Whitewashed (& The Big Bang Theory)

September 14, 2016

Background
I can’t stop thinking of race these days.
Must be something in the air.

Can I be totally honest with you?
I had no idea that I was a minority all these years!
I thought I was just a guy who is American.

To be 100%, part of me thought I was just a white guy who happened to have a dark tan.

Most Americans (white or otherwise) mistake me for being black, but I’m actually South Indian by genetics.

People usually whisper in my ear, after learning I’m Indian, that they thought I was African American all this time. That they’ve never seen a tall, big-bonded Indian like me. Even black people think I’m black! All of this is fine, I like black people anyways.

Since I’ve always been South Indian, (though ironically I was born in Africa), I thought this was funny. Most Americans have never met many South Indians, I assume.

When I first came to the country, back in the early 90s, I was acutely aware I was not American. I looked different. I talked different. I smelled different. Over two decades of trial and error, I methodically erased all the foreign in me to become as American as I can be.

I went to american schools. I had american friends. I watch american shows. I listen to american radio. I eat american food. I’m an american citizen. I don’t even think twice about being an immigrant. That seems like another lifetime.

Whitewashed
Something interesting is happening lately.

I’m noticing that quite a few minorities are actually saying racist stuff. Specifically, I’m noticing many Indians are saying racist things. Not against white people, but against other minorities.

It’s something about empathic folks like us, others will speak quite openly around us. Strangers reveal secrets usually reserved for the therapist.

Some of my dark-skinned brethren, for some reason, think they look like Taylor Swift. At least that’s how they talk when they say despicable things about other dark skinned minorities. Maybe their mirrors reflect something different than mine.

This is a very curious thing.
I wanted to understand why this was happening.

And I have a (big bang) theory.
(Definitely not sorry for that awesome pun.)

Folks, even me, are being whitewashed.
We’re watching too many white shows, which skew our sense of reality so much that when we see dark-skinned folks in real life, they stand out.

Big Bang Theory
Let’s get something straight.
I like the big bang theory.

It’s innocent, fun, doesn’t require much thinking, and the constant laugh track makes me feel good. There’s no violence or crazy things happening, like Game of Thrones. It’s the nerdy Friends.

But let’s also be clear.
Big bang theory isn’t a kale smoothie. It’s not nutritious.
It’s more like a box of donuts. Tastes good going down, but afterwards, diabetes.

Whenever I watch a bunch of episodes in a row, I start to feel weird. The show is way too polished and sweet. My adult brain now recognizes that this is not how real life is at all.

Big Bang Theory, one of the most watched shows, available on free tv, is super white.

It’s so white that the one dark skinned guy has a super thick accent. That feels so much like 80s or 90s humor, right?

It’s so white that they constantly make racist & religious jokes aimed at him, and there’s a laugh track to make us feel good about the whole thing.

He’s also super effeminate, outfitted with a tiny paris hilton type dog, and can’t even talk to girls most of the seasons without drinking alcohol. Maybe I’m taking it personally because the guy is also an Indian Hindu immigrant, like me, though I see nothing in me in his character. Come on, he’s North Indian!

Other than him, there are no major dark skinned characters.
No mexicans, no asians, no black americans, no middle easterners, no africans. Even the extras, sitting in the cafeteria while the main group is eating, are mostly white.

Sure, there was a North Korean spy that Leonard once dated. And one super smart asian kid who outsmarted Sheldon. And there’s a black professor who shows up in a few episodes. Other than that, this is pure white.

And that’s ok.

There’s no rule that networks have to put minorities on tv. I don’t want to live in a world where those types of rules exist. The show is made by white people, run by a white dude, on a huge national network run by another white guy, aimed at a mostly white country.

And I love white people too, so much so that I thought I was white! Only recently, when I’m out in public, I’m acutely aware that I’m dark skinned. Noticing more stares than usual.

The side effect of super white popular shows is that we are all getting whitewashed. Dark skin starts to look weird in real life because so much of our popular art portrays light skin.

That’s why we need more shows like Master of None, Blackish, In Living Color, & Martin. I get it now. I’m only sorry that I was so whitewashed all this time to recognize this phenomenon. It means that if you are a minority of any type (race, gender, class), you have to create good art to represent your people.