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Why are brown men so infatuated with white women onscreen, BuzzFeed writer Imran Sidiquee asks in his essay of the same name. Why do they overlook and underrepresent women of color in order to date white women is the question I ask. Interracial dating has been a facet of living in the diaspora for ages.
I myself have a mixed family and mixed-race cousins. Many of my south Asian friends date non-south Asian people. It happens. To hear many of my brown girlfriends tell it, dating a south Asian man comes with cultural baggage—like being tied to a patriarchal set of rules that keeps you firmly mired in specific, oppressive gender roles. Samarth, like me, has a mixed history with dating south Asian and white men. She chose to stop dating south Asian men after she realized how toxic and abusive they had been in her dating life.
I chose to stop dating white men for the same reason. Where I personally felt more protected in a relationship with a partner of the same ethnicity, she felt trapped.
Self-preservation was key to both decisions. When looking at all three, Master of None, Homecoming King, and The Big SickSamarth rightly pointed out that many of the men were using white women to escape the expectations their parents had for them. That being said, these are ostensibly fictionalized relationships or at least dramatized. Portraying a relationship onscreen is different from living one out in real life. Why, then, do all four of these South Asian men stick to only writing about white women? What I mean by sacrificing is women of color are often introduced just to disappear.
They are ground up into the burger that is the storyline, while the pursuit of the white woman bookends the whole project. In Master of None, the very charming Sara played by Clare-Hope Ashiteya black British woman, makes an appearance in the first episode of the second season. Later, we see Dev dating a revolving door of women yielded from a dating app. Here are three south South asian interracial dating women and one black woman. They are charming, funny, ridiculous, and charismatic, but they, too, do not appear again.
Instead, Ansari dedicates five episodes to a visiting white woman whose main feature is her Italianness. She is the one, the rest of the women were barely present. They make their way through countless south Asian women only to land back on the white women they were in love with the whole time. Every single brown woman who was paraded across the screen as part of an endless lineup of suitable girls ended up an anonymous, unnamed, and crumpled footnote in the story. These men had to go through them to reach their white women at the end.
This is what it means to be a south Asian woman onscreen, you remain the punchline, the afterthought, the add-on, or the barely-explored B story. You will never be romanced seriously. When I forward this argument online or in conversation, there are inevitably two responses: Well, this is the only way to sell a script in white Hollywood, some say. Or, others respond, what about Mindy? I asked writer and performer Neil Sharma, co-director of the comedy group Deadasswhat he thought about this response. I would be hyped if Aziz ended up with [a] Priya or [a] Mindy [or] even briefly dated a Kartika.
As someone told me over Twitterthere is one show that depicts romance between two south Asian le, Brown Nation, but it never took off. Packaging, story, marketing, funding, casting—all of these are vital to the success of a show, not just whether it has a white romantic lead. When it comes to the second response, I say try again.
Mindy Kaling is one of only two south Asian women in a leading role on television the South asian interracial dating being Priyanka Chopra in Quantico. In the end, she is at her most powerful and confident when she is single. Romance is simply the plot, it is not the goal. We now have four pieces of media, three of which are easily accessible on Netflix, which present incredibly similar plots: brown man meets white woman. They South asian interracial dating, in fact, reaffirming a new one—that all brown men hate brown women and aspire to whiteness. This post first appeared on Kajal Magazine.
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A Look at South Asian Interracial Relationships on American TV