A Twitter war broke out last week after a Twitter account, @LILAVYVERT retweeted a video of Indian men dancing in what appears to be a club, with the caption: “I know it smell crazy in there.”
Those seven words started a Twitter war between the Black and the South Asian community.
The tweet got many responses from the South Asian community, which resulted in a racist rampage of tweets that attacked and stereotyped Black people.
While the original post, (most likely intended to be a joke) was also racist by nature, the tweets in response were taken to a disproportionately offensive level.
While the first tweet was also inappropriate, both communities going after one another only works to further uphold white supremacy, by using similar tactics, language and slurs, originated and used by white supremacists.
The situation also further illustrated the vitriol that exists towards Black people in some parts of the South Asian/Indian diaspora, as if it was mounting and waiting to be released.
This feud on Twitter felt as though a reminder was needed: that South Asian people have a responsibility to be Anti-racist towards Black people.
The South Asian community has been not only complicit towards Anti-Black racism, but on some occasions, actively racist.
Whether it is Blackface in certain Bollywood films, colourist song lyrics, or outright stereotyping of Black people, there are many examples of this that continue to persist to varying degrees.
The more I start to challenge elements of the South Asian community that I’ve grown up in, the more I question how South Asians across the world have long maintained anti-Black ideologies.
One of the most overt examples in South Asian culture, and mainstream culture worldwide, is the fairness cosmetic industry, which promotes skin bleaching and is endorsed by high profile celebrities.
But the anti-Blackness in the South Asian community goes beyond the more explicit products that intend to make your skin white.
Oftentimes, anti-Blackness is a lot more subtle than we would expect.
One of the more implicit ways anti-Blackness is exercised is through the model minority myth.
The model minority myth paints Asians and immigrants as hard-working and intelligent, while pinning them against Black people who are then portrayed as the opposite. This theory ignores the complexity of racial dynamics and was built entirely on the subjugation of Black people.
In addition, South Asians who prescribe to the model minority myth often don’t realize how harmful it is to other racial minorities. It is instead seen as evidence that anyone can “make it”.
The myth ignores the deeply ingrained systems of oppression that push Black people to the margins while selectively uplifting those who instead seem palatable to the white gaze.
By definition, this mindset is capitalistic, and thus uplifts white supremacist values. These violent, colonial ideas perpetuate the myth that the success of some immigrants is proof that systemic barriers don’t exist.
It’s no secret that South Asian countries are riddled with social issues, often stemming from the same ideas that propagate anti-Black ideologies.
What needs to be done is internal work to recognize our own privilege. While many South Asian communities have solidarity with Black people, there are just as many who feel closer to whiteness, believing that acting and associating themselves with white people and staying silent on racial matters will bring more of a peaceful life.
I have witnessed people within the South Asian community perpetuate stereotypes that blame Black people for not working hard to change the negative perceptions society paints them with.
Some of these harmful ideas were expressed days ago within the quote tweets of the original twitter thread.
As Rumneek Johal reminds us that while the South Asian community “faces a unique set of struggles, discrimination, and racism when navigating society in the Western world and beyond, these struggles can no longer be used as a veil to cover up our own complicity, or to assuage our guilt for the inherent racism we have shown towards the Black community in a variety of ways.”
In other words, anti-Blackness is no excuse for the internalized racism that must be confronted within the South Asian community.
There are many issues of casteism, colourism, domestic violence, islamophobia, homophobia and others that have been brushed under the rug within the South Asian community, and have instead been projected onto the Black community—as a way to deflect from our own internalized racism—which was evident in brown Twitter’s reaction to the original tweet.
Many South Asians have internalized a lot of dangerous ideas, rooted from generations of stereotypes that were recklessly shared on Twitter last week, showing that there is still so much work to be done.
Until we interrogate our own complicity in systems of oppression, we cannot truly condemn injustice.
Until we actively and genuinely acknowledge the ways we’ve been conditioned to accept harmful ideals we can never truly progress to an equal and just society.
Every change starts from within.
About the author: Tasheal is a screenwriter and poet who believes creativity fuels true happiness. She is studying Film Production at UBC. Tasheal first discovered her passion for telling stories when she typed up old manuscripts for her dad at the ripe age of 9. Ever since, she has fell in love with the art of storytelling. Tasheal is an Aquarius who uses sarcasm as a defence mechanism and enjoys binge-watching Frasier on a regular basis. Find her on instagram at @tashealgill
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