Hymn for cultural appropriation

“From an outside perspective, unfortunately, India is often painted in broad, sweeping brush strokes as a large homogenous, mystical, spiritual, fantasy land of beautiful, poor, dirty, simple, good-hearted people dressed in exotic, colorful clothes and speaking broken English in a funny accent as viewed through the eyes of a foreign (often white) protagonist, who often turns out to be a savior figure or the center of attention. Such a depiction promotes the objectification of people, place, and culture from the outside, rather than instilling new ideas and meaningful understanding as shared by someone within. The fantasy is familiar, and we’ve seen it in Slumdog Millionaire, Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Darjeeling Limited and Eat Pray Love to name a few prominent examples. The reality is much more diverse, complicated, and interesting.”

I wrote this in an email to friends last year before we went on a trip to India together, and couldn’t have predicted it would so clearly apply to a music video in 2016.

It is not okay when people of privilege and influence treat our festivals, our clothing, our religious symbols as props, exoticizing brown bodies rather than acknowledging us as people. Any coincidence that no Indian person speaks in the video?

What you never see in media are people in India like me, modern, well-spoken and dressed in jeans. My behavior when ‘modern’ or ‘western’ — is not considered Indian. Only when I fit the stereotype do people see me as Indian. No wonder I am so often asked in the U.S. how my English is so good and why I don’t have an accent. This is how the media, movies, music videos, pop culture and a lot of people with influence have come to define India.

We can do better.

Written by

NYC & India / Love Child / Not An Alien

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