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As hate crimes against South Asians continue to rise, we need to dispel stereotypes and wear our voices.

By Rachna Shah On Sept. 4, 1907, a mob of around 400 white men attacked the homes of South Asian Indians in Bellingham, Washington. They threw them into the streets, beat them, and drove them out of town. Similar riots happened in Vancouver, in California, and elsewhere in the state of Washington during the rest of the decade. It was only a century later that the horror of these events was recognized by Bellingham’s government. Yet while race riots and Asian exclusion efforts are a part of American and Asian history, they are largely ignored in textbooks and the media. India is associated with the caste system and third-world diseases. In film and on television, South Asian Indians are portrayed as extremes rather than as spectrums — as either too willing to assimilate or not willing to assimilate. In moving forward, the coverage of South Asia must be more accurate and comprehensive. Mainstream media not only mirrors, but shapes our culture. It produces and reinforces stereotypes of certain cultural groups. Having one’s history and experiences recognized and appreciated in mainstream media allows young South Asians to embrace their culture, not be ashamed of it. South Asians have long been portrayed as separate and different than white people. They have heavy accents, eat spicy foods, and are generally nerds or geeks, until the very recent past, according to Dr. Bhoomi Thakore, Assistant Professor and Director of the Sociology Program at Elmhurst College. “Today, actors such as Mindy Kaling, Aziz Ansari, Kal Penn, and Priyanka Chopra are players in a larger Hollywood elite circle that inform the ability to move ahead in that industry,” Dr. Thakore explains. “For example, Kaling originally started as a writer for “The Office”, and essentially wrote her character for the show. Over the years, Kaling’s character existed as someone who just happened to be Indian, who was ‘just like everyone else.’”
Related: NO THANK YOU, APU — DON’T COME AGAIN.

Dubbing the sudden absence of predatory men as the categorical dimming of some bright, new era rings of a false equivalency for many marginalized viewers. 

If you have remained plugged into our daily Hollywood news cycle, it might seem as if each day brings a newly exposed sexual predator. While that may sound like hyperbole, the sentiment is actually not that inaccurate: since news of Harvey Weinstein's history of assault broke via major press in early October, dozens of celebrity abusers have been publicly identified by their victims. As an audience, our responses to the steady stream of stories have run the gamut – especially for those of us who have our own experiences with sexual abuse. Though some remain focused on the specific trauma (and to be clear, the well-being of the victims ought to be our collective priority), others have their sights set on the potential aftermath. What does all of this mean for Hollywood and the state of entertainment, in general? As we witness the rightful takedown of critically acclaimed men like Kevin Spacey and Louis C.K., many have wondered how this continued exposure of Hollywood's predatory culture will affect the entertainment landscape, especially within television. Recently, TV critic Ben Travers of IndieWire noted Hollywood's current purge as a mark of permanent change to, in his words, “the new golden age of television.” To his credit, Travers is careful not to cite the onslaught of shamed men as the end of premium entertainment, but rather a potential opportunity for a more inclusive industry. That specific hope echoes those of many BIPOC creators who have been working diligently against the very climate that has systemically boxed them out of opportunities.  
Related: TNT’S “CLAWS” CELEBRATES BLACK WOMEN’S SEXUALITY

Master of None promotes a vision of America that is enriched by the complexities of its immigrant communities, instead of persistent racist narratives.

In Aziz Ansari’s Master of None, Dev Shah is an aspiring actor living in New York City. He’s cute, charming, and a gourmand obsessed with pasta. His love life is equal parts adorable and painful. Oh, and he’s also an American of Indian origin, a fact that shapes how Dev moves through the world, but only becomes a big deal when we look at the serious lack of diversity in television today. Like the Wachowski Sisters’ Sense8, the diversity in Master of None is thoughtfully presented as a natural matter of course of life in NYC. Dev’s best friends are a white dude (Eric Wareheim), a black lesbian (Lena Waithe), and a first gen Chinese-American man (Kelvin Yu). He and his Desi actor buddy, Ravi (Ravi Patel) commiserate over their stereotyped casting calls and auditions. Dev dates women of all ethnicities and types, and through his relationship with Rachel (Noël Wells) becomes a feminist ally — basically, he’s a freaking unicorn. A brown dude as not just a lead of his own show, but a romantic lead at that, is groundbreaking for the South Asian American community. Master of None just aired its marvelous second season on Netflix and it is some serious balm for the troubled soul, in many ways especially because of how compassionately it tackles the issues of being an immigrant in the United States. Like the actor portraying him, Dev Shah is a first generation immigrant who has only known life in the USA, unlike his parents who came over from India with great difficulty. While every immigrant family has a unique story, Master of None thoughtfully shows the threads that bind these disparate life experiences. Related: 9 Desi Feminist Activists You Need to Know 

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