There has been quite a furore over the last few days, both here in the UK and in India about the alleged racist behaviour amongst “Celebrity Big Brother” members towards Indian Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty.
It has become the most controversial programme in British TV history with over 30,000 complaints so far after the comments by some house members about and towards Shilpa were perceived as racist by viewers.
The story was even picked up in India where the show is not even being transmitted. Shilpa is being seen by the Indians as their “Small Sister” being bullied by “Big Brother”. Some effigies were burnt of the show producers – presumably they just made up some dummy models of the producers, as no one would have had any images of their faces:-)
At the same time, Shilpa and the other participants will also “survive” the programme, especially as they are all being paid hefty sums to be on the show. (Shilpa is reputedly being paid around £300k which is a king’s ransom in India).
The events this week do however raise a number of key points.
Firstly, the programme has brought to public debate key issues about racism in Britain today. Such a debate was probably needed as we now live in a country where our community is so cosmopolitan and enrichened by such a vast diaspora. Yet such racist attitudes, however distasteful do persist and it is time we confronted the truth. “Islamaphobia” over the last few years has probably hardened some attitudes and like it or now racism and prejudices exist in our community.
Big Brother has brought to the surface many prejudices which were just tentatively simmering away and the programme does bring to light the sort of behaviour that many Asians have had to put up with over the years, though personally I have not experienced it as such for a few years now.
It does however remind me of the time 30 years when I arrived in the UK with my family from Kenya and all the white kids at school demanded that I showed them how to play the bongo or African drum. It was quite an intimating experience during my first week at school, but I had the last laugh as I came top of the class in a science test in only my second week at school. Gone were the ignorant jibes, to be replaced with jealousy, but that is another story.
Some of the Big Brother contestants can’t even be bothered to pronounce Shilpa’s name properly. Yet, it is one of the easiest Indian names to pronounce!
If Shilpa had been South Indian or even Sri Lankan, her name might have contained almost all the letters of the alphabet. The contestants would have then probably given her an Anglo nickname like Sam or Sarah :-). Again, something that some Asians have had to get used to – literally a loss of true identity.
A lot of the time it is just ignorance and also perceived cultural differences. Even one of my best friends, a die hard Englishman has had his outlook challenged.
When I visited him in Hereford many years ago, he was really worried about what he would feed me. See, at that time there were no Indian restaurants in Hereford, a sleepy agricultural town!
I thought he knew me quite well, and yet he had this vision of me eating curry three times a day. In the end, he was relieved as we all went to Pizza Hut :-).
The point is that we all have our prejudices, insecurities, fears, usually based on ignorance and a lack of awareness and knowledge about other people. Ultimately I believe that we all have goodness at our core.
Racism has no place in our society today – and it is high time we all did our bit. And the Asian community has to do its own bit too.
Indians have to accept the prejudices in their own community, not just towards the white community but also amongst themselves. Indians have so many divisions within their own community, based on religion, language, caste and even the village of origin.
Without in any way condoning the behaviour of Shilpa’s protagonists, Indians should also clean up their own house as they complain about the goings on at Big Brother house.
Should the show go on?! I even wonder if the whole thing was not a cynical PR exercise by Channel 4 and if so, it has misfired badly as a major sponsor Car Phone Warehouse has pulled out.
I do believe Channel 4 should take responsibility for their programme and accept that the fine line has been crossed. It is up to our broadcasting companies to maintain some semblance of morality and good taste.
At the same time, perhaps there is no limit to how low our taste can get – do the viewers not have anything better or constructive to do then watch all these so called celebrities bitch about each other?!
If nothing else, it does show that under the veneer of their so called celebrity status, they are just as ordinary, fragile and clueless as the rest of us.
Channel 4 may decide to pull the Big Brother show. But whatever happens within a few weeks it will be over and we will probably forget about Shilpa and her housemates. But the lessons learnt about racial unity and acceptance of others have to be learnt and applied.
Let the show go on till it’s scheduled finish or let it be prematurely shut down – but let the lessons of racial unity, tolerance and acceptance live on.
I have read with interest your thoughts on the Big Brother events this week.
I agree that it is important to have debates on subjects such as racism, which does exist whether we like it or not, and often simply due to prejudices and simple ignorance.
Having watched all the episodes this week, and in particular the episode tonight, I do wonder whether the whole thing has been very cleverly manipulated by the producers of Big Brither. We see now that Jade has seen the error of her ways, that Shilpa has forgiven her thoughtless comments, and that now Jade is genuinely in fear for her fate when she leaves the house later tonight.
They say they have both learnt from this experience, and I wonder, have others? The trouble is that so many of us are so quick to judge…I found myself judging Jade pretty harshly when she lost her temper and iterated a tirade of abuse towards Shilpa, not neccessarily racist, but certainly very offensive. But Shilpa herself then reminded us of the difficult life Jade may have had in the past – there are always reasons for the way we behave, and it is in the end our behaviour that alwasy seems to get us judged and into trouble, rather than who we realy are. I don’t beleive Jade is a bad person, I don’t believe Channel 4 were wrong to let this continue, they have suffered themselves through loss of sponsorship, but I think having seen this almost through to the end result (Jade being evicted), that lessons could well have been learnt all round. This is, in the end, the remit for Channel 4, to be representative of the minority and to challenge beliefs and raise issues for debate. In this case I wonder whether they have actually represented not the minority, but the silent majority – those of us who judge others in the safety of our own homes.
One of the positive things I hope to do this year is to stop judging others, and to learn to listen more for the true messages.
Thank you for the opportunity to express my thoughts.
On the subject of Racism, Caste Systems, Class Systems and the like I would like to Quote from My favourite Speech by His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Sellassie I RASTAFAR I that I wanted to share with all…
Excerpt from the “Will and Determination” Speech by
His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Sellassie I RASTAFAR I
Emperor of Ethiopia Elect of God
California 28th February 1968 –
Until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior
is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned, that until there are no longer first class and second class citizens of any nation
Until the colour of a man’s skin is of no more significance
than the colour of his eyes, that until their basic human rights
are equally guaranteed to all, without regard to race that until
that day, the dream of lasting peace world citizenship and the
rule of International morality will remain in but a fleeting illusion
to be pursued, but never attained.
“Will and Determination” Speech by His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Sellassie I Rastafar I has also been turned into the song called “WAR” by Bob Marley from the Babylon By Bus CD, my Favourite Bob Marley Song Ever. Highly Recommend a listen! One Love
Copyright Belongs To Therlow Tsagazahab Snape – Master of Lyrics – Founder of Connecting Routes (C)
“CONFERENCE” – written and sung by Tsagazahab (c)
Calling on a Conference with all the leaders of the world
Calling on a Conference Man, Woman Boy and Girl
Calling on a Conference for Justice and Liberty yeah
Calling on a Conference on behalf of humanity
Well, all the leaders of the world seem they
want to be the Boss
Not to give or Care Redistribute and share but to gain at any cost and
Most of them Countries are fighting within when their leaders are killing their own
And there’s one thing to right it, It’s right in their sight is to all have a common goal.
We are living in a world, where the people they’ve got to be free
And the only Government they need is one in humanity,where all the people of the
Earth can know the sweet beauty of life and be rid of intent to misrepresent
‘Cause we know that it’s not right, Conference with all the leaders of the world
Yeah calling on a Conference Man, Woman, Boy and Girl
Calling on a Conference for Justice and Liberty yeah
Calling on a Conference on behalf of humanity…………………………………………..
Now we all know that Poverty doesn’t hold any prejudice
Confusion and Shame, Hunger and Pain
Only know about Selfishness
And the way was given to Man you understand to elect a Leader that’s true
To manage maintain increasing our name and this is what he must do for you
We are living in a time where the people bursting to be free
And the only Government they need is one rich in humanity
Then all our children of the Earth can know the sweet beauty of life
And be rid of intent to misrepresent ‘Cause we know that it’s not right,
Right, Conference with all the Leaders of the World Yeah
Calling on a Conference Man, Woman, Boy and Girl
Calling on a Conference for Justice and Liberty, yeah
Calling on a Conference, People
Come on and shout it out with me
You Intelligent Minds
Rasta don’t come in disguise
You Intelligent Minds
(C) Written and Sung by Therlow Tsagazahab Snape
founder of Connecting Routes.
Genesis 49, 22 – 24
I just needed to say that ‘Conference’ written and sung by Therlow Tsagazahab Snape – Master of lyrics – Founder of Connecting Routes says all that I feel and have felt ever since I arrived in
This Sick World.
World Leaders, Kings and Queens, Presidents, Prime Ministers, Dictators, Religious Leaders, The Pope, Representatives of God., on Earth, Mr. Kofi Annan, United Nations – Please Check it and Do The Right Thing in the name of my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and while you are at it, Please Check, Read and Understand the speech ‘ Will and Determination ‘ by His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Sellassie I which clearly tells us all, that this is the only way to Abolish Racism, Segregation, Class and Caste Systems and to attain World Peace, World Unity and Universal Love. Let’s get it done Please.
Rajesh Semrete Sellassie Aggarwal