“It is not enough to be not racist, you have to be anti racist.”
In the latest Netflix episode of Patriot Act, Hasan Minhaj, an Indian-American host and a US comedian, called out on ‘desi’ racism prevalent among the South Asian community, and the urgent need for reforms in law enforcement.
The masses took to the streets of the US to demand justice for the killing of Georg Floyd under police custody. The tragic incident took place on May 25, 2020, when a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on the neck of an unarmed black man for almost 10-12 minutes. Even though Floyd repeatedly begged for mercy and said that “I can’t breathe”, but the officer did not relent.
Since then, violent protests in support of the #BlackLivesMatter movement have erupted across various countries like the USA, Canada, and the UK. While some came out on the streets with posters, others uploaded black-out images on Instagram under the banner of #blackouttuesday.
In the 12-minute clip titled ‘We Cannot Stay Silent About George Floyd’, Minhaj began by talking about the widespread protests that have brought looting, destruction of property, and widespread arrests.
“It is bad to be black in desi culture, even though we all wish we were black… That is the great hypocrisy”
Minjah talks about Bollywood celebrities promoting whitening creams
Minhaj then spoke against racism and colorism embedded in the South Asian culture. He reminded us of our obsession with fairness, called out on Bollywood stars for promoting the use of whitening creams, and challenged our hypocrisy towards black skin in the following words:
“You know what we call black people? We call them kaala, which means black but not in a good way. If someone is dark-skinned in your family, we clown them. We call them kallu… Our Bollywood film stars do skin whitening commercials so we don’t look black.”
This reflects how anti-blackness is not restricted within the borders of the US alone. It is also a battle against the racist tendencies that are deeply internalized within our own communities, but are sadly not paid enough heed.
A lot of people cheered Minhaj on Twitter and agreed with his statements as well:
And there’s more:
By highlighting the presence of by-standers on the incident spot, Minhaj further questioned the morality and the responsibility of the community as a whole.
“The officer who is blocking people off is Hmong-American. The guy who owns the store? He’s Arab-American – his clerk called the cops on Floyd. That is America! A black man was murdered in cold blood and we were on the sidelines watching”.Hasan Minhaj
This is not to say that we were involved in Floyd’s killing, but it is high time that we play our part by voting-out corrupt local officials. It is high time that we donate our money to black organizations and do everything in our utmost capacity to help back people because “this woke-sh*t we do on IG dies in a week”.
Internet activism is great, but we also need to step outside to set the precedent.
The death of Floyd has re-ignited anger, uproar, and frustration among people. It has raised questions about a system that thrives on police ruthlessness, systemic bigotry and white privilege.
The Gora Complex in Pakistan
The obsession with fairness stands true to Pakistani society. Even after 72 years of independence from the British Raj, Pakistan continues to idolize fairer skin – like that of our colonial masters –as the ideal standard of beauty. We live in a society where a gori bahu (fair daughter-in-law) is seen as a perfect match, and gori rangat (white colored-skin) is given precedence over merit. (No surprises there)?
Colorism is sensationalized even more by none other than our media industry and the corporate sector. They don’t just sell whitening creams, but they manipulate impressionable minds and develop life-long insecurities in them. This brings us to our next point …
It makes us ponder over the insurmountable influence Pakistani stars have over us.
Ergo, we believe that it is high time Pakistani celebrities re-evaluate their decision before undertaking any racist endorsements. It is high time that we challenge our very own biases and discriminatory behavior against dark-skinned people, and only then will our tweets and Instagram posts in support for #BlackLivesMatter will not seem hypocritical!
In other words – Walk The Talk, so everyone knows whose side we’re on!
The eurocentric model of beauty has seeped in the larger social structure of our society to such an extent that we have failed to realize how racial inequality persists in our day-to-day routines. We conveniently use words like “makrani” in our everyday conversations as slurs and derogatory remarks indicating as if it’s a shame to be born dark-skinned. Unfortunately, this black/white binary paradigm has been passed down over generations, so much so that “whiteness” has now become the social norm and anything that falls outside of it is “othered”.
But, at some point, this has to stop, and it has to stop today! We need to be more mindful of the words we use. So, the next time you call someone “kallu” (black), think twice. It is not funny.
Watch Hasan Minhaj’s video On Racism
Hiba Shoaib is a student of social development and policy at Habib University. She is currently working as an Undergraduate Research Fellow at Center for Transdisciplinary Design and Innovation Lab. As an aspiring policy-practitioner, she aims to address socio-economic concerns. She uses her research and critical-writing skills to empower people and advocate for social justice.