The DH is in a constant battle between wanting to speak his mind and on doing so then asks me, ‘Was that rascist?’. Fortunately these debates are only reserved for the privacy of our own conversations and he is safe in our non-judgemental bubble. I found this one particularly interesting, sparked off by a sign we saw at the Hyderabad Airport Food Court.
This is the picture in question – it is the sign for the South Indian food stall. It says ‘Vaango’ which means welcome in Tamil. The question I ask (or rather the DH) asked was, look at the picture and tell me what does it remind you of?
Now I said, it looks like the face of a monkey. So he asks whether this sign is racist – are they saying that Dravidians are monkeys? Or is this sign playing in to stereotypes of Tamilians (men) – short stature, moustache, angavastram, vibhuti/kumkum on forehead…. Perhaps the North Indian stall would have had a Sikh man in a turban with a bushy moustache, although clearly all North Indians are not Sikhs.
Aren’t stereotypes racist? Does it cease to be racist because this sign is in India made by Indians? A Jewish comic is allowed to make fun of Jews but when anyone else does it, it can be construed as anti-Semitic…
I read somewhere that racism is stereotyping on steroids, a hatred, typecasting with a vengeance. Stereotyping is just a little bit of fun that good or bad, helps us navigate people and situations in life, but in no way accurately describes all members of that group. So the picture above assumes that all Tamillian men are Hindus, have moustaches and wear a nice watch. A bit of harmless fun, perhaps?
Fortunately for Hyderabad airport the DH doesn’t take these things further than chewing my ear and gnawing my brain with it, or else they would have been faced with a very stern, very confused letter.