Can we counter the stereotypes now?!

Felt like writing this after reading Purba Ray’s post here – “A dark cloud over Nina Davuluri’s win”

Nina Davuluri is a house hold name now. More than her Miss America 2014 title it’s the twitter which made her victory more special. She is the first Indian to be crowned Miss America. Nina tasted the victory just after September 11th which in the history of America , is a sad day. To that matter it is a sad day for all of us. Few ignorant folks imagined that she is an Arab , a terrorist or a member of Al-Qaeeda and got offended by her victory in the beauty pageant  . The hate tweets followed like below.

How ever Nina didn’t flinch. She says  that she’s grown up with so many stereotypes about her culture that she just knew that it was something that she needed to advocate for. Even if she was slammed by tweeple it didn’t effect her much. Few nincompoops can’t take her title away. She sure made us all proud but the fact which I felt funny is few Indians raising their voices against the ignorant Americans. The same Indians who always stereotype others by what they wear , what they eat or how they look. We get united when we have to fight  the foreigners but in our own country we have many stereotypical images strongly imprinted in our brains. 

Every one who hails from North East is a chinki. If you are from Saawth you have to be dusky / black with a flat nose coz Dravidians were believed to be short , stout , dark with flat nose where as Aryans who are descendants of the Northies are supposed to be tall , fair and beautiful. I myself have faced this question in college , office , in the neighborhood and every where. Are you a Punjabi? Are you from North ? The only reason is I am fair/ white. When I say that I am from Andhra Pradesh people stare at me due to two reasons. One is my complexion and the other is my fluent Telugu. I am a Muslim and it is a norm to not understand Telugu and speak a broken language as per few ignorant souls who surround me! I am “used to” these kind of questions. If you are from Saawth you are a Madrasi. If you are from North you are mostly a Punjabi. It doesn’t matter if you are from Mumbai , Bhubhaneswar or Goa. They all come under North in the customized maps hanging on the hazy walls of many fellow Indians. Their visions are blurred by their ignorance which is a pain in others asses!

There are many more age old beliefs people have which if I discuss here it may become a sensitive topic. One example I can give here is about Indian marriages. Various places have various cultures. Ultimately every one is getting married to start a new life. I was asked many times by many puzzled Indians that if mother in law is tying kalipoth (an ornament worn as part of the wedding ritual) then how will that marriage hold good ? Seriously other than giving a “I pity you” look I can do nothing when I am asked these questions! In a land of diversities it is a very common scenario to come across a bunch of people who believe that their traditions are sensible and everyone else’s are weird! 
I love exploring and understanding others traditions. Different beliefs and rituals never cease to amuse me and my smile broadens when ever borders vanish during marriages. I enjoy attending a inter religious or an inter-regional wedding but I can never say , “Oh ! You do this like that. Will that hold good?”  Gosh! I sound XS- Xtra stupid even when I type it here 🙂 

A country where fair is considered as beautiful and dark is considered beautiful only when it is a mole that shines on the fair skin it is astounding to see the way every one supported Nina Davuluri. Had she not won the Miss America title she would have been pitied by fellow aunties and uncles that a little fair complexion would have helped her. I have a strong feeling that she would have faced such comments in her life. Nina Davuluri smashed all the stereotypes and won the title of Miss America 2014 which anyway will not change the attitude of many towards black / dark complexion and the practice of stereotyping a person by his appearance.

Nandita Das is running a “Dark is beautiful” campaign to imbibe sense in to people. We have to wait and see how much change this campaign will bring! 

From centuries the fairness cream ads are ruling the TV where a girl uses the cream , becomes fair in ten days and wins the Miss India title. The above campaign is also protesting against the un-fair ads.

I hope people like Nina Davuluri should act in an ad and show it to people that it’s not just the complexion which helps one to win the crown. The other skills do matter. 24 year old Nina Davuluri is from Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh and I felt glad to see that she is born on April 20. No I am not stereotyping that all Aprilites are witty and charming 😉

Nina’s Bollywood fusion dance – 
Have a good day
PS: All images are googled. I don’t own them

32 thoughts on “Can we counter the stereotypes now?!

  1. Very well written post, Afshan. I have faced this so much throughout my life that I have become almost immune to all the mean snarky comments people say these days. Just because my skin color falls in the dark brown category, people have always called me Madrasi even when I am a Bengali by birth. Some people have even gone to the extent to feeling sorry for me coz I will have trouble getting a good husband because of my color. I am not sure as how much the white is good mentality has changed but it is really encouraging to see great actors like Nandita Das come up for the cause.

  2. Hail stupidity and ignorance. But, thankfully they are just a section of society. As Nina herself mentioned, for every negative tweet she got, there were many congratulatory tweets. All is well that ends well.

  3. Amen to this.. Its really weird and funny that we consider India to be one of the most multi-cultured countries and the world yet we still dont want to blend. Most people would rather categories and these includes educated also. Loved reading this

  4. Add to this, all bengalis are fat, short and only eat fish. The other day, one of my colleagues asked “Bengalis won't know how to cook vegetables, right?” And I had to stop ROTFL ing my head off there and then :D…
    An extremely balanced and well written article. One thing that has always amused me is that “Dark skin of Indian women is a bane in India but boon in so called “WHITE” countries as natural tan 😀 “

  5. Very well written Afshan! I cannot digest the fact people are this ignorant! The way they judge people with his/her complexion! It exits in my very own college! Racists! Dark is beauty! 😀 And *yays* for Nina! *proud* 😀

  6. The complexion-bias in India is just crazy. Do you think Nina would have won a title if she had been a contestant on Miss India? I doubt it (I even saw some tweets from Indians who said that Nina looks like the “before” girl of Fair & Lovely ads! People, get a life!). Even Lakshmi Menon once said in an interview that cos of her complexion, she couldn't find work in India. But when she became famous in the west, the very same Indians started hailing her as the “first Indian supermodel”. You cannot judge a person on the basis of color, but a lot of Indians are never gonna get this basic formula into their seasoned “fair is gold; kaala is kouwwa” brains.
    Kudos to Nina! And good post, Afshan!

  7. We have a bunch of stereotypes! As you said either a madarasi or a Punjabi? India is a country made up of many states.I remember Chetan Bhagat's novel 2 States. very well-written Afshan. USA should accept the fact that the 'minorities' will rule and dominate their country. Hwever harsh it may sound.

  8. A lot of hullabaloo happened over this issue when it wasn't even required. Much ado about nothing. She won a pageant because she deserved to win. End of the story. And here we had so many people dissecting the roots of the contestant based on her skin colour. Sad! I wonder how some of these people can be so resentful.

  9. May he who has never sinned cast the first stone – an age old wisdom that still holds true for all of us.
    And people to resort to racial stereotyping because it helps them quickly form assumptions about the person. Even at gatherings we are always curious to find out “where the person is originally from”.

    Thanks for mentioning my article, Afshan 🙂

  10. This is like a scene every where Swarnali , so chill. Ignoring is tough but eventually it gets easy 🙂 If one can guage U by your complexion and list down your origin traits etc just pity them ! and U can always say F O 🙂
    Good things come to those who dont stoop down to such level
    My bestest wishes to u ! Lets see if the campaign brings any teeny weeny difference

  11. Totally echo the sentiments here, Afshan. It is astonishing that in a land of diversity people act so surprised about the different customs.
    I wonder what fairness cream companies have to say about Nina's win. Lol, a girl actually won who is not fair. I hope their market falls with a thud and they go bankrupt. I know that is too much to hope for. Sigh.

  12. Hey Pallavi . Thanks for reading. I LMAO at what u said .. as if cooking veg is rocket science. LOL !
    ya people ask all the weird doubts. I faced the music many times . Sigh ! Dont kno why god made few so senseless.. Ya true that , Dark skin is a bane jst here 🙂
    Thanks for visitng my blog. Keep reading

  13. Ya Racism is world wide. First Ghar ko saaf karo baad jag ka socho.. so first we have to think about our country. 🙂
    Thanks for visiting my blog Harshini
    Keep reading

  14. I was happy that Nina Davuluri won the crown more so because she hails from Vijaywada (AP) and amazed at the same time to see the twitter reactions. She brushed off the social media comments by stressing more on diversity. She carried herself with dignity and self respect. That set her apart from others.

  15. Guess, there are dumb people and stereotypes everywhere. The reactions on the twitter were weird and shocking. Glad that Nina didnt pay any attention to these negative comments and focused only on the positives.

  16. Or well like I heard somebody say, these fairness cream companies might just take her for their advertisements for the before shots and use photoshop for the after ones. 😦

  17. It’s not just the color, we give too much importance to physical attributes. Breaking stereotypes is not easy. Imagine this happened in US, what can we expect from our own nation, who btw, is crazy about fairer skin.

  18. Nicely composed post which highlights our parochial tendencies that too when we are progressing towards a global mindset. BTW I just saw on YouTube the awesome number 2014 Miss America Nina Davuluri Bollywood Dance Talent!
    Cheers 🙂

  19. Oh Wow. I know I’m naïve, but I truly had NO idea there was skin color discrimination in India! I would’ve never guessed in a million years that people in India were more valued if they had fairer skin. I’m sort of fascinated by this subject now. You’ve enlightened me! And I think Nina is absolutely stunning and I’m thrilled she won. She and I have matching nose rings too. 🙂

  20. I do remember growing up with all this mind-boggling nonsense in Delhi.. such stereotyping quite intense there.. these things can leave quite a scar, especially in those young vulnerable years of a child’s life 😦

  21. This was very interesting to read and learn from. The stereotypes around fair and dark skin are also common here in China where I live (while opposite from the tanning culture of the US where I’m originally from). Humans are weird creatures and believe in weird things. I just wish we were more united by our universal weirdness then divided. Diversity is beautiful.

  22. Hi Afshan,
    First of all, what a great read. Two things — I could make out you are a Muslim, what I didn’t know was that you are an Andhraite and that you speak Telugu. (my new language love).

    Now, to the stereotypes, I have faced this skin-color discrimination in New Delhi and through the hands of MIL I face it every day. Sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly. This fixation for WHITE SKIN is hilarious to say the least. I have a wheatish complexion and the spouse is fair and handsome. So, you can understand.

    A great post. Thanks for sharing this.

  23. Wow, great post! I will return the compliment of ‘a very intelligent post,’ as well. It’s interesting how within our own communities we will be demeaning or prejudiced and then cry out against it when our community comes up against the same attitudes in broader society.
    I horrified by the Twitter comments and embarrassed by ‘my fellow Americans’ in this case. Although it’s in some ways a good reminder that all Americans are not the same either. It would be lovely to live in a word where each person is appreciated for their individual behaviors and what they give to their communities instead of being judged by appearance or background or anything else.
    I often wonder if it would take appearance of beings from other planets to get our world to work together and defend each other. But even then I would wish that we’d love each other for who we are not just because we’re citizens of Earth against a prejudged ‘foe’.

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