I just got an email day before yesterday from a fellow black American who enjoys Bollywood films:
I find the subject of racist attitudes in my beloved Bollywood a fascinating one. It saddened me to hear of the mistreatment of Shilpa Shetty on Celebrity Big Brother in the UK and when I tried to learn about her, I stumbled upon this image:It comes from a 2004 article: http://www.indiantelevision.com/tube/y2k4/aug/augtube33.htmMy response:
After seeing this, I realized how long it's been since I've seen a person in blackface. Then I remembered that I was born in the eighties and the only blackface that I'm familiar with comes from documentary footage. So now, I'm having a bit of a crisis. I love Bollywood films but I feel conflicted with supporting an industry that constantly portrays Blacks in a negative light. I've ignored movies where we are seen as token criminals, glossed over stereotypical expressions in film dialogues and viewed the Rimi Sen comment as an isolated incident. However, blackface is pretty darn hard to excuse. How do I express my love for Hindi cinema, while acknowledging my disdain for the cultural ignorance and racism within its community? I'm at a loss.
You're right. That behavior is ignorant as hell. It's also interesting to note that the guy in the picture is wearing a curly wig as if to say, "Don't worry, I'm not making fun of dark skinned Indians, I'm clearly portraying someone of more closely African descent."All right friends, correct me if I'm wrong. I have faith in you!
Unlike the US, India doesn't have very many black skinned people of prominence and influence. It wasn't until the civil rights movement brought international attention to black Americans (and Dr. King won the Nobel Peace Prize) that the US was embarrassed into decrying blackface. It's also important to note that there was no federal imperative to do so. People in the entertainment industry simply found it in poor taste as they began--not only to rub shoulders with--but to admire various black Americans for their achievements. India has no such influence to offer a catalyst for change (other than increasing globalization).
It will probably never disappear completely (it hasn't in the US) but I think the offensive portrayals will continue to decrease as India continues to embrace globalization and more of its foreign-educated children take control.
As for me personally, I continue to enjoy the good and use my blog to address the things that need to change.