Three Lions

Sunday 3rd April was a fairly average day. It was a fairly pleasant Sunday. However, for sport aficionados, it was anything but ordinary; it was the T20 World Cup Final. The final showdown was between England and West Indies. Spoiler alert: the Windies won, with Brathwaite smashing four sixes in the final over to send Windies to a romping victory and their second in four years.

I was heartbroken for my downtrodden England. At one point, it looked as though we may win and that lady luck was on our side. And then it all fell apart. Still, I was shocked we had even made it to the final as we’d had to face the unbeaten New Zealand in the semis, so I was proud of our achievement of second place.

Like many cricket fans, I watched the match whilst tweeting away, showing my unwavering support for my team. It seems that amongst the British Asian community on Twitter, I stood out like a sore thumb.

It’s something I’ve noticed over a number of years: British Asians will support literally anyone other than England. It’s also something I’ve taken extremely personally and, when I’ve spoken to my peers about it, it’s also seen me being met with bafflement and surprise.

Firstly, I should probably clear up why I support England (although you’d think it would be common sense). I am English. I was born and raised in England. England (and the UK) has given me everything. It has nursed me when I was born, it has cared for me when I was ill and it has given me money whilst I was a child. It has educated me and helped me build a bright future for myself. I owe everything in my life to England. I am Indian by heritage, but I am English. That’s why I support England in any and every sport. If England get knocked out, I don’t then go and support India in the cricket. My team is out. I’ll watch the rest of the tournament but I don’t switch sides.

So imagine how conflicted I feel when I hear my peers, all of whom are born and raised in England, support the land of their parents and not the land that has given said parents the opportunity to build a better life for them and their children. Yes, that’s it. British Asians overwhelmingly support India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka over England.

I couldn’t wrap my head around it, so I decided to talk to some colleagues at my previous job who were around my age and definitely British born and bred. Likewise, they don’t understand my perspective. They can’t really explain to me why they refuse to support England. Their whole theory is that they identify as Asian first, British later. But I find that problematic in itself, especially when they say that they feel they have no need to be loyal or proud to be British. This country has indeed given their parents the opportunity to make a better life for themselves and their kids, who have somehow reverted back to what their parents escaped. They have this unwavering loyalty to the land of their ancestors whilst simultaneously shitting on Britain from a great height.

Now I’m not saying that the British are perfect. My own father experienced racism when he moved to England in the 70s; he lived in East London and was the only turbaned person around the area of East Ham that he lived in. He saw EDL marches on the streets he frequented. He was a victim of casual racism. I know this. He’s resentful about the partition of India and the repercussions it had on his family. But if you asked him who he credits the life he has to, he would tell you without hesitation that he owes everything to England. We were discussing this at dinner a few weeks ago and he said, ‘It wasn’t my decision to come here, but I’m glad I did because I have a life that I could never have had in India because we were so poor. We had so much debt. I could never have paid it off if I’d stayed there. Now, I’ve paid off all the debts my family have, I can support them and I have a much better quality of life here.’ This, coming from a man who was born and raised in India. My dad spent the first 20 years of his life there. If anyone should have a shred of loyalty to an Asian country, it should be him. So why is it that the children of immigrants who have similar stories to my dad refuse to support England? Even my dad supports England.

I’m not trying to preach or convince anyone that they should/shouldn’t support one team over another. But I can’t understand why British Asians will vehemently support the land of their ancestors without even the slightest bit of acknowledgement to the land that has given them the best start in life. If they had been born in India, Pakistan etc., they wouldn’t have had even half of the opportunities that they have had because of the social welfare state that we have been raised on in Britain. They might not have even been able to get an education, considering you have to pay for school from a small age in India. What’s the crime in supporting England after your team has been knocked out? I’m sure the notion of supporting England from the get-go is too much for them, but why not support them after your team has left the competition?

One thing that is lacking from the British Asian community is pride in being British. A British passport commands respect and you can travel anywhere in the world without the any complications. A British passport opens doors to everywhere. A British passport means you have been raised with an education that many in the world envy. Being British means you have had more privileges than you would have had if you had been born and raised in India. Personally, I am extremely proud to be British; extremely proud to be English. I will always acknowledge my Indian heritage, but I am British, then Asian.

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Sexism and Cultural Appropriation: The Real Horrors Of Halloween (CultNoise)

24th October 2015

One of the most globally celebrated holidays is coming up: Halloween. Along with the pumpkins, trick or treating, and general merriment comes a much darker, scarier side, and I’m not talking about ghouls!

The biggest issue with Halloween is the costumes. They’re extremely problematic in so many ways. For some reason, people think cultural appropriation is fine to commit because hey, it’s Halloween! Question yourself with the following: is this part of my culture or heritage? Has this ethnic group been oppressed? If it’s not your culture and that culture has been oppressed, do not do it. The most common faux pas (which is an understatement) is people dressing up in knock off Native American costumes. Native Americans have been systematically oppressed, and are still raped and murdered disproportionately to their population size. They have been oppressed for centuries for celebrating and protecting their own culture, and when you  wear an imitation of their culture as a costume it is highly disrespectful. They are still being persecuted for their culture but, because you’re not a Native American yourself, you will never understand what it is like to be persecuted for your way of life.

No culture is a costume. No culture is a fashion accessory. You cannot cherry-pick parts of a culture for a costume, and yet when someone of that culture goes out in traditional dress, you are the first to look at them in disgust. Halloween is for make-believe and scary stuff, and if you’re appropriating another culture through your costume, you’re making a real nightmare come true.

Another grievance I have with Halloween is costumes for females. Everywhere you go, there is a stark difference between the male version of costumes and the female version of costumes. The difference? The amount of fabric and the fact that it’s always a ‘sexy’ costume for women, but not for men. If, for example, you want to go as a police officer or a soldier but you’re a woman, you’re lucky if it covers your boobs and your bum. I can assure you, the words ‘sexy’ or ‘hot’ will be printed on the packaging of the costume to assure you that you must be sexualised whilst dressing up for a holiday. Can the same be said for the male equivalent costumes? No. Every single female-targeted Halloween costume is sexualised, whereas none of the male costumes are (unless you’re going to don a mankini).

Believe it or not, women and girls want to dress up in a costume and just enjoy themselves. We don’t want to be sexualised for no reason. I am all for women dressing sexy and going for those costumes, but these ‘sexy’ costumes shouldn’t be the only option available if you are a woman. It’s becoming increasingly hard to find non-sexualised female costumes for Halloween. Why are women treated as an object for male consumption for Halloween? Why can’t we go out and enjoy Halloween without being sexualised in an unwanted way?

The real horror of Halloween is not the superstitions and gore that come along with it. The real horror is the costumes that are marketed to people. They are full of cultural appropriation and sexism.

#OscarsSoWhite

There has been much warranted controversy surrounding this year’s Oscars because of how whitewashed it is — not one actor of colour has been nominated for an Oscar. Many actors and fans alike have raised their disgust at this blatant oversight, but the problem runs much deeper than many realise. After expressing my opinion on Twitter and being met with white people who are up in arms at the cheekiness of me wanting more media representation of people of colour, I felt it only too necessary to write about this year’s controversy.

The problem with Hollywood lies in its casting. Roles are given to white actors over actors of colour in disproportionate ways. Some casting calls specify that only white actors need apply for the role.

Barely anyone practices colourblind casting, which is something that needs to be implemented across the board. Shonda Rhimes is infamous for colourblind casting and has some of the most racially diverse shows in the TV world. For example, the character Cristina Yang in Grey’s Anatomy was scripted to be a blonde white woman. However, Rhimes’ policy of colourblind casting meant that the role went to the well-deserved Sandra Oh, who is Canadian-Korean.

The solution to Hollywood’s blatant discrimination lies largely in colourblind casting. If you give everyone an even playing field and ignore what their race is, more actors of colour would be cast because they are insanely talented and have had to go through a lot more to become successful, thus showing a depth of character that a white actor might not necessarily have.

Another issue with Hollywood is that movies that only have black actors, for example, are instantly seen as ‘black’ movies and are therefore not as publicised and praised. By categorising such films, Hollywood is saying ‘this film is only for black people, thus it has a limited audience and shouldn’t have as much attention as other films’. It’s funny how you never see an all-white film being dubbed as only having appeal to white people. White is classified as a ‘normal’ film that appeals to all races and all audiences. If this isn’t an obvious double standard, I don’t know what is.

I’m not saying that people should be given roles based solely on their race. That wouldn’t benefit anyone if the actor is undeserving of the role. However, I don’t believe enough actors of colour are being cast in big enough movies that could win Oscars. The roles that receive rave reviews are usually played by white actors. In an industry that can’t even pay actresses the same amount as their male opposites, it’s unsurprising that the industry is continuing a casual oppression of actors of colour. Until colourblind casting becomes a widespread way of doing things, I don’t see that the Oscars will become diverse anytime soon. You know there’s a problem when some of the biggest names in the industry are speaking out, including both black and non-black actors and actresses. I for one would like more diversity and representation in Hollywood. I want to see people on the big screen who look like me, people I can relate to. And unless actors and actresses of colour are given an equal playing field with white actors when it comes to casting, the future looks bleak.