Not Wanted: Selective Diversity

by Shritin Patel – Houston Baptist University

Imagine this: You’re strolling down the sea wall with the love of your life, a beautiful blue pastel sky as your backdrop. The fluttering breeze plays with your hair while above, seagulls chase after one another in a daring game of tag. Your nostrils are seduced by the fresh salty smell of the ocean mixed with the natural aromas of sun soaked strangers. You duck into a little restaurant right off the pier unable to imagine how your day could get any more better or romantic for that matter. As you walk in, an angry set of eyes bore into you. You try to shake off the feeling of hate as you follow the waiter to the cozy charming booth in the corner with the flickering candle flame. A second set of venomous eyes glare at you whilst you snuggle up next to your loved one. Perturbed, you seek comfort in the containment of your little booth. A lovely evening ensues. As you walk back out of the restaurant, you hear the hisses and murmurs of hate rearing their ugly heads once again. Annoyed and hurt, you demand the source make itself known. You want answers. Why would a perfect stranger try to ruin your night? What would possess them to hate you when you don’t even know them? Slowly, the answer begins to form in your mind. No, that can’t be it…surely in the 21st century people are over their prejudices. Surely, in a country with an African American President, we can learn to live as united people. Frantically searching for a logical explanation, you are forced to acknowledge that the reason for their malevolence is solely because of the color of the hand you are holding.

This scenario, unfortunately, is still commonplace in a time period that celebrates diversity and unity.

In the Indian culture, interracial dating is taboo. To date outside of your race is considered one of the gravest offenses you can commit. Families like to keep the bloodlines pure. What is the tragic flaw in that mentality you ask? In 16th-17th century Colonial India, about 1 in 3 European men had Indian wives. Not only that, but Indian Nawabs were encouraged to find spouses from the beautiful foreign European women that flocked the country. Interracial marriages were favored highly because they illustrated the “European-ness” of the native Indians. Why then is interracial dating and marriage not accepted today? Why do people who partake in interracial relationships have to be scrutinized, criticized, and ostracized from their communities?

In the movie “Bend it Like Beckham”, the main character Jessminder ‘Jess’ Kaur (played by Parminder Nagra) falls for her football coach Joe (played by Jonathon Rhys-Meyers). Jess comes from a strong Sikh Punjabi family and as such, her attraction to Joe is forbidden in every sense of the word. Already lying to her parents about her football escapades, Jess fears that telling her parents about Joe would only increase their fears about the cultural gap that plagues their family. Jess isn’t worried that her parents won’t like Joe because he is of bad character or is a bad influence on her, Jess fears her parents will take it badly because she is Sikh Punjabi and Joe is English. By the end of the film though, Jess’ parents come to accept her passion for football, and in turn, Jess realizes she can eventually tell her parents about Joe without any fear of backlash. That happy ending needs to be a frequent ending in real life South Asian families; acceptance is key, and not just in our much loved Bollywood movies. Sidenote: Parminder Nagra herself is in an interracial marriage with her husband James Stenson.

In 1958, a couple by the name of Mildred and Richard Loving married in Virginia. Because she was a black woman and he was a white man, their union was illegal and they were arrested. Rather than face charges and jail time, the two left Virgina. They wrote to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and their case was heard on June 12, 1967 by the Supreme Court. That day deemed anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional, and therefore illegal. Today, many celebrity couples like Seal & Heidi Klum, and Robin Thicke & Paula Patton, and even on screen couples like Shawn & Angela have the opportunity to explore love without with the limitations of race. Now, if we could only apply that acceptance to the unwashed masses we’d be well on our way to a more loving world.

We are the mindless minions of the media, we wear what celebrities wear, we say what politicians say, we think how CNN and FOX News want us to, and we listen to whatever the radio tells us to. So why then is it not okay for interracial dating and marriage to occur in real life, when it is what we promote in our movies, television, politics, etc.? We boast about our tolerance and our difference from the past, but history tends to repeat itself and we are here in 2010 just as ignorant and narrow-minded as ever.

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