At work, the white masters saw us as different shades of brown, a box of chocolates if you will, writes Minoo Shah. To the Anglo-Saxons, white is not just a colour, it is the features, the mannerisms, the whole ball of wax!
Chocolates are brown, soil is brown, sepia photography is brown and my face is brown. All things lovely! I am trying to understand this deep desire to become white – the world over. It all started with making chocolates white, then they used bleach to color the landscape, coaxing dark-coloured people to become white (easier said than done). Ultimately, when they started using negatives to depict Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu, Obama and Smita Patil, and museums white washing Neanderthal exhibits, I had to speak up.
Like Bollywood has not got its share of a whiplash lately, let us continue the persecution of Sonam Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Kareena Kapoor, et al (quite self-serving to be selling whitening cream, I say). However, it is my job to pick on an NRI – so here goes. In all sincerity, Priyanka Chopra when you have children, they will be white in the winter and brown in the summer (inherited melanin and so forth). You might want to consider buying up all the rights to your face whitening cream ads and hide them ‘where the sun don’t shine’. Just a thought to save you future embarrassment. Oh, but Pee Cee (grouping all guilty celebrities under this poster child abbreviation), you have caught on and rescinded, because Black Lives Matter is a forefront dialogue and a flavour of the moment on a global scale. All that scurrying by mass media and ad companies alike – let’s remove the word ‘fair’, celebrities (yes, you know who you are, you obsessive divas) giving statements qualifying their mindsets then and now. Kangana Ranaut queening it because she said ‘no’ to a 2 crore rupees contract. Blah, blah, blah. Vegas is taking bets and the odds are in favour of white. Why? Because of the belief – white is all things pure and black is all that is evil. Now this is a fight, I will refrain from joining because my focus is the different shades of brown. It’s a middle of the road fight to the finish – winner takes all!
Folks, Indians are already there, let’s rejoice. Oh, but we can’t, because years and years of colonisation have left us with a slave mentality. I first realised this when I came to the US. Indians within the diaspora were still talking in terms of ‘yeh gori, woh saavli’ and those of us in the latter category assenting with bowed heads because we were seasoned. Then came the big eye-opener. At work, the white masters saw us as different shades of brown, a box of chocolates if you will. Lo and behold, lightning strike! To the Anglo-Saxons, white is not just a colour, it is the features, the mannerisms, the whole ball of wax! Anthropology 101 folks!
Where am I going with this? I don’t know. What I do know are facts. There are more coloured people in the world. White people do not want coloured people to become white (although Michael Jackson thought differently), because who else would they rule, what if the Vikings come back, please people do not aggravate them by confusing them further. I plead to you, we NRIs live among them and there is only that much of their anxiety we can handle.
This pandemic has done a number so take some pity and let white be white, black be black and let us celebrate the fact that we are brown and depending on the odds, we will continue being of brown demeanor and the scales will tilt no matter who is selling the idea. Because, our time is here and now. It’s now or never, so….
…onward ho, through the fog – let us set forth and find a catchy phrase – Black Lives Matter is taken, White is White is taken and we dare not angst the Chinese (the ones from mainland China) by stereotyping yellow as synonymous to all that’s wile like reptile-eating, flooding the world with really, really bad stuff including furniture that does not last, electronic games whose batteries explode and mostly because they may try to take Ladakh (although, 56” ki chhatiwala unka baap koi papad nahin bel raha) – in your dreams, fellas!!! Where were we? Oh yeah – the catchphrase – I am Brown, Get that Down!