#WRITERSBLOCK You Keep Forgetting M.I.A. Isn’t Black and Anti-blackness In South Asia

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Please don’t think M.I.A making black music mean she doesn’t have a problem with black people. Once again she’s on Twitter overstating her importance¬†to hip hop and the black community in general.

Why am I mad? I’m mad because M.I.A. can’t tell the difference between a sample and a genuine contribution to a genre of music. The Fugees sampled Enya on ‘Ready Or Not’ do we now have to celebrate Enya as a hip hop pioneer too? Ok, how about this; remove the southern asian sounds from hip hop and what happens? Does hip hop suddenly cease to exist? No. Ok, now remove all the hip hop from M.I.A.’s music and what would happen?

Basically….

But truthfully her anti-blackness has been showing for years now. Because while reverse racism isn’t a thing (you can be prejudice to white people but certainly not racist) anti-blackness is.

Centuries ago this thing called ‘race‘ was invented.¬†One day 18th century art historian Johann Joachim Winckelman decided white skin was better than all the rest. Then he coined the term ‘negro’ (literally meaning black) to refer to African people. This gave us¬†manichaeism of race;¬†making one the opposite of the other.

If White is beautiful, black is ugly.

If White people are good, then black people are bad.

If white people are intelligent then black people ignorant.

And of course if white people are the pinnacle of society, then black people must be savages and giving us slavery.

Don’t get it twisted, it’s COMPLETELY made up but today we have two racial groups: 1. white 2. not white. Today the ‘not whites‘ are more commonly referred to as ‘people of colour‘¬†and as they’ve all been grouped into one category (not by choice) it’s assumed that all POC live in harmony.

This is false. No matter how light or dark a people are; the last thing they want to be is black. I mean, there’s black people who don’t even want to be black (*cough #teamlightskin *wheeze Kodak Black **vomit skin bleaching) But¬†when M.I.A. makes statements like this, its’ clear we’re not¬†all ‘on the same side‘.

‘It‚Äôs interesting that in America the problem you‚Äôre allowed to talk about is Black Lives Matter ‚Ķ Is Beyonc√© or Kendrick Lamar going to say Muslim Lives Matter? Or Syrian Lives Matter? Or this kid in Pakistan matters? That‚Äôs a more interesting question.’

Nope, what’s a more interesting¬†question is why the black community are always expected to do work for communities that NEVER want to speak up for them. Any idiot knows #blacklivesmatter = #blacklivesmatter *too. But the moment black people started to say that, all of a sudden it became a ¬†problem. The moment black people stopped dying in silence people got upset.

But what’s even more interesting is if you change ‘Pakistani’ to ‘white’¬†all of a sudden you have:

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If M.I.A. wasn’t Sri Lankan we would’ve been all over her for trying to #alllivesmatter the movement. And while there was backlash, because she’s brown we still assume solidarity.

It’s deeper than M.I.A. though; she just speaks to the unspoken anti-blackness in the asian community. Dating all the way back to Gandhi:

He believed in segregation between Indians and whites from africans and generally felt that Indians were better than Africans and comparing Indians more favourably to whites than Africans.

‘Gandhi believed in the Aryan brotherhood. This involved whites and Indians higher up than Africans on the civilised scale. To that extent he was a racist. To the extent that he wrote Africans out of history or was keen to join with whites in their subjugation he was a racist.
To the extent that he accepted white minority power but was keen to be a junior partner, he was a racist. Thank God he did not succeed in this as we would have been culpable in the horrors of apartheid.’ –¬†Ashwin Desai

Fast forward to now and we have everything from the leading asian bridal magazine, Asiana famously using white models on occasion in place of Asian ones. This writer shared thoughts they received on the subject:

I don’t get it, are they trying to say, you should try and look like a white girl, fake lenses, dyed hair, bleached skin and all in order to pull off the look?’

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‘When I see a magazine that is directed towards the Asian audience with non Asians modelling the clothes, I get two signals: 1. Asians are not good/beautiful/fair enough to be on the cover; 2. The magazine might be directed towards you (an Asian) but they rather use white people to show off the products.’

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‘Asiana in the UK is notorious for using visibly non-Asian models and coming up with a slew of excuses for doing so. I understand, they are going for a certain “look.” But in a niche market, is that look really pink skin and blue eyes? Please. I don’t buy it.’

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‘There‚Äôs already a stigma attached to young asian females in the uk especially‚Ä̬†There‚Äôs an ideal where young asian girls feel fair skin is beautiful, and anything darker than beige is a sign of ugliness. We should have darker models on high end magazine covers to promote the message that yes we are asian, and yes many of us will have darker skin and that‚Äôs fine, because skin colour does not matter. Many girls are using dangerous products to lighten their skin colour and I truly believe that this matter needs to be addressed’

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Asiana is the perfect example of anti-blackness in the south asian community; even ACTUAL asians are discriminated against if they aren’t practically white.

Oh and:

In 2015 a black Bradford teacher stabbed by a 14 year old boy of Pakistani origin lead to BBC Radio DJ Nihal Arthanayake to encourage British Asians to have the ‘very uncomfortable conversation‘ as to whether asians were being brought up to be racist to black people:

‘I think that there has traditionally been an issue with darker skin being seen as unattractive and people who have dark skin as inferior, and if that is applied within the Asian community how could that attitude not also apply to people of African heritage?’

He then held a phone-in on the subject which lead to a variety of opinions; Sanjay, from Leicester stated that it had been scientifically ‘proven‘ that blacks were less intelligent than non-blacks.

(*Note: he¬†refers to black people and asians as ‘blacks’ and ‘non-blacks’. Where typically it is ‘white people’ and ‘non whites’ (People of colour) A perfect example of the parts of the asian community that don’t equate themselves¬†with black people.)

Kavita, from Midlands mentioned how she wasn’t allowed to be friends with a black girl at school and Gohar Almass Khan, from the South Leeds Community Alliance said:

‘We need to be honest: generally people from the Indian subcontinent ‚Äď Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan ‚Äď are more racist towards black than white communities. This is a fact.’

He continued

‘Even in your own household when the kids are born, the kids that are light-skinned, light-haired are thought to be more beautiful and favoured by the parents compared to the darker.’

Mohammad Shabbir, a Labour councillor in Bradford

‘…there is a legacy or colonial rule and a cultural inferiority and so people see the world through colonial eyes, which basically means white is good.’

However, Alyas Karmani, an imam, youth worker and councillor in Bradford, said that while there was prejudice and discrimination against black people by some Asians in the city, largely there was a healthy co-existence between the communities, which he witnessed in the mosques. He also noted that ACTUAL racism is power and when neither Black people or Asians have any power, it was prejudice as opposed to racism. This is definitely true, but also what makes it worse. All non-white racism is simply those people trying to assimilate to whiteness (become white)

This thread discusses the origins of anti-blackness in south Asia (as most things) being traced back to colonialism where the British rulers had the most of the societal power and their white skin was deemed a mark of superiority.

It’s everywhere though, it’s far from just an Asian problem. Colonialism was a global issue and so it goes the effects of anti blackness are global. And as much racism isn’t what it was in the 18th century; there isn’t a part of the world you won’t find some group who believe white skin is better than black.

The most blatant indicator of this is skin bleaching being prominent all over Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. People literally¬†burning the melanin out of their skin to appear paler. And that is the ultimate goal for many people not born white, to assimilate to it. Assimilation is a pyramid of whiteness. The paler you are the easier it is to assimilate and benefit from white privilege. The Irish, Polish, jewish and¬†Italian¬†people at one point weren’t just not considered white, they were also persecuted. Italian people were even lynched like black people. And the Irish suffered brutally as indentured servants.

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  • Africans and Caribbeans will NEVER be able to assimilate (unless they get a lot better at discriminating against themselves) which leaves them at the bottom.
  • Colourism puts biracial black people (slightly) higher up. While they enjoy minor privileges by being judged as ‘better’ than black people; they still face the majority of the prejudices black people face and will¬†never¬†be accepted as white.
  • Being from a middle eastern country *post 9/11 makes it almost impossible to assimilate to whiteness. Even if you aren’t muslim or even from a middle eastern country; olive skin and a beard is enough to see persecution.
  • Latin American and Native Americans have a close proximity to whiteness (*Invasion) in their countries that much of their culture is shared. So they have a slightly closer proximity to whiteness than South Asians due familiarity with their culture.
  • Eastern Asians due to education, (life threatening) work rates and the¬†false perception of the men being weak and the women being submissive have lead to them being deemed ‘the model minority’. They can never truly assimilate to whiteness but due to ‘good behaviour’ can enjoy many of the privileges. (*East Asians aren’t naturally ‘good at maths’ they go to after school clubs and Saturday schools AND have an average of 2 hours homework)
  • Eastern Europeans look EXACTLY the same as a white¬†person; but due to being scapegoated by the media for taking all the jobs ¬†(it was actually the economic crash and government outsourcing jobs) they currently face discrimination.
  • White passing (Mariah Carey, Wentworth Miller)/Jewish people¬†have the option to assimilate into whiteness, as they appear white on the surface but parentage/cultural heritage prevents full assimilation.
  • Southern Europeans like Eastern Europeans cultural pride ‘others’ them somewhat; but they aren’t perceived as immigrant invaders (taking all the jobs) like the eastern europeans so they enjoy all the benefits of white privilege.

Theoretically any group from South Asian upwards should be able to assimilate. And this is done joining in the suppression of black people.

Think of race as high school: White supremacy are the popular kids and the only way to ‘get in’ with the popular kids is join in bullying the kid on the bottom rung.

Anti-blackness is a global issue. Azealia Banks, the black women who called M.I.A. out, bleaches her skin (and has a history of making Jim Davidson level racist comments herself) But the point is the idea that 1. as anyone who isn’t white is the same is ridiculous. The differences between country’s in Africa alone are enough to differentiate them, much less continents. 2. Assuming ‘we’re all one’ neatly allows us to paper over the racism between groups and 3. M.I.A. being a person of colour doesn’t make her exempt¬†from anti- blackness anymore than Logic’s mother.

If we can agree that hip hop is black music (which EVERYONE can enjoy and contribute to *yawn) then someone with clear animosity towards black people, who is ¬†making black music can only be appropriating and profiting¬†off a culture she looks down on. The difference between M.I.A. and Iggy Azeala (other than buckets of talent) is privilege. But M.I.A. not having the structural¬†power to oppress black people doesn’t prevent her from promoting the same #alllivesmatter conversations that racists have been using to derail black activism for years. Just because you’re not white, doesn’t mean you’re black. It’d be nice if we were, but we’re not all on the same side. Anti-blackness comes in many shades.

Everyone wants to be black; but no one wants to be a black.’ – ¬†Paul Mooney