From the folks at Cherry Sky Films, here is a video for you. There’s a cameo at the end by a Desi (Neil Sehgal) (h/t to Salil).
Cringe-worthy, no doubt, this short video reflects an inter-racial sub group struggle in self-identity versus external community identity monikers. In other words, the use of the word “nigger”. I thought the video was smart in that their use of the word “ninja” as replacement word and Asians as the replacement community really shifted the perception of the use of the “N word.” Plus, the video was hella funny.
What I loved most is when a brown kid saunters up on the basketball court to a group of Asian dudes and says, “What’s up my Ninjas!” The guys look like they are confused as to whether to accept him or not. But after a quick look to each other, they give him the bro-man hug and you hear “It counts.” As a South Asian, he may not be accepted immediately, but he can be accepted into the “in” group since South Asia is kind of Asian, if you stopped to think about it. Marginalized, a little bit, he can be accepted in the end. It was a simple interaction, but reflective so much of society’s deeper of inter-racial issues I’ve seen in the Desi meets East Asian communities.
As an activist in the Asian American and Pacific Islander movement, this attitude is something I see often, though a lot less brash and satirical as seen in the video. The South Asian community is often accepted into these AAPI space as an after thought, or even worse, as a token.Sure the AAPI “community” is a political term, just the way most racial terms are political constructs. But it seems that in my personal experience in these spaces, South Asians are always fighting for a place at the AAPI table, or added as an afterthought. People accept South Asians as “Asians” only when it is convenient, not because they necessarily see that Asia is a really big continent reflecting a variety of cultures and ethnicity.
This video reminded me of a conversation I had last week. I was talking with a friend about the term “The Other Asian” which Glee fans may recognize. It’s used in an episode to describe one of the silent East Asian football players on Glee. Basically, the character is an East Asian silent diversity place holder on the Glee cast. My friend had asked me if South Asians would identity with the term “Other Asian.” I told him that though there has been self-identity “naming” changes in the past few years to our community, it was hard enough for Desis to warm up to the label of “South Asian” and that the term “Other Asian” would just be too far removed.
I am obviously over-analyzing this really funny and nuanced video. I could have left it at that. But it would be remiss to post this video and not to open up the discussion to a dialogue we often debate here on the Sepia Mutiny threads – Are South Asians really a part of the Asian American space or is it just a convenient political construct?
Also, while on the topic, though it may be “counted” when a Desi uses the term “Ninja” but what about when a Desi uses the term “Nigger”? Every time I hear it in a Desi sung rap song, it makes me cringe, just the way I cringe when non-Desi friends of mine say to me, “Desi, please.” It just ain’t right. An example…
The above song is by Bohemia “the Punjabi rapper” featuring RD. And his lyrics? An excerpt:
See I don’t smoke, but I’ll smoke a Nigga. I’m a cold hearted dude, I’ll choke a trigga. You my main target, bull’s eye bitch. I bet I leave ya eye-patched like a pirate.