Bollywood on Ice

If you have been following the Winter Olympics than you probably know that tonight starts the ice dancing competition. Competing will be UMich grads, Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who have a “unique Indian-themed original dance” that may or may not be performed at the competitions.

“It’s very cool,” Davis said. “Charlie and I have always been excited about being different and embracing what we could bring to the sport. It’s really exciting to expand the fan base, and expand the fan base to parts of the world that haven’t really experienced it before.” [ap]

Alright, okay. I’ll take that. Respectably not as orientalist as it could have been said. But why did they choose Bollywood?

[C]horeographer Marina Zoueva wanted something that would really make Davis and White stand out. When she spotted an Hermes scarf with brilliant colors and Indian dancers last spring, she knew she’d found the answer. [ap]

A Hermes scarf?!?

They called Anuja Rajendra, who combines Bollywood music and dance with exercise at her BollyFit studio in Ann Arbor, Mich. Rajendra, who once performed professionally, not only showed them how to move their arms and bodies in true Indian dance style, she suggested music and taught them about Indian culture….[O]nce Zoueva had finished choreographing the OD, which uses music from the 2002 Bollywood hit “Devdas,” Rajendra went to the rink to make sure authentic Indian dance could translate onto the ice. [ap]

Ok…so I’m a little less reluctant, knowing that it’s legit…I guess. They went to a desi dance instructor. From Ann Arbor, no less.

Like most winter sports, skating isn’t very big in India. But people there were impressed — and proud — that American skaters were showcasing their culture…”It makes me feel good that something Indian is being shown,” said Dr. Shekar Pushpala, a doctor in Indianapolis who was sent the video by a friend in India. [ap]

Gah. Back to square one.

On one had the winter Olympics are limited in Desi representation – there were only three people representing the Indian team. And it’s not like there are Desi ice dancing competitors that could have done the Bollywood dance to make it “authentic”. We have seen bhangra and other forms of Indian dance make an appearance in most American based dance competitions (America’s Best Dance Crew comes to mind). But on the other hand, is this a case of the glorification of the tokenization and orientalization of what it means to be Desi? Is this cultural appropriation something the be revered or something to be admonished?

Personally, I kinda like it. It is a dance style. And since Davis and White are representing Americans at the international Olympics, I feel like the American-Desi experience is symbolically represented through this number. To me, it’s my kind of hyphenated American. It’s how I want America to be represented. Bollywood dance is turning as American as the apple pie. Or is it?

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About Taz

Taz is an activist, organizer and writer based in California. She is the founder of South Asian American Voting Youth (SAAVY), curates MutinousMindState.tumblr.com and blogs at TazzyStar.blogspot.com. Follow her at twitter.com/tazzystar

81 thoughts on “Bollywood on Ice

  1. Taz: Thanks for posting this. I sent this to Abhi two days ago. It’s from Tokyo Finals last December.

  2. Indian folk music!?!? Someone needs to school that announcer…. I was going to complain that there weren’t any jumps or throws, but apparently that is disallowed in ice dancing. I don’t see a problem with them using Bollywood music… I mean most Bollywood music nowadays takes its cue from western music, so there’s cultural appropriation on both sides of the pond. I’m not sure if Bollywood will ever become as American as apple pie, however. I like that I’m seeing more Bollywood influence in American culture, but I think it might go the way of so many other trends. Not too long ago, there was an explosion of Latin based music and artists, and now where is it?

  3. i am having a lot of difficulty parsing taz’s jargon here. but that’s OK, ppl say the same about me.

    rather, i want to suggest that one issue i have with these “is that offensive” questions is that you have a structure like so:

    group X is being depicted/appropriated by group Y

    is said depiction/appropriate by group Y of X offensive to X?

    the main issue is that “who is this X you speak of?”

    from what i have read the term “desi” includes at a minimum* ~ 1.3 billion people whose recent ancestry is from the indian subcontinent/south asia/india+pakistan+bangladesh+sri lanka+bhutan+nepal. there’s liable to a lot of diversity in attitudes & opinions. many of the objections to misappropriation and orientalization strike me as an outcome of emotional responses to perceptions, with a rational framework emerging post facto. the lack of offense is the same.

    so one of the more interesting things that pops out of these questions are the diversity of views, which highlight variation in presuppositions. unfortunately some people can’t/don’t comprehend that not everyone shares the same presuppositions, and so incivility occasionally erupts.

    anyway, my opinion is that it’s fine. terms like “exoticization” and “orientalization” and what not are really just specific names for generalized human intercultural dynamics. i assume that some indian buddhists were a bit taken aback by the appollonian depictions of the buddha by indo-greek converts, but now imagistic representations of the buddha are for granted.

    • is someone who is a lutheran born & raised in india whose parents settled in india in the 1960s and is of swedish heritage “south asian” or “desi.” my own attitude is that of course, because they were raised embedded within a south asian culture. i know others may differ in their opinion.
  4. I think it’s great! I think they did a great job, and they moved very well.

    And I’m not just saying this because Charlie White graduated from the school I teach at! :)

  5. I think this is great. I don’t see any tokenism or orientalism here. Dancers of all types have done this type of thing forever. More please.

  6. The cultural appropriation… it’s fine as long as it’s a good performance (that I though it wasn’t.)

    What’s sickening is the desperation for approval and recognition in some Indian viewers –> ”It makes me feel good that something Indian is being shown,”

  7. Oh man, yet another discussion with Desis crying foul over orientalism! How is this clip any different than dancing salsa or incorporating folk is it dancing into a routine? Is it just because Desi stuff is newer to the West or b/c we are brown and it annoys Desis to see white people partaking in our culture? Am I the only one who is tired of this discussion?

    Sniper: what you consider “desperation for approval and recognition” can also be construed as “pride” and “excitement that a piece of our culture is being shared with the world.” Of course it would be nice if a Desi was actually doing the sharing, but we obviously have not yet expanded to these areas (slowly but surely!). I was tickled pink to see the above clip – sue me!

  8. I loved it! I thought it was a wonderful attempt at showcasing “bollywood” style dancing on ice!! Now if only they had people trying out bharathanatyam ans kuchipudi stuff on ice..hmmm

  9. The dance and the music go really well together. I am also glad they didn’t pick the over played music from Slumdog.

  10. I think its great – music and dance should definitely not be restricted by racial/ethnic lines. Its art – and it should be used to inspire. No matter the origin – I think its wonderful that the skaters were inspired by the style.

  11. They couldn’t find a better DJ/mixer?

    Is this cultural appropriation something the be revered or something to be admonished?

    Neither, people like what they like. Enter the Wu-Tang.

  12. What is it with blogs like Racialicious/SM/Feministing/etc (aka the liberal blogosphere) asking stupid, stupid questions about “cultural appropriation”? What the hell does that mean anyway?(Seriously, someone clarify for me, please.) It’s a Bollywood-themed ice dance for Christ’s sake. I didn’t think it was anything special, but people have been doing the tango, the mambo, etc, on the ice for ages.

    Now I know what my father means when he talks about liberal bullshit. And I’m a liberal!

  13. lol Radhika. The reality is that most anything we’ve adopted here in the States (food, music, dance, etc) has origins in some other culture and borrows aspects from some other culture – and desis do not have the monopoly in this sense.

  14. “What the hell does that mean anyway?(Seriously, someone clarify for me, please.) “

    It’s pretty simple. it’s where someone from one culture, takes the “sexy” and “sassy” elements of another culture they aren’t a member of and generates interest/popularity/profit from it, where they personally have no knowledge, or in the interest in that culture in a general sense.

    A single dance by two skaters is not cultural appropriation. if they made an entire career out of “indian” style ice-dancing but never paid any kind of respect to homage to the source, then its cultural appropriation. People criticized both Eminem and Elvis for the same thing, (appropriation black art) Eminem gave much more respect to his sources, much more so than elvis did though. Hound Dog was originall recorded by this person:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Mama_Thornton

    “But Taz, these are WHITE people, don’t you know they are plotting to take over the world?”

    It’s caricatured statements like this, is what will exactly allow that to happen.

    Leaving this ice-skating thing aside, is it not reasonable for non-whites to be slightly over-protective about accurate historical reporting of their culture – after all the past evidence of misappropriation and misrepresentation ? ( ah but of course, you can just characterize that as me being ‘a fanatic’)

    If someone’s daughter was raped, yes, that doesn’t mean every man she meets in the future is a rapist, but, I think we’d all understand if the parents were just a little more cautious in the future.. right?

  15. “If someone’s daughter was raped, yes, that doesn’t mean every man she meets in the future is a rapist, but, I think we’d all understand if the parents were just a little more cautious in the future.. right?”

    If “a little more cautious” means stereotyping a white person, attacking her personally and accusing and assuming things of her without even knowing her just because some white people/person at some point did something racist, then no, that would be awful. I used to really enjoy this site and the various posts, but I have come to just abhor it. I can’t make a single comment under my own name with out being addressed as (for example) “white girl” (I have a name, my race does not encompass my being). I have also been called a neocolonialist, told I have “white woman’s guilt” and that I only sponsor children to “show off” that I am a nice white person helping the “poor forsaken” brown people. I have been told that a white woman should not marry and Indian because she will make him forget his culture. If I make an effort to learn about his culture, I am then told I am exoticising it. I have been told I only hang out with the “upper crust” (from someone who has NO IDEA what I have done and made the assumption entirely based on one comment on one subject).

    This website has taught be something. It has taught me all about the silly crap that can go on by judging someone by their race rather than who they are. Someone made a comment on my blog saying that many of the people who comment on sepiamutiny are the most racist kind, and I should not waste my time with this blog. This blog shows me that while many of you can cry foul when others stereotype you, the same people can just as easily disrespect someone of an entire race in almost the exact same way. So congratulations to the people who feel so minimized, stereotyped, and mistreated by others that they feel the need to continue the hate by doing it to other people. You have succeeded.

    I have been doing a little experiment on this site for a while now. Sick of being personally attacked or people using assumptions about me to respond to my comments, I wondered “what will happen if I express the same view points without them knowing it is a white woman?” If you would like, go back and look. “Maya” is all me. I did not change or alter my opinions in the least. Take a look at how people responded to me in that form, my illusionary brown woman, as opposed to when I post under LinZi. Take a look at the responses, and I hope that makes a little food for thought for the people who most often attack me. Look at how differently you respond to my opinions and ideas when you think I am brown, and when you think I am white.

  16. the same people can just as easily disrespect someone of an entire race in almost the exact same way.

    That is supposed to be another race. (typo, apology)

  17. “If “a little more cautious” means stereotyping a white person, attacking her personally and accusing and assuming things of her without even knowing her just because some white people/person at some point did something racist, then no, that would be awful”

    I’ve only recently read your posts, so you can’t hold me accountable for things I never said or a history I’ve never known (hmm…. reasoning sound familiar?)

    “Look at how differently you respond to my opinions and ideas when you think I am brown, and when you think I am white.”

    Is this so surprising?

    I don’t know where you’ve been raised, but I’m assuming its in the united states where your race was never a constant, chronic thing that you had to be aware of while you were in the states, by virtue of being the majority, and also virtue of benefiting from past injustices (and no Im not saying you participated in those directly, but would you agree that if you and a black man walk into a store, and the store owner eyes the black man to make sure he doesnt steal anything, but writes you off as a non-threat.. wouldn’t you say that is an example of privilege?)

    Because being “brown” vs being “white” (and by this Im assuming you were raised in the United States through your formative years) mean you have different experiences during those formative years, and those opinions would be contextualized differently !!

    Why do you think activists like Tim Wise (www.timwise,org) get afforded credibility by the white community, in the American racial debate while scholars like Michael Eric Dyson are written off as “playing the race card” or “furthering inequality”…? Even though they are saying the exact same thing

  18. And since, we’ve deviated from the main topic quite a bit, I just want to add one more thing, And I hope the Taz doesn’t mind this comment,

    but Linzi, without knowing your history fully, I might suggest that being reminded of your race in a constant, “steady-state” type fashion is something you didnt have too much experience with until after your formative years. Again I say this purely as conjecture, and I don’t know for sure.

    It reminds me of a trip I took to Egypt with a diverse group of people, including the blondest canadian woman you ever did see. I remember her posting on her travel blog, after the 2 weeks in egypt how going back to a european country made her feel at ease because she looked more “normal” there. I told her, imagine that underlying, chronic, discomfort over an entire childhood, every day, while your views on the world and society are being formed in and of itself.

    Needless to say, it made her think twice about how “uncomfortable” she was.

  19. Shilip, first my comments were not directed towards you, so I apologize if it seemed that way, it was more of a general response.

    “”Look at how differently you respond to my opinions and ideas when you think I am brown, and when you think I am white.”

    Is this so surprising? “

    No, but it is surprised to what EXTENT I get stereotyped. I could see someone being like “ok what’s this person about?” and asking me more questions. But instead I get snap judgements: “reminds me of A Passage to India” for example (one response to my comment on whether or not I get “special treatment” in India). According to some (perhaps many?) people who comment I am a neocolonist without asking my feelings on American policy. I am a white person who feels superior to brown people, without even knowing anything about my fiance whom I love deeply, there is an assumption I simply love him because he is “exotic”.

    I was raised in the U.S., yes. I was raised in a small rural town filled with white people. Yet, I recall one day people having a discussion here about how (basically) all white people look the same and there is no real difference in skin tone, etc. This of course, is just false and wrong. Throughout my childhood I was often questions “where are you from?” “are you filipino?” “are you from a foreign country?” etc because I have dark hair and darker skin than more white people. My ethnicity, which is swept into the “white and all the same” category by some people here, was focused on as a different and something to ask me questions about growing up. I tried to scrub the “dirt” off my skin when I was little, for god’s sake. So saying just because I’m white doesn’t mean I couldn’t be seen as different, exotic, or unusual is absurd. Maybe this does not count to you as having to “think about your race all the time”, but you know what? I will have to do it for the rest of my life, because I am in love with and am going to marry an Indian person.

    No I did not necessarily experience the evil eye when I walked in a store for my race, but I got a similiar experience for being a ‘rebellious’ looking person– as a punk rocker I had people following me around the stores to make sure I didn’t steal anything. Yes, this is something I could change, but it’s not like I was treated like a Queen by the whole world.

    Living in India, I also experienced some pretty horrible racism and harassment due to my race. As a white woman, some people find it ok to accost me on the street with outright sexual comments. People touched me, someone kissed my neck in a crowd, and someone touched my private lady parts. I was told by a man that he “wanted to fuck me” while riding in an cyclerickshaw. He pulled his motorcycle up next to us and harassed us for blocks. I has been eyed as being a loose harlot slut, and told American girls can’t life in this neighborhood because American girls are all prostitutes. I have had a man call the police on me and my friends because Indians, a white girl, and some African students were hanging out together.

    You know what, I won’t say I have experienced “more” than Desis growing up in the U.S.– I think it varies and some people may have dealt with much more horrible things, and some with less. But I don’t think I am some idiot bumbling around thinking I am so cool without any idea of race and appearance. Yes, I was born into privilege by being white in America. I was born into privilege because my parents have college educations and got good jobs. But my Grandma didn’t go to college. My great-grandfather was an illiterate coalminer from Croatia. A lot of you were born into privilege too– born in America, born to well-educated parents, born to a higher class and caste, perhaps. Every culture has people born into privilege. The fact that you are online write now chatting in English about racism in America means you were born into privilege, many people in many countries around the world cannot to that– no internet, no English or no freedom of speech.

    And about two people of different races saying the same thing but getting treated differently, yes it happens, but the question is, should you or I use that as an excuse to continue the behavior?

  20. Uh, to re-focus from your race-culture relations discussion, did the pair perform this last night?

  21. Uh, to re-focus from your race-culture relations discussion, did the pair perform this last night?

    No – I think last night, all the teams had to do the same routine – the tango. I don’t know when they get to do original routines.

  22. “No, but it is surprised to what EXTENT I get stereotyped.”

    And I can just say your threshold is fairly low.

    ” saying just because I’m white doesn’t mean I couldn’t be seen as different, exotic, or unusual is absurd. Maybe this does not count to you as having to “think about your race all the time”, but you know what? I will have to do it for the rest of my life, because I am in love with and am going to marry an Indian person.”

    No, its not absurd. The extent that you could walk into a “typical” or “average” collection of white people and be considered “white” is the extent that you have to deal with it. Please do not change goal posts here, I’m not saying being white is a ticket to fun filled glee in america, but please do not try and assert that being so clearly “not-white” as an Indian origin person is somehow the same as having to answer the occasional question about possibly being filipino (unless you actually are filipino)

    and your comparison to being a “punk rocker” is downright insulting. Reminds me of what a white friend at work said to me once, saying “oh, we’re all minorities, we’ve all been left out, I’ve been called a freak.” or something like that, I looked him right in the eye and said, that’s just downright insulting. which it is. It’s this attempt to erode historical context that I personally find completely deplorable. Acknowledge there have been STARK differences in the past, and we can move from there.

    The punk rocker nonsense is clearly behavior-based, its more than just “something you can change” It’s something that’s assumed to be NON-INTRINSIC. lets say this cashier knows your parents and respects them, he might think “oh what’s wrong with her’ – in the sense, knowing that you’re truly not that way (which, is likely true, you dont wear the punk clothing anymore I take it?)

    “I was raised in the U.S., yes. I was raised in a small rural town filled with white people. Yet, I recall one day people having a discussion here about how (basically) all white people look the same and there is no real difference in skin tone, etc. This of course, is just false and wrong.”

    of course its false and wrong, thats why white is a social demarcation defined in space and time by the surrounding people, but is loosely connected to skin color (for example, as the us told bhagat singh, I could never be considered ‘white’) but you could be.. in some circles.

    “Every culture has people born into privilege. The fact that you are online write now chatting in English about racism in America means you were born into privilege, many people in many countries around the world cannot to that– no internet, no English or no freedom of speech.”

    This doesn’t discount white privilege in America. Why does everyone recast the statement into thinking that no one else has ever enjoyed privilege anywhere else in the world? I’m just asserting that many white people (and you may or may not be one of these) would likely experience a helluva lot more shock at being “categorized” or “racially collectivized” if they didn’t experience that in a real, substantive way during their formative years.

    There’s a reason they say children are “impressionable” at a certain age. It’s because events leave lasting impressions!

    Seeing my white classmates get better treatment at school growing up sticks with me, even 2 decades after. So now, I have to completely struggle to ask for equal treatment at work, that’s just an example.

    “And about two people of different races saying the same thing but getting treated differently, yes it happens, but the question is, should you or I use that as an excuse to continue the behavior?”

    If by not “continuing the behavior” you mean, sit down shutup and pretend everyone has had equal experiences, in particular in America, then no I will gladly continue the behavior. The fact is, in the world race is still one of the first features of a person we notice.

    The way I see it, you’re going to have to deal with being thought of as a pejorative, orientalist in India, and me with people thinking I’m an airline terrorist. There’s not much either of us can do about what other people think. I just think , for example, I’ve may have had to come to terms with that reality far before you have.

    “As a white woman, some people find it ok to accost me on the street with outright sexual comments.”

    I’ve heard of a person that goes by “PG” that makes these types of comments. hopefull you’re not that person.

  23. Considering the money desi filmmakers have these days, I wouldn’t be surprised if these two end up in an item number. That would lead to an interesting discussion, or not, judging by some of the recent threads. Also, some of y’all are not up on your postcolonial one-upmanship. It’s South Asian Cinema, not Bollywood.

  24. First of all, for the millionth time, I am not Pardesi Gori. If you look at her outlook and mine, you will see she is an entirely different person with an extremely different outlook on India (and just about everything) than me.

    I don’t know why bringing up such harassment suddenly equates me to her. You are so bound to point out harassment and horrible experiences here, is it hard to fathom that such harassment or horrible experiences can happen in India? Indian women also get harassed in India, which is often based on where they are or what they are wearing (blaming the victim) but stereotypes about Americans in India give many the notion that it is “OK” to harassment American women. This has not just happened to PG, it has happened to pretty much every American woman I have known in India– one was surrounded by a group of men and fondled on the street while walking home from class.

    In regards to your statements here:

    “If by not “continuing the behavior” you mean, sit down shutup and pretend everyone has had equal experiences, in particular in America, then no I will gladly continue the behavior. The fact is, in the world race is still one of the first features of a person we notice.

    The way I see it, you’re going to have to deal with being thought of as a pejorative, orientalist in India, and me with people thinking I’m an airline terrorist. There’s not much either of us can do about what other people think. I just think , for example, I’ve may have had to come to terms with that reality far before you have.”

    There is something we can do about it… first we can call people out on it… secondly we can stand up for people. If I saw someone on this site making racist remarks about brown people or white people or what not I will say that is wrong. One thing I see as a problem here is when someone says something badly about desis, everyone is ready to fight, but if someone makes racist remarks to me– even addressing me as “white girl” instead of my name, people remain quiet. That’s just messed up.

    No one should say we all have equal experiences. That’s exactly the reason why we shouldn’t put everyone of a race in one category. Does it really matter if I experiences the exact same experience as you when you were a kid? Will that make my opinion on a matter more or less valid? We all come from different places and different experiences, and we should be able to share them without having to be attacked based on “you were born white” or “you were born brown”. If you want to argue with a person’s opinion then that’s great– people debated with “Maya” all the time, no one had to agree with me, but when I am “LinZi” people don’t just disagree or agree with me, they treat me like a piece of S**t on their shoe and most of the time, no one even calls them out on it. I jut don’t think shutting up and pretending that kind of stuff is happening is OK in any situation.

  25. ” I told her, imagine that underlying, chronic, discomfort over an entire childhood, every day, while your views on the world and society are being formed in and of itself.”

    Indeed. Reminds me of my high school experiences in Northern Ontario, where a teacher actually asked me if my views on something in geography class was the “general South Asian” opinion.

    With that said though, I do think we have a tendency to over analyze sometimes. For instance, my gut reaction when I heard about this was, “Oh no, not this again”, but after actually watching it, I realized there’s nothing wrong with it, just a result of a multicultural society I guess.

  26. Ok, I’m going to step in and say though I am completely enjoying the dialogue here (for once in a really long time) that I ask Shilip and LinZi to keep a cool head and play gentle. I haven’t deleted anything – I just am asking that you not escalate to the point where I’ll have to delete anything.

    That is all. :-)

  27. I remember seeing this a while ago and absolutely hating the way the music was cut. This whole thing just looks so…off…to me. I love me some Kajra Re and I love me some ice dancing, but I just don’t love this pair doing this routine. It’s not that they’re white, it’s just that they don’t really pull it off. Maybe it’s just that the choreography is flat.

  28. People criticized both Eminem and Elvis for the same thing, (appropriation black art) Eminem gave much more respect to his sources, much more so than elvis did though. Hound Dog was originall recorded by this person: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Mama_Thornton

    Good point. However, consider that Elvis appropriated black rock n roll in the pre-Civil Rights era when white racists openly condemned rock n roll as “nger music” and tried to prevent white youth from listening to it; while Eminem appropriated black rap decades after, when such blatant racism was not PC. Give Elvis credit for using black back up singers and band members. The guy had a good heart no doubt. As did Michael Jackson, who married Elvis’s only child. They are adored not just for their singing and moving arts but also for the goodness of their hearts.

    BTW, Elvis did not look like your stereotypical southern scots-irish redneck at all. He looked more like a gypsy to me; and you will find that gypsy sites claim him as one of their own (LinZi here also looks more gypsy than “white” to me). Others claim he was a triracial melungeon: a mix of white, black and native american.

  29. Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, two Jewish guys in NY, wrote “Hound Dog.” While it’s true that Big Mama Thornton never received any financial compensation from Elvis’s recording, she wasn’t entitled to any money legally because she didn’t write the song.

  30. Why do you think activists like Tim Wise (www.timwise,org) get afforded credibility by the white community, in the American racial debate while scholars like Michael Eric Dyson are written off as “playing the race card” or “furthering inequality”…?

    who exactly is affording Wise credibility while simultaneously writing off Dyson?

  31. I have no problem with this dance on ice. If East Asians can skate on ice to Western music and style dance, why shouldn’t Europeans skate on ice to South Asian music and dance. It is done with appreciation. It is art. Figure ice skating is beautiful art. It is nice that Indian dance could be fused with this art form.

  32. Saw the video with the sound off. I am impressed they could do Indian dance on ice. It is not a type of dance to me that lends itself easily to ice dancing, even I think Bollywood style.

  33. Wait a couple of years – they’ll change the name of bharatnatyam to bilates, patent it, dedicate it to jesus christ, and sell it back to us.

  34. “BTW, Elvis did not look like your stereotypical southern scots-irish redneck at all. He looked more like a gypsy to me; and you will find that gypsy sites claim him as one of their own (LinZi here also looks more gypsy than “white” to me). Others claim he was a triracial melungeon: a mix of white, black and native american. “

    Does this mean if I can “pass” for a non-white, then I’m fine by you?

  35. “BTW, Elvis did not look like your stereotypical southern scots-irish redneck at all. He looked more like a gypsy to me; and you will find that gypsy sites claim him as one of their own (LinZi here also looks more gypsy than “white” to me). Others claim he was a triracial melungeon: a mix of white, black and native american. “

    Aside from the usual hilariously disingenuous anti-pasty-ism with which a few of the commenters never fail to distinguish themselves while decrying racism, you’re “stealing” a white-ish american hero for yourself; you’re being an Appropriator too.

    btw–if a gaggle of scotch-irish rednecks entered your store, would you be on your tippy-toes?

    I have seen the man’s genealogy and he did have some Jewish ancestry which might account for the “dark” look (black hair is not uncommon among Irish, btw), but his Grecian profile came mostly from his dad who looked “stereotypically scotch-irish redneck.” Whatever that is, he was. His mother had small, delicate features and very dark hair. The combination of the two was “Elvis.” Perhaps he had “gypsy” as well, but there’s nothing in his looks I haven’t seen in any random group of north-west European types. Unusual, but not unheard of. I’m sure you think Aishwara, the green eyed Indian chick, looks Indian, you’d resent it if I claimed she looked like a, oh, let’s say Belgian. Or Scotch-Irish. I think we all need to educate ourselves about “stereotypes” and just appreciate someone for who they are and not who we want them to be. Appreciate without appropriating.

    Elvis heard and liked black music so of course he “appropriated” it. Black American music doesn’t sound too African and a black musicologist traced “spirituals” to scotch-irish hymns as interpreted by blacks. In the late 19th century dance halls of New Orleans, Mobile, and Galveston, blacks and mulattos educated in classical music and songs, played European instruments and found themselves unable to get work in orchestras. Before the Civil War, mulattos played in city orchestras but after the Civil War, they lost their special status. Left to their own devices, persons of African descent turned European music into something quite different and uniquely theirs–jazz and ragtime. The rules and meters of early jazz can be traced directly to studies of classical music. Maybe that’s why Europeans are the biggest jazz fans. I would say Elvis in his turn made a music style uniquely his but he never wrote any himself. His first songs were those of country singers; he also loved show tunes — nothing too highbrow. He never “sold out” as some people claimed..Las Vegas and gold lamey were natural for him–he loved that stuff. He was pop culture personified.

    In any case, brown people don’t have to feel they are such an un-noticed minority. Here I am, a comfortable “majority” near a suburban DC metro, where 80% of the persons I see on any given day are various shades of brown, black, or yellow, many from the sub-continent. I can go to work, school, train and store, and scarcely see a white person or take advantage of the privilege Uncle Tim assures me that I, a pale person of mixed ancestry, possesses. A friend of mine who teaches school said she forgets what white kids look like. She teaches in PG County though. Some of you have an oddly dated view of the racial composition of large areas of this country. Major cities have been predominantly non-white since the 60s, and definitely the 90s. Either that or most of you live in Maine, and not near Lewiston, Maine, destination of Somali refugees. Or maybe I just need to get out to fly-over country more.

  36. Eponymous– I think I am the only one who grew up in Maine (and where I grew up is still almost completely white). But I also lived in Boston for 6 years and India for 2 years so Maine is not my only experience.

  37. “Scottish, you guys, not ‘scotch’. Unless Elvis was a particular brand of liquor. “

    In a similar vein, I think Gypsy is generally seen as a pejorative term– Roma is their name.

  38. “First of all, for the millionth time, I am not Pardesi Gori. If you look at her outlook and mine, you will see she is an entirely different person with an extremely different outlook on India (and just about everything) than me.”

    Again, for me, its the first time. I’ve never asked you this question before. Hopefully you’re not blaming me for things that “people that have looked like me” have done to you in the past ? I’m sure you can appreciate not wanting to be held accountable for things like that.. right?

    “One thing I see as a problem here is when someone says something badly about desis, everyone is ready to fight, but if someone makes racist remarks to me– even addressing me as “white girl” instead of my name, people remain quiet. That’s just messed up.”

    Well, not to burst your bubble. but its a desi site. If you go to an alabama community site, it’s more sensible that there would be a higher sensitivity to insults directed towards members of that community. How many of us that grew up in neighborhoods populated mostly by white folks have had to be the “Indian kids” rather than our names? What you feel when you voluntarily enter a blog-space is what many of us have had to forcibly feel our entire childhoods. For us, our entire childhood was logging onto ‘sepiamutiny’

    And I contend the reason Taz has not chosen to delete this entire line of discussion, is because how true that statement rings.

    “There is something we can do about it… first we can call people out on it… secondly we can stand up for people.”

    Your stance is admirable. And it’s great because Tim Wise has repeatedly pointed out this phenomenon, how because whites have for so long been raised in a society where they’ve felt fewer barriers, they tend to take a such fierce stances against ‘ANY’ forms of racism (and equally register shock when it’s directed at them). And without fully understanding the nature of the problem, it’s a big “yahoo! we can call people out!” I really suggest you look at some of his writings. He has unabashedly laid out they way white people interact with each other when no “colored” are around.

    As for calling people out, yes, we can do all these things, but I assert that we have to call OUR OWN out on it more than calling out people in other groups. And the majority of the “calling out” has to happen amongst whites.

    Reminds me of a story of when Malcolm X told a white girl that asked him “what can a good white person do to stop racism” and he responded “nothing.” He felt bad later about that response, and wished he had said “Go and educate our own community, go and reform them, thats where the problem began, thats’s where it will end”

    ” Does it really matter if I experiences the exact same experience as you when you were a kid? Will that make my opinion on a matter more or less valid?”

    Depends on what the opinion is on. I’d say someone who never felt the real burn of being racially discriminated against in a chronic, steady state way (even if there were pockets of ‘isolation’), will likely have a different opinion on ‘what’s possible’ to correct the situation. White people in the US are raised in a society where everything is possible. No barriers. (For the most part) If you’re not willing to acquiesce that point, then lets keep Taz happy and not continue the discussion.

  39. “alabama community site”

    What on earth do I have to do with Alabama?

    “He has unabashedly laid out they way white people interact with each other when no “colored” are around.”

    And how exactly do “we” act when no “colored” people are around? Please enlighten me. (P.S. I have no idea who Tim Wise is)

    “Again, for me, its the first time. I’ve never asked you this question before. Hopefully you’re not blaming me for things that “people that have looked like me” have done to you in the past ? I’m sure you can appreciate not wanting to be held accountable for things like that.. right?”

    I figured that if you know who Pardesi Gori is, you would notice that she actually is pretty guilty of stereotyping people, especially Indians, on a regular basis. Most of her viewpoints are racist and also shameful, it just seems odd that you think someone arguing against stereotyping would be the same person who says things like “Indian men are all horrible human beings” or whatever her normal stance is.

    “Well, not to burst your bubble. but its a desi site”

    So wait, if I come to something Desi I should just expect and accept racist comments and personal attacks? If you want to argue that, then SepiaMutiny wouldn’t exist in the first place– SepiaMutiny is all about desis in America/desi-Americans being upset and pointing out racism against them in the U.S. as well as exploring culture and identity. According to your own argument, people shouldn’t be here analyzing people’s behavior you should just be expecting racist comments and personal attacks against you and smile and keep quiet.