Brown Girl Diary's Response to Cultural Appropriation with Lilly Singh
We wanted to take the opportunity to thank everyone for the dialogue that took place today surrounding our latest instagram post. It is important that we engage in these conversations and create a space where we can share our opinions and perspectives. Brown Girl Diary has heard you and wanted to take the time to deconstruct the comments and the learnings that took place. We wanted to remind you that The Brown Girl Diary is an Indo-Caribbean space and we welcome you to join us in discussion.
First off, we acknowledge that the lyrical message put out by Lilly was one of positivity and we understand that the intention of the video were not derogatory or oppressive. We completely agree that Caribbean culture and music is one that spreads unity and love. Dancehall, soca, reggae, chutney are all sounds that originate in the Caribbean but are celebrated globally and we welcome those of other cultures, backgrounds and races to learn and embrace the Caribbean culture.
The issue we highlighted is one that has been raised multiple times in the past by those of the Indo-Caribbean and Afro-Caribbean communities. It’s not the matter of embracing and enjoying the Caribbean culture but rather how a non-Caribbean individual is able to code-switch between the cultures, while contributing to the erasure of the Indo-Caribbean identity. Indo-Caribbeans are consistently left out of the South Asian diaspora and discourse and have faced discrimination and exclusion due to their identity. Indo-Caribbeans are still struggling to understand and embrace their own identities and to have someone of the South Asian community assume that culture and represent it on their platform in a selective capacity is where the issue lies. Although our cultural identity is co-opted and utilized, there continues to be a significant lack of acceptance.
This was definitely verified in some of the comments we saw where a lot of the conversation surrounded whether Indo-Caribbeans had rights to Indian culture and vice versa.
Indo-Caribbeans are individuals that were brought from India to the Caribbean as indentured servants/labourers after the abolishment of slavery. Many were forcefully brought over, manipulated, torn from families and were subjected to poor working conditions, exploitation and discrimination, while working the sugar cane plantations.
Our people were displaced from their motherland but found strength in the building and fusion of an Indo-Caribbean culture- one that embraced our ancestral roots in India along with the post-indentureship culture in the Caribbean. The Indo-Caribbean culture is one that we had to develop due to the displacement faced through colonization. It is one that allows us to co-exist between both cultures but one that is often excluded and looked down upon by the South Asian diaspora.
This platform is a place for Indo-Caribbean women to come together to discuss prevalent issues that they are facing and find comfort within their community. For a group that is never “Caribbean enough” nor “Indian enough,” we are trying to provide a space to explore and embrace our identity. We completely understand that there are also those of the Indo-Caribbean community that may not feel the same regarding our stance, but we appreciate you for listening
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