So, earlier today, I came across a cartoon that a friend shared on her Facebook wall (the actual link to the cartoon can be accessed here), and I have to say that I wasn’t even remotely impressed with it, didn’t find it witty/intelligent, and didn’t agree with it one single bit. I then ended up writing a long rant on it on my Facebook wall, and realized that I should have also shared it on my blog as more people need to read what I’ve to say, only because it’s important. Yes, what I am about to say is really, really important. So, if you’re interested to know what my thoughts are on this cartoon, well, then keep reading.
First off, I really don’t see the point of this cartoon. Really, I don’t. Here is a little, immature white girl making fun of a brown girl. No doubt racism at its best. Yes, I see it, and I get it. But, we also need to realize that they are kids — little, immature children who probably don’t know any better than what their “white supremacist” parents taught them. We all know how stupid and cruel kids can be. And I’d hate to have my own daughter be exposed to any sort of despicable racism and ignorance of this sort.
However, the problem is not these kids per se, but rather the problem lies in their upbringing and the values they’ve been (or haven’t been) taught. No child grows up racist. Racism is not natural, it’s not inborn; it’s learned. Taught. It’s too simplistic to post a pic of a stupid white kid harassing/abusing a coloured kid. However, we need to get to the root of the problem. And change that!
And then in the second segment, the cartoon shows the two girls again, all grown up, where the white girl is suddenly starting to “appreciate” Indian culture, going as far as using the cultural bindi as a means to satisfy her “fashion needs.” Okay, fine. Whatever. Let’s just give her some benefit of the doubt. She was a racist, ignorant kid who most probably didn’t know any better; she was a kid who was told to believe that all Indian and people of colour (POC) are “gross” and “smelly.” And, now that she’s all grown up, albeit still quite ignorant, she has now suddenly become more accepting, more tolerant towards all POC. And we need to give her some credit for that. At least she’s not hateful anymore. At least she is beginning to appreciate Indian culture for its beauty and wonder, no matter how ignorant she may still seem. At least this once-racist, stupid immature child is beginning to open her mind and become aware of the fact that Indians are not simply a bunch of “ugly,” “smelly,” “curry-eating,” mammals.
I know ignorance is not bliss, and it certainly isn’t when you find certain elements or aspects of a culture being, er, “misappropriated” (like the white girl wearing the bindi). However, here I must add that I, personally, do not think that wearing the bindi is cultural appropriation. Not at all. Cultural appropriation, by definition, refers to the adoption of special aspect(s) of one culture by another cultural or ethnic group, stripping it off of whatever significance/sacredness it may have had in the original culture from which it was copied.
Yet, that’s not necessarily the case with the bindi. Sure it may bear religious/spiritual significance, but to say that it has been misappropriated as a form of fashion accessory, by them wannabe Caucasians, is bullshit. The fact of the matter is that the bindi is and has become a fashion accessory long before it even made contact with white skin! Indians, themselves, made it into a fashion accessory! I mean, hello! Bollywood, anyone? So, really, we need to stop nitpicking and look at the bigger, overall picture.
It’s really annoying and uber frustrating having to play the victim card every single time. We’re all humans, regardless of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, etc. It’s sad enough that racism and cultural ignorance still exists — in this time and age — but the fact of the matter is that it exists. And we are not helping the situation. We are, in fact, making it much worse.
It’s so easy to hate. And it’s even easier to oversimplify things, just so that we can make our selves feel better. But, again, we are not helping the cause. Not one single bit.
So, rather than getting “offended” (a term that I’m deeply allergic to), attacking back, criticizing, and supporting/standing up for mindless cartoons like these, we need to understand why this is happening (and keeps happening, because, really, we should be ashamed of ourselves for brainwashing our children this way), and how we can find ways to rectify or change it.
It’s certainly not going to be easy, but at least it’s a start towards something positive.