"Crazy Rich Asians" promotes the ongoing systematic erasure and oppression of Singapore minorities on a global screen.By Sangeetha Thanapal After the trailer for "Crazy Rich Asians" was released, the internet went wild over it, especially those of us who care about representation and diversity. Based on Kevin Kwan’s book by the same title, the film about a Chinese American woman who travels to Singapore to meet the family of her Chinese Singaporean boyfriend, is being lauded as a huge win for people of color. At face value, the movie is a stepping-stone for more representation of Asians in Hollywood, signifying a milestone for diversity. Except that neither this movie, nor the novel it is based on, are even representative of Singapore. After gaining its independence in 1965, the tiny island-state of Singapore has gone on to introduce a set of economic and social policies that are often marvelled at all over the world. The country is touted as a model to follow, both for its economic prowess and its multicultural approach to racial harmony. However, underneath the façade of skyscrapers, is a country that has systematically disenfranchised its minorities. Chinese Singaporeans, at 77% of the population, are the vast majority of the nation and the population’s minorities are Malay and Indian people, who make up 15% and 7% respectively. There is also a sizeable populace of racialized labour from neighbouring countries with construction workers from South Asia and domestic workers from the Philippines and Indonesia. Racism against minorities is endemic in Singapore. Job advertisements frequently only ask for those who can speak in English and Mandarin, and even if minorities are able to do so, they are told that only ethnic Chinese are wanted. Muslim women in hijabs are kept out of certain civil service jobs because of their headwear. While there are police bans on speaking in Tamil, there are yearly tax-funded programs to promote speaking in Mandarin. Minority representations are rife with stereotypes and the idea of the quintessential Singapore girl is one that embodies only East Asian beauty standards. The country’s ruling power has stated that Malay-Muslims in Singapore cannot be trusted in the armed forces due to their divided loyalties between religion and state. It has further accused them of being unable to ‘integrate’ an irony considering that Malay people are considered the original inhabitants of the land. The founding father of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, holds views on genetics that would seem disconcertingly similar to eugenicist and white supremacist ideals, as he has touted the genetic superiority of the Chinese as stronger and hardier, with Indians not being as bright, but still better than the lazy, un-driven Malays. Chinese people wear Indians in ‘brown face’ and many elite public schools are reserved for them.
SUPPORT WEAR YOUR VOICE: DONATE HERE
I live in Boulder too, and no, cafés aren’t going to sell very good chai. You know who might? A Desi friend, if she had one.By Nami Thompson On Bollywood sets, by train and bus stations, and beside nearly every masjid and temple in India, a chai-wallah, or chai-walli if they’re female-identifying, has a cart that goes unnoticed until needed. They sell cups of hot chai for 5-10 INR, or less than $0.15 When I read about Brook Eddy, described in a recent recent interview with Inc as, “America's own 21st-century master chai-wallah,” I wondered what century she thinks all the Indian chai-walleh live in. I’m American, I’m Desi, and I make chai (which means tea, so y’all don’t have to say chai tea) as did my American citizen mom and grandmother, long before Eddy stepped foot in India, but we and our countless cups made for friends aren’t noteworthy. It’s because this brand and interview are a celebration of successful modern colonization. Eddy’s company, Bhakti Chai, was founded after she listened to an NPR story on Swadhyay and moved to India. “Swadhyay seemed like this really cool movement that 20 million people were practicing but no one had heard of." As a no one whose humanity is obliterated by the above comment, I’d like to share a bit about Swadhyay, which is a Hindu socio-political movement founded by Pandurang Shastri Athavale at around the time of Independence. He was anti-Brahmin, pro-Dalit, and disagreed publicly with Gandhi. He was also pro-Hinduttva and anti-RSS, thus making him one of the most complex political figures in our recent history. What Brook Eddy heard on NPR as “a really cool movement,” is painful for Desis to articulate, and she likely heard of it as they reported Athavale’s death. It’s possible to learn about and listen to Desi scholars while they’re alive. White westerners approached Athavale in his time and asked him to bring his social models to the US. He always declined. Whatever Desis make of his political beliefs, Swadhyay is not for sale in the US. The Inc article goes on, “Back home in Boulder, Colorado, [Eddy] formulated an original chai brew when she was unable to find an authentic version at her local cafés. In 2007, she began selling mason jars of her one-of-a-kind infusion out of the back of her car and soon gained a following.” I live in Boulder too, and no, cafés aren’t going to sell very good chai. You know who might? A Desi friend, if she had one. Let’s get real about privilege. If Mr. Khanna the chai-wallah walked up to a white lady in Boulder and said “I have a speciality drink from India in this jar. Only $10,” he would be ticketed and in handcuffs. Food trucks only became legal here in 2011, but unlicensed tea in a jar just isn’t and never will be.
Instead of viewing Black Panther’s success as an opportunity to complain about something that is lacking in our communities, non-Black people of color should appreciate the work it took to create something of its caliber.By Sanjana Lakshmi It’s been a few weeks since “Black Panther” came out, and its reception has been deservedly overwhelmingly positive. Ryan Coogler’s film is more than just another superhero movie: it is a blockbuster film that centers the experiences, cultures, and strength of Black folks in a way we have rarely, if ever, seen before. However, one particular response to the film by non-Black people of color has bothered me: the idea that we need to react by saying “where’s our Asian-American superhero movie,” or “where’s our Latinx superhero movie” (note that the latter doesn’t usually imply that they are looking for afro-latinx representation). All people of color deserve media representation, but this is not a constructive critique of ”Black Panther”; these concerns were rarely, if ever, raised during the decades of primarily white superhero movies. The fact that these questions are being posted in reaction to a successful Black superhero movie that is breaking the box office is no more than thinly veiled anti-Black racism. “Black Panther” was not simply handed to the Black community. Black folks fought for this movie. Media representation of the Black community has been historically stereotypical, if not offensive and racist, from caricatures to hyper-sexualization. Wakanda’s portrayal as a technologically advanced and successful African nation untouched by the devastation of colonialism and imperialism is groundbreaking in itself, and the movie’s depiction of Black women stands in contrast to the stereotypes that have been pervasive in our media. These long-awaited portrayals, and their positive reception, need to be celebrated. This is not the time for non-Black people of color to be saying, “what about us?” Black directors, producers, writers, and actors have been fighting for this kind of representation for decades. Black Panther’s success was not an easy feat. It is important to note, too, that there is an extraordinary amount of anti-Blackness in non-Black communities of color. In the South Asian American community, anti-Blackness comes in many forms: the billion-dollar skin-whitening industry, the attacks on African immigrants within the South Asian subcontinent, the model minority myth, and overt as well as subtle colorism. This only scratches the surface of entrenched racism within one non-Black community of color—all of this while Black communities have historically not only supported, but actively fought for the rights of non-Black people of color.
Dear non-Black Asian-Americans (and other non-Black folks), we have a real issue with appropriating AAVE, and it needs to stop. AAVE stands for African American Vernacular English, and it refers to a distinct language—consisting of words, phrases, intonations, gestures, but also,