There was group of four crabs in a small bucket and life was cramped, monotonous and frustrating. They did the same thing day in and day out until one of the crabs decided that enough was enough. “I’m going to see what’s outside,” she declared to the others.
“You can’t do that! No one’s ever gone outside. It’s impossible,” one replied. The others agreed, “It’s too risky and dangerous!”
“Well it has to be better than being stuck in here,” she retorted. “Don’t you want to do something different?”
They murmured among themselves and reluctantly decided to help her. The plan was simple; they would stand on top of each others’ shells until she could reach the edge of the bucket and hoist herself out. As they began, one crab began to panic. What if the others decided to leave the bucket as well? With this in mind, he quietly said to the others: “We don’t do things like this; you know it’s not right.” The other crabs agreed, “But how can we stop her without creating a fuss?”
The first crab smiled and replied, “Copy what I do.” As the other crabs stood on top of each other, he reached up and firmly pulled her claw down. She lost her balance and they all tumbled down. As they tried again, another crab firmly pulled her claw down and they all fell down again. This went on for some time, until the first crab cried: “It’s impossible! We’ll never get you out of here!” The others echoed his words and went away silently praising themselves for thwarting her plans.
In a gentle way you can shake the world ~ Gandhi
My grandmother told me this story when I was in primary school. Initially I thought that it was a nasty story about selfish crabs, but as I’ve grown older, I’ve realised that this simple story is widely applicable to the way that we treat ourselves, our communities and each other.
The last Census showed that 14.5% of the UK is comprised of ethnic minorities. It’s a surprising figure given that when you switch on the television, there’s not that many BAME faces, histories or stories on our screens.. It is estimated that the number of black, Asian and ethnic minorities working in the UK television industry fell by 30.9% between 2006 and 2012.
With these statistics in mind it is alarming to see this and surely this is a call to action that everyone needs to take, including ethnic minorities themselves. Recently, television programmes such as “Desi Rascals” and “Indian Summers” have brought South Asian faces to the forefront of mainstream television. At a glance, many would – i theory – be happier to see more brown faces on TV. This has been met with a mixed but largely negative response which is understandable. Many British Asians feel that “Desi Rascals” is not an accurate portrayal of Asian communities in London, while many feel that “Indian Summers” is an age old romanticism of the Empire from a white perspective.
I’ve been in a pensive mood since Sunday night having read a lot of people’s comments and opinions about both programmes. The anger directed at “Indian Summers” is justified because it’s an aspect of British history which is largely ignored and idealised with no regard for the colonised. As someone whose history is intertwined with Partition and the British Raj, I felt sad when I started watching “Indian Summers” because it is a very triggering point in my family’s history. I have no family left in Punjab because of it and it’s a part of my heritage that I can only hope to reconnect with one day. And it brings tears to my eyes whenever I think about the pain, suffering and number of deaths that occurred as a result of this which mainstream history and television ignores.
But what made me even more thoughtful was why I didn’t feel the same level of anger as others did. I felt like there was something wrong with me because I wasn’t angry and didn’t feel a sense of outrage that a white man had created a show about the British Raj in Simla. And I’m still wondering why I’m not angry. Is there something wrong with me?
Instead I feel a sense of sadness that this pain exists in many South Asian communities and that it will take a few generations for us to heal from this scar. It is infuriating that the Indian rhetoric has always been hijacked by a white face which manipulated and destroyed the faces, names and souls who were the very essence of that story.
But a part of me also thinks that shows like “Desi Rascals” and “Indian Summers” could provide us all with a starting point to make our voices heard and expose the reality of what the British Empire really did to its colonies. Of course, they’re not the ominous be-all-and-end-all solution, but surely it is a stepping stone in the morally right direction?
It is all too easy to dismiss, shoot down and criticise those who strive to make a change for the benefit of others. This can rub people up the wrong way especially if they believe that an inaccurate portrayal of historical events or a specific ethnic group is being wrongly presented. By all means, voice your concerns, because it is imperative that we continue to speak up against injustices and discrimination. However, it is also worth remembering to speak up in defence of those who are trying to change things for the better and give them the leg up that they need.