This is a pet peeve of mine. Stereotyping, aka putting people into boxes. It’s something which I try not to do in my daily life. What irks me is when people generalise a group of people based on hearsay or what 1 individual out of a billion says and/or does.
I’m a British-born Indian and during my time on planet Earth, I’ve faced an innumerable amount of stereotypes. Some of which have been unbelievable beyond belief. These comments have either been innocently said or backed up with the infamous: “I don’t mean to be rude/racist/offensive…BUT..” It’s the “but” that stops me right in my tracks. Why? It implies that regardless of ignorance or naivety, there is the knowledge that they know it is going to be offensive, but carry on anyway. #YOLO
I’ve whittled it down to 6 silly stereotypes – I could have easily done a million but that could very well be a part II. So here we go!
1. “Do you speak Indian?” – I either laugh or cry in despair at this. There are at least 30 languages in the sub-continent with 1 national language – Hindi – being spoken throughout. And that’s not counting the neighbouring countries! Fair enough, not many people know this, but a Google search to broaden your minds would be great.
2. South Asians can’t talk to people they have a crush on: Raj from The Big Bang Theory, unfortunately, is behind this common assumption. But let’s be real here and put race aside: most people get shy or awkward when they’re around someone they like! The other week I was in Subway, when a really good looking guy walked in. I went to pieces (because I was so flustered) and ordered a random sandwich. I ended up with a meal I didn’t even like or eat. Don’t get me wrong: it’s nice to see fellow brown people on TV, but please, don’t tar us all with the same brush.
3. Every South Asian has a tyrannical strict father: This common stereotype has come about from East is East (top film though) with the infamous George Khan. He is the stereotypical brown, violent father from the motherland who is sadly imprinted in society’s brain. The truth is that, whilst discipline is important to brown families, not every single Asian father is a tyrant.
4. South Asians live in massive families with various aunts and uncles: Not true. In the same way that the nuclear family has become a thing of the past, similarly the massive family under 1 roof is rapidly disappearing. Most Asian families are quite small with the extended family living separately or gradually diminishing. And believe it or not, more and more of us are being raised by brown single parents.
5. All Asians look the same: The sub-continent is massive. Due to its sheer size, this also means that there isn’t 1 climate for this landmass. As a result, people look different. And that’s the beauty of being South Asian; we all look different depending on which region our families originated from. That Atlas is starting to look really really handy now!
6. All Asians are religious: This is something which I think a lot of Asian people face. I’m a tee-total (for personal reasons) yet many people seem to link this to religion. Why they do is beyond me. But it’s annoying. Just because I’m brown and don’t drink, smoke, take drugs etc is not because of religion. Believe it or not guys, but we have a choice like everybody else. With regards to religion, it’s just like any other community: we have atheists, theists, agnostics and those who have their own personal belief systems.