By Yasmin Alibhai-Brown | BRITAIN |
As the Black Lives Matter protests went global, some South Asians tried to ride the emotional surf by bringing up their own victimisation by white people. Priti Patel, for example, spoke in June about how she had suffered racist taunts in school playgrounds and the streets.
Nimmi Dosanjh, 41, an artist, designer and businesswoman, was so dismayed by the appropriation and solipsism that she called the Nihal Arthanayake show on BBC Radio5 Live. “I wanted to say, ‘You can’t jump on to this bandwagon just because it’s the vogue.’
“How can we talk about Black Lives Matter when we are guilty of normalising those attitudes in our countries and communities? You can’t suddenly become an anti-racist because it is convenient.”
Other Asians are speaking out too, challenging elders and the normalised disparagement of and discrimination against black people – as well as Asians with darker skin.
The Dark is Beautiful campaign was launched in India in 2009 against colour bias, and taking aim at manufacturers of skin-lightening creams.
Kaur Life, a Sikh website, has responded to BLM by running a brave series of articles, exposing the “colourism, shadeism and anti-black attitudes [that] are sadly prevalent among South Asians”.
Meena*, an Asian professional woman, has secretly been engaged to Ben*, her black partner, for three years. This summer, they decided to come out to her Hindu parents and brothers by inviting them to a picnic. Her father contemptuously asked Ben whether he grew up in a council house and about black drug dealers. Ben is a chemical engineer. The wedding, Meena says, “will test the tolerance of my folk”.
Darshna Soni, Channel 4 News’s home affairs correspondent, married her Ghanaian husband Chi almost 20 years ago. They met in their first week of university. For years she was too scared to be seen with him in public “in case some Aunty saw us. There was this fear in my stomach”.
They shared a flat, but had to clear out all his stuff if her relatives were visiting. Even so, she says, “when I finally told the family, I didn’t realise the grief it would cause”.
Her father had cared deeply about his black pupils when he was a deputy head teacher in Uganda. This was different. He had to consider the reactions of the extended family and community.
One relative, whose husband is white, explained that she had “married up”, whereas Darshna was “marrying down”.
All these years on, she still hears insensitive comments from kith and kin about her mixed-race children, their curly hair and skin colour.
Read the full story, ‘Racism is not just a white problem – it’s time we Asians confronted our own prejudices’ (inews.co.uk, 10 NOV 2020), here.
Two black Sikh women fight racism, colorism and casteism (Asia Samachar, 5 Sept 2020)