When Azealia Banks called Zayn Malik a ‘curry scented b**ch’, my first reaction was to eye roll. Surely if she’s going to launch such a vicious and racist attack on Zayn, she could come up with something a little more creative than a playground insult I’m sure most South Asians have heard at least once in their life?
Oh, but she had more… in (now deleted) tweets – Azealia’s Twitter account has since been suspended – she referred to Zayn as a ‘sand n****r’, tweeted ‘Imma start calling you punjab you dirty b**ch’, and proclaimed that Zayn’s mother ‘is a dirty refugee who won't be granted asylum’.
As mixed-race English and Punjabi Indian myself, I have a pretty big problem with EVERYTHING Azealia said. First of all, Zayn’s not Punjabi – his father is British Pakistani, and Azealia clearly knows nothing about the historical tensions between the Punjab and Pakistan. Secondly, calling Zayn’s mother a ‘dirty refugee’?! She’s English – don’t you worry, Azealia, she has no need for asylum.
With my ambiguous mixed-race (apparently we’re supposed to say dual ethnicity now?) skin tone, I can pass for everything from Italian, French and Spanish to Iranian and Afghan, but I definitely don’t look full Indian.
Still, I’ve been called a paki (I chose not to star this out like a swear word because being Pakistani is NOT an offensive thing to be) and told to ‘go back to my own country’ (but I’m in it?) by people both young (my generation, and I’m 23) and old (sure, outdated views and all that but shouldn’t people know to keep it to themselves by now?).
I don’t need to tell you that it’s not a nice thing to hear. To be discriminated against for any aspect of yourself, whether it be size, gender identification, sexuality, freckles, disability and so on, is completely unacceptable, but to be honest, I’m kind of used to it - isn’t that sad? Don't get me wrong, I banter with a bit of 'casual racism' with my friends, but I know when things are said to me by friends to make fun of a stereotype I sometimes fulfil, and I also know the feeling I get when it's meant as an insult. I refuse to be ashamed by my heritage.
I told my (white) friends what had happened to me, and their response was: ‘I didn’t think things like that still happened’. I guess when it happens to you (and remember I can be white-passing, so I don’t even feel it to the full extent of others), you’re a million times more aware of the rampant racism still alive and kicking in the UK, US and all over the world. Don’t ever forget that people have died, and continue to die, because of the colour of their skin. That's a scary, scary thought.
I’m not the only one who feels like they need to hit back at Azealia, either. Similar to the use of #BlackGirlMagic, #CurryScentedBitch has been taken on by desi women on Twitter to show pride in their heritage and other gorgeous South Asian women.
Sometimes it does feel like the issue of race misses out those ethnicities ‘in the middle’, those who aren’t black or white, but Asian, Indian and other mixed-ethnicities – for girls and guys like me, at least, it’s nice to see South Asians being celebrated.