, ignorant scum at all, can they? We’ll reserve that privilege for the whites.

Getting back to race in general, how do you think Asians regard, say, Kenyans (or vice versa)? Think they could be racist? Of course! How do Arabs, as one bunch of Asians, regard Koreans (or vice versa)? Think they could be racist? Of course! So believe me when I tell you that this whole only-whites-are-racist schtick gets pretty damned tired pretty damned quickly.

What I am NOT saying is that whites can’t be bigoted. You only have to read my past posts on my life in Australia to know that. What I AM saying is that I am sick to death of one group hiding behind a shield of racial righteousness just because they happen to have a skin colour that’s not white. The more I travel the world, the more I’m convinced that there are more things we all have in common than in difference. And, in bigotry, that unfortunately holds true as well.

2 thoughts on “I can’t be racist! I’m Asian!

  1. This is a phenomenon I see regularly in the US. It drives me nuts, and perhaps it’s wrong, but when I get fed that line I have to assume that person is ignorant.

    Why can’t we wake these people up? It’s like they’re living in an alternate reality.

  2. It’s a convenient excuse, isn’t it? And one used far too often, in my opinion. And, you’re right. All it does is make non-whites appear ignorant, which is a backfire I doubt most of them are aware of.