Hi! I'm sorry to bother, but I have a question. I have a friend who looks white (blonde, light skin, green eyes) but was actually born and raised in India by her Hindu parents. She practices Hinduism and only recently moved to the states. She still wears traditional clothing, but the other day she posted a picture of herself in her traditional clothes and got a lot of hate for it, people saying it was cultural appropriation. She's bummed out about it and is now questioning her ethnicity. Help?
1. All those people screaming cultural appropriation at her are ignoramuses who are basically saying, “Wow, you don’t look like my ill-informed, narrow-minded stereotype of what people from this region actually look like!” and “I actually subscribe to horrible, reductionist stereotypes that Indian people can only have dark hair, skin and eyes. Light hair? Green eyes? European (origin) only!”
This is gonna be a tad long, because it’s gonna delve into biology and history- and it’s because I hope people realise how artificial the US paradigm of race is. It’s woefully incompetent at understanding the biological diversity of our species because it is a social construct. Modern scientists and historians generally refuse to categorise people on the amount of melanin they have because it’s just reductionist and oversimplistic- what they do is classify people by their geographic origin, linguistic and cultural ties.
2. India is an EXTREMELY diverse continent. It’s so genetically diverse that the only place more genetically diverse is the African continent, aka, the birthplace of humanity. And this is a big deal. I’ll explain why.
Presently, the most widely-accepted theory of our origins is the Recent African Origin, or Out of Africa Theory. This holds that originally, humans first appeared in Africa, thus all of us have African ancestors. All modern non-Africans are descended from much smaller groups of people who migrated out of Africa, anytime from 65,000 to 125,000 years ago. How do scientists know this? By looking at our DNA, in addition to fossil and archaeological records. They discovered that the differences in the DNA of non-African peoples like say, a German a Japanese and a New Zealand Maori was far less than the genetic differences between people from different African ethnic groups. (Somali, Dinka, Yoruba, San, Kikuyu, Luo etc- I’m BARELY scratching the surface)
What this meant was that Africa had to be the original, diverse genetic pool where modern humans first appeared. Everybody else outside of Africa today is descended from much smaller groups of people who left Africa at various times- and that ancestral genetic “bottleneck” is why people who appear to have very different heritage (e.g European vs East Asian) actually havefar less genetic variation than the various African peoples.
Genetic studies have shown that if you take a modern Indian from any part of India, no matter how dark or fair they are, his or her lineage will consist of mixing from two main ancestral groups. One is the Ancestral Northern Indians (ANI), and the other the Ancestral Southern Indians (ASI). You may have heard of the ancient Indian caste system which put a lot of social pressure that prohibited marrying outside your caste. Caste discrimination is banned today, but old attitudes do persist. However, even this caste rigidity wasn’t so 4000- 2000 years ago. ANI people married ASI pretty freely, so that’s why every modern Indian has heredity from both groups. So, already to start off, you got quite a fair bit of diversity hidden in people’s genes.
And the next interesting part to explain why it IS possible for Indians to have features stereotyped as “European” is because while the ASI seemed to be genetically unique to the Indian subcontinent, the ANI people are genetically related to Middle-Easterns, Europeans and Caucasians (and I mean this not in the sense of “white” as often used in the US, but the actual region of Caucasus, which borders Europe and Asia).
You mentioned she looks “white”- and the American-understanding of “white” being hurled at her by those people screaming cultural appropriation are actually ignorantly treating “white” as synonymous with “European-origin”. In reality, it’s completely useless in the realm of biology. Biologically, there is actually no real dichotomy where “European” suddenly ends and “Asia” begins.
As I earlier pointed out, well, we’re all kinda related. And it’s not at all earth-shattering that some people from India look like they’re of “European-origin”. Because modern Europeans, Central Asians and the Ancestral Northern Indians are all believed to be descendants of a group of people called the Proto-Indo-Europeans. It’s believed they lived around 6000-7000 years ago. Some modern people that are descended from the Proto-Indo-Europeans are French, Germans, Iranians and Pashtuns (a major ethnic group in Afghanistan). It’s even been found that Europeans and Indians shared a gene for fair skin from a common ancestor- which is why there ARE people who look like your friend. Naturally, fair skin is just relatively rarer in India vs Europe because more parts of India are located in hotter regions. Therefore, there’s more selection pressure for darker skin which has more melanin to protect from the sun- making fair skin rarer, but still possible.
(This is a map of the Kurgan Hypothesis, which is currently the most popular theory for how the Proto-Indo-Europeans migrated from their homeland to settle Europe, Central Asia, Iran, India and Turkey etc)
Saying Indians are descendants of the Proto-Indo-Europeans is NOT the same as saying they’re of “European origin”. For example, think of the Proto-Indo-Europeans as like the “mother” of Europeans, Central Asians and the Ancestral Northern Indians- they’re like “sibling” groups, not descendants. The original Indo-Europeans were not “European” in the modern sense. I am clarifying this because plenty of colonial-era scientific racism tried to attribute ancient India’s achievements to “European who left Europe for India”- you might have heard the phrase “Aryan” thrown around in Nazi Germany, which was used to mean “blonde hair, blue eyes”. Nazi scientists and historians also abused it to explain away the sophistication of non-European civilisations in Ancient Egypt and India. In reality, ”Aryan” is derived from the ancient Sanskrit word “Arya" which means "noble". Sanskrit is an ancient language still used in classical Indian texts, and is of Proto-Indo-European origin. For example, the name of the country “Iran” actually means “land of the Aryans”- it was the names ancient Iranians (another people descended from the Proto-Indo-Europeans) gave to what others called the Persian Empire for more than a thousand years before the Third Reich.
Furthermore, many languages we often separate as “European” and “Asian” like German, English, French, Italian vs. Hindi, Farsi (Persian), Gujarati, Punjabi, Pashto, Sanskrit etc are ALL classified by linguists as belonging to the same Indo-European language family- which all evolved from the original language the Proto-Indo-Europeans spoke. See how artificial the Europe/Asia dichotomy really is, in terms of human genetics and origin of cultures?
4. Finally- there’s plenty of modern proof that the region we call Europe today does NOT have a monopoly on producing people with blonde hair, fair skin and green eyes.
This is Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, a popular Indian Bollywood actress who is also known for her striking blue-green eyes. She’s 100% Indian- she was born in Mangalore, India to Indian parents.
5. And in the first place, what makes up a person’s identity IS NOT JUST HOW MUCH or HOW LITTLE MELANIN THEY HAVE.
Tell your friend she is 100% Indian, because what makes up her identity is not just how she looks. Identity is what feels most natural to her, and if that identity is indeed very intertwined with major aspects of Indian culture- then well, she IS Indian and noone can say otherwise.
Those people had no right to make her feel awful and “not-Indian enough” because it’s clear she identifies as such due to actually being born there and also practising major aspects of Indian culture. The best example I can think of to explain this is how in the US, people sometimes use the term “Latino” as a race category, with the stereotype that all latinos must have tanned skin and dark hair. In reality, it’s more of a cultural identity. The are fair haired-latinos and darker-skinned latinos whose ancestors included the African slaves brought to the Americas four hundred years ago. But what really makes them “Latino” or “Hispanic” is their upbringing- growing up in the environment of Latin America, which is culturally a syncretic fusion of Amerindian, African, Spanish, Portuguese and other European influences.
(This is the Brazilian football team that won the 1970 World Cup- you can see Pelé- second from the bottom right. He is an Afro-Brazilian. If you look at his teammates, you can see how latinos come in ALL COLOURS.)
6. Your friend should not be questioning her identity, but those people attacking her should be questioning their utterly myopic worldview. The history of human genetics and migrations makes it abundantly clear how DIVERSE India is- so it’s perfectly possible for her to be Indian but have blonde hair and green eyes, even if it may be less common.
7. On a more general note, I cannot stress this enough to everyone- DO NOT GO AROUND ATTACKING PEOPLE for “cultural appropriation” when you are NOT even from that culture in question and/or don’t actually know in detail the history and genetics of that region.
If you suspect cultural appropriation: DO YOUR RESEARCH FIRST or ASK SOMEBODY you know who actually belongs to that group. You may be attacking mixed-race people or people like the anon’s friend, who simply has features that are less genetically dominant- blonde hair shows up less easily in countries with a bigger pool of people with dark hair because dark hair is dominant. Even if her parents had dark hair, it’s possible they both carried a recessive gene for blonde hair that was suppressed by their dark-hair gene. Their child would be blonde if she happened to get both copies of the blonde gene instead of the dark hair gene.
Also, even if you think the person isn’t of that group, please bear in mind they might have been invited to dress in that clothing by a friend, or because they’re at an event. (I.e let’s say, at an Indian wedding)
I can’t stress how infuriating this “white knight” complex is. Speaking as someone pretty familiar with colonialism, I’ve had people who didn’t grow up in my culture condescendingly insist that if I’m okay with somebody doing something from my culture, it’s “self-internalised oppression”. I’ve studied African colonial literature, and the way people insist on defining what people should be alright with is very reminiscent of 19th century imperialists high-handedly saying, “oh, we have to bring the light of civilisation to save those backwards colonial subjects from themselves!”
This is Reese Witherspoon, wearing a kimono in Japan, where she is being taught by JAPANESE people how to perform the traditional tea ceremony. This is not reducing a culture to a caricature because she’s actually learning stuff respectfully and wearing a bona fide kimono.
Fighting against cultural appropriation is to prevent cultures from being cheapened, made into jokes, sexual fetishes or ugly caricatures. Part of returning power to people to define themselves is ALSO by allowing them to set the parameters of what they want to share with others- and many cultures are perfectly willing to share aspects that are non-sacred or do not have to be earned. So, for example, do not go around insisting a Japanese person should not be allowed to teach non-Japanese people to wear a kimono- because a kimono, unlike a Navajo war bonnet (akin to veteran’s medals), is something anybody can wear. Recognise this difference.
I'm a little confused (I haven't slept in over 24hrs - I might just be too tired) the grand jury has until January to decide if they will CHARGE Darren Wilson, not CONVICT? Or they have until January to convict? Please tell me it's convict. Because regardless of your 'views' on his guilt, he needs to be charged and then a jury should decide on his guilt if he doesn't take a plea deal. Charging is a no brainer, he killed someone and it needs a criminal investigation.
The grand jury now has until January 7, 2015 to decide whether or not to charge Darren Wilson with the murder of Mike Brown. They can make a decision soon than that though.
A look at Prosecutor Bob McCulloch. McCulloch has presented 4 cases of a fatal police shooting to a grand jury. 0 indictments. McCulloch’s office also doesn’t keep detailed records. He also defended calling 2 black men shot by cops in 2000 “bums”.
They are predicting 1.2 million deaths from ebola in the next 6 months and all I can think of is all the orphans that will result from this
And still no one cares. Still not enough money is being donated for supplies. Not enough attention is being given. Still people are ignoring it because it makes them uncomfortable or the simple fact that it’s happening to people other then them so they don’t care. STILL.
This makes my heart hurt. What’s going to happen to all the children who’ll be left behind? And the women?
The post is of course, predictably defensive, patronizing and awful. There’s really too much to parse, but here are some of my “favorite” highlights. And by favorite, I mean eye-roll inducing.
"Shame on you…. Colorlines, Race Forward & Aura Bogado. Click-baiting, Race-baiting, Homophobia, Minimizing Ferguson Residents, Trivializing Breast Cancer Awareness Efforts & Distorting Facts to Get Views & Donations."
Uh. What? This is rich, a FOR PROFIT COMPANY is accusing an anti-racism non-profit organization of race baiting for donations?! This from the company that has not once spoken about anti-racism until Ferguson (way genuine!), and their contribution is….t-shirts and a $5 donation. Let’s also not forget their usage of the sassy black woman stereotype to promote marriage equality in addition to really gross memes featuring Native Americans. Way to promote anti-racism folks!
"We’ve received literally thousands of racist comments, e-mails, phone messages and live-chat notes from racist white people in reaction to these Ferguson kids speaking out. If you like the N-word, you have to read our inbox.”
OMG ya’ll! They stood up for us black folk and now racist people are sending the n-word to their inbox!? This. Is. Unfathomable. I’d bet a day in their inbox is equal to a lifetime of actually being black. Now I feel TERRIBLE. Racism sucks ya’ll. Send those people a t-shirt. Stat!
ps. when dealing with racist hate mail, filters are your friends. I speak from experience ;)
"With all the hate from racists that has been directed at these kids and at us, one of the most troubling sources has been a blogger named Aura Bogado at Colorlines, a blog put out by an organization you’d expect to be an ally called Race Forward. The blogger continues to fabricate controversy by saying, “FCKH8.com, has made a name for itself selling what it calls ‘LGBT Equality Gear.’” We’re not sure if mocking “LGBT Equality Gear” by placing it in quotes as if it is not real and legitimate is simply old-fashioned underhanded homophobia and trivialization but it looks like it.”
In case you’re unclear, critique from the community you claim to support is on the same level as ACTUAL HATE SPEECH from racists. And using quotes when….quoting an organization’s slogan is “underhanded homophobia”. (sorry for the quotes, promise I’m not a homophobe) Got it!
"This video was our collective effort to make a statement out of grief and pain and turn it into something positive, that challenges people to face race and say, like the T-shirt says, “Racism Is Not Over. But I’m Over Racism.” Was the video director a white guy? Yes. He’s directed videos on social issues which have received millions of views and we’d prefer that the video and message from the participating Ferguson families and kids be judged on the content of its character and not the color of the skin of the director who pitched in to help make it.”
"Judged on the content of it’s character and not the color of the skin of the director" (FYI I’m using quotes because I’m quoting FCKH8, not because I’m homophobic)….Why does that sound familiar? Oh! I know! That’s a hat tip to MLK! Totally see what you did there. Love it when people drop the ONE line they know from that ONE MLK speech they know to show how progressive and not racist they are. And don’t worry, I’m not judging the kids who are unnamed or credited in the video, on your website or in the video description box. They’re adorable.
"Perhaps one of the most unsettling parts of this click-baiting blog post beside trivializing Ferguson kids, is the deliberate use of a screen grab of the only white person to appear in the entire video. This image is employed to misrepresent the heartfelt effort of 7 black cast members speaking out, a black producer, a black and Latino co-writer and a black editor. Is this race-baiting for attention? Out of a cast of 8 people, 7 of which are black, this photo seems to have been chosen with the devious intention to race-bait and drum up justified resentment of how many whites treat and marginalize blacks and other POCs, all to gain attention and be sensational. Using race in this way is disingenuous, offensive and reduces the voices of both the local children in front of the camera and the people behind the camera."
Wait. There were black people involved in this project!? Well that changes everything. As we all know, black people are a monolith, so if a few co-sign a project, then we all have to agree with it. Oh, and thanks for throwing in a photo of a black guy holding a sign to support FCKH8’s call for an apology. That really drives the point home. I suggest we talk about this at the next national monthly black people meeting and hug it out.
immediately remove from your personal lexicon the following words/phrases:
anatomically male/anatomically female
born a man/born a woman
originally a man/originally a woman
used to be a man/used to be a woman
really remove as much binary gender language as you can while still allowing for acceptable ways to refer to people who identify as men and women (just because the gender binary doesn’t exist, that doesn’t mean there aren’t people who are men or women)
are they gone? great now add the following to your personal lexicon:
MOGAI (Marginalized Orientations, Gender identities, and Intersex)
assigned male at birth (amab)
assigned female at birth (afab)
coercively assigned male at birth (camab)
coercively assigned female at birth (cafab)
gender(s) [name/pronouns here] identifies as
assigned name/given name
default pronoun they
defaulT PRONOUN THEY
SERIOUSLY DEFAULT THE PRONOUN YOU USE FOR PEOPLE WHO HAVE NOT GIVEN YOU A PRONOUN TO BEING “THEY”
(*) there are some people who are okay with the word hermaphrodite or maybe even identify as such but do not call someone such unless they explicitly give you permission to do so
Did you ever just feel so lucky for knowing someone you met online? Like.. I was one click away from not following you. I was one second away from never even knowing of your existence. I would never have been this happy.
| An online community that provides media coverage without censorship.
The Media Development Authority (MDA) has banned award winning film “To Singapore, With Love” by local film director Tan Pin Pin.
They explained that it has been classified as “Not Allowed for All Ratings” (NAR) because it “undermines national security”.
MDA explained that they feel the content is not suitable as it portrays the “legitimate actions of security agencies to protect Singapore as acts that purposefully victimise innocent individuals”.
They said that this is a “distorted and untruthful” account of how certain individuals became exiles.
Minister for Communications and Information, Yaacob Ibrahim also backed up the MDA decision saying that “Individuals who have chosen to leave Singapore, and refused to account for their past actions, should not enjoy a public platform to mislead the public.”
Under the current Film Classification Guidelines, any films deemed to undermine national security will be given the NAR rating, completely banning it from exhibition or distribution in Singapore.
The film is actually an award-winning documentary that goes into the past and present lives of several key Singaporean political exiles that fled during the 1960s to escape detention for their beliefs and activism.
The filmmaker has described the lives of these exiles and shared that most have not been permitted to return and have been forced to moved on to create extraordinary second lives in adopted homelands. Despite being so far away from Singapore for so long, it is moving that their love for their country and sense of belonging has never wavered. The film goes into their lives and also sheds light on the history of formation of the Singapore that we know today.
Some of the exiles featured in the film include Ang Swee Chai, Francis Khoo and Ho Juan Thai.
Last year, Tan Pin Pin was named the best director in the Muhr Asia-Africa Documentary Section during the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) for this film and she won a US$15,000 prize.
In the DIFF, the film was selected from over 3000 entries and unanimously voted as the best film.
During that time, Ms Tan had said she was “very pleased with the win”. She added: “I hope more people are encouraged to watch this film as a result of the award.”
However, it seems no one in Singapore will be able to watch it easily as it has been banned. Those interested may have to cross the causeway and watch it as it is reported that the film is being screened at the Freedom Film Fest in JB.
In Singapore, due to the uninterrupted control of the PAP in government, all ministries, stat boards and public services are pretty much controlled by the PAP.
The MDA is controlled by the PAP and is clearly being used in this case to silence the dark history of Singapore when political opponents to the PAP were persecuted, thrown in jail and eventually banned from returning to Singapore.
These political opponents were painted as communists, terrorists or extremists’ thanks to the PAP controlled newspapers and they were dealt with in order for the PAP to be able to hold onto power easily.
The PAP their powers under the ISA to oppress its opponents and to this day we are not taught about any of this dark past in our history books. This constant cover-up is preventing uninformed singaporeans from knowing the truth. These people will continue to vote for the PAP believing that the PAP is fair and just when in fact they have this dark history.
It is sad to still see this dark past being suppressed by the PAP controlled MDA. While Minister Yaacob claims that the exiles have not come to “account for their past actions” the reality is that they were detained without trial and were never given a chance to prove their innocence. They have already paid the price for trying to speak up for Singaporeans and have been left with no choice but to escape to prevent further detention without trial.
While these issues may not concern you individually, do you really want to live in a country where the government continues to fear monger, bully citizens and abuse its power to oppress political opponents?
One day, you might want to change something which is important to you but if the government doesn’t agree with you, there will be nothing you can do and you may even face persecution for trying to stand up for your views.
The banning of this film just goes to show that the PAP is not ready to face their past and they are still continuing to silence their critics.
Francis T. Seow is a lawyer and a former Solicitor-General in Singapore. In 1988, while representing a lawyer detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA), Seow himself was detained without trial for alleged collusion with the CIA to subvert the local government. Following his release from detention, Seow contested in the 1988 General Elections and lost out narrowly to the incumbent People’s Action Party. Charges of alleged income tax evasion were subsequently brought against him while he was travelling in the US, where he has remained in political exile.
For those of you who would like to know more about the story of Mr Francis Seow and how the PAP government back then abuses their power on him, you can watch the interview here.