Online Exclusive: Rascism against Indians problem in UK’s “Celebrity Big Brother”

By Sadiya Ahmed

“Celebrity Big Brother,” the fifth series of a United Kingdom reality television series, is now known as a series that draws the most public complaints to the UK broadcasting overseer Ofcom.

“Celebrity Big Brother” mainly invites celebrities to live temporarily together in a “Big Brother” house with no contact of the outside world.

Shilpa Shetty, a Bollywood Indian actress, was subject to bullying and name-calling with racist undertones during her time in the show. Shortly after the broadcasting of this series, widespread anger and protests were expressed through demonstrations in India. According to the Reuters’ Web site, Carphone Warehouse, “Big Brother’s” main sponsor, had to end its sponsorship of the show.

To many Indians living in the UK, British-Indian tensions have become apparent. Even though cultural intolerance has always existed, racial remarks made in this public manner have been rare.

“I was actually shocked when I learned about the comments made to Shilpa Shetty,” said Viraj Patel, co-cultural awareness chair for the Indian Student Association and sophomore in LAS. “I thought of the UK as a big, happy, diverse and accepting world. However, racial tensions have always existed, and the people making the comments had the nerve to do so in a public forum.”

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    The show’s producer said that former dental nurse and TV show contestant, Jade Goody, was voted by viewers to be evicted from “Big Brother” due to her racist name-calling.

    A large Indian student population resides at the University’s campus as well. Cultural activities, social events and fundraising events are amply organized by the Indian Student Association, better known as ISA. ISA is considered a significant representation of the Indian student population on campus. Their purpose is to foster cultural awareness and diversity among people with Indian backgrounds.

    “I feel like Indian culture tends to get boiled down to three things: food, clothes and movies,” Patel said. “While important, these are also very superficial aspects of culture. As a community, we need to come together to raise awareness about other aspects of Indian culture that are equally important.”

    ISA has raised this awareness by coordinating different cultural events, such as Republic Day, providing students with a brief history of India and a touch of Indian cinema.

    “It is important to engage, encourage and facilitate inter-cultural dialogue,” said Arpan Chokshi, senior in LAS.

    Chokshi’s recommendations were displayed in ISA’s South Asia Education Forum, informing students about the deterioration of the education system in South Asian countries. Many student organizations had come together to discuss how governments are trying to improve public education in these countries.

    ISA is currently working on hosting the Midwest Indian Student Association Conference. College students who are leaders from other South Asian organizations will come together to discuss how they can spread Indian culture on campuses.

    Regardless of Patel’s and Chokshi’s efforts, people are still exposed to stereotypes on a daily basis. Patel said she feels that a sense of oppression still exists on campus as well.

    “There was a recent rejection by the College of LAS of an Asian American Studies major,” Patel said. “With a campus of more than 10 percent of Asian students and where the Asian American Studies program is the fastest growing in the country, it seems ridiculous that a student can’t get a major in this field of study.”

    Ravi Rabia, an exchange student from England and sophomore in finance, said that people in the United States are more open to diversity and culture. He realized that England’s Indian population tended to segregate themselves more often. Rabia felt that the key to removing ignorance is to create a “socially-integrated” society and educate people.

    “It is important that we really have a sense of knowing where we come from and where we, as people, stand today,” Patel said. “Only when we educate ourselves can we hope to educate others.”