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People Are Pretending To Be Culturally Aware - A Response to "The Problem With Apu"

"It's a time in our culture where people love to pretend they're offended." - Matt Groening

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Earlier in October, I was devastated and frustrated to learn that Apu Nahasapeemapetilon may be cut from "The Simpsons." However, it turned out to be just rumors spread by Adi Shankar, producer of "Castlevania." Al Jean, a senior writer who has been with "The Simpsons" since episode one, shot down those rumors by tweeting: "Adi Shankar is not a producer on the Simpsons. I wish him the very best but he does not speak for our show."

The controversy and criticism of Apu surfaced after the 2017 documentary "The Problem With Apu" in which filmmaker and comedian Hari Kondabolu expressed his disapproval of racist elements like Apu's accent and job. A few months after the documentary aired, "The Simpsons" responded with a quick remark at the end of one of their episodes: Marge attempted to change a bedtime story that she was reading to Lisa in order to make it politically correct. Lisa objects and Marge asks what she would rather her do. Lisa responds with, "It's hard to say. Something that started a long time ago decades ago, that was applauded and was inoffensive, is now politically incorrect. What can you do?" And then a framed picture of Apu is seen next to Lisa.

Many, including Kondabolu, were not happy with that scene or the way the show handled the criticism. Kondabolu turns to Twitter and posts "Wow. 'Politically Incorrect?' That's the takeaway from my movie & the discussion it sparked?" in response to Lisa's comment. So, creator, Matt Groening replied, "It's a time in our culture where people love to pretend they're offended." Best. Statement. Ever.

I have not seen Kondabolu's film nor do I ever plan to. Kondabolu and anyone else's feelings and opinions are valid and shouldn't be brushed off; however, this show needs to be watched with a grain of salt. The only reason why it's okay to have slightly racist characters in "The Simpsons" is because they make fun of everybody equally. If they only took jabs at Indians then the show would never have become what it became. They don't just throw those jokes in there for cheap laughs. They are commenting on exactly what their audience is thinking and making fun of the stereotypes themselves. After all, it is a satirical show. They make fun of almost every race, ethnicity, culture, subculture, sexual orientation, gender, accent, political stance, and profession. Hank Azaria, the voice of Apu and many others, believes "The Simpsons over the years has been pretty humorously offensive to all manner of people. They've done a really good job of being, shall we say, uniformly offensive without being outright hurtful."

Now I admit, I may have a more blunt sense of humor that can appreciate the artistry of a well-created joke even if it is slightly offensive. Maybe I just have tough skin or no heart. But as a person of fully Chinese descent, I have never once been offended by any of the Chinese or stereotypically Asian characters on the show. Cookie Kwan, number one on the west side, has never offended me with her stereotypical Chinese accent and pushy demeanor. Several times Homer has equated getting good grades or being obedient to being Korean or other Asian ethnicities, and other "low-hanging fruit" comments. A Chinese couple, who were clearly Americanized, put on "the act" for Homer when he stepped into their Chinese restaurant and said things like "You not come long time!" with exaggerated Chinese accents and a costume change.

Azaria rightly says, "the most important thing is we have to listen to South Asian people, Indian people ... about what they feel and how they think about this character and what their American experience of it has been." But the greatest part of this whole issue is that it seems like fans of the show in India have no problem with Apu's character. This is exactly what happened in an opinion piece I wrote in response to the controversy over high school senior Keziah Daum wearing a traditional Chinese dress to prom.

Everybody in America seemed to have an issue with it, but everybody back home in China, including myself, loved it and saw it as a young woman appreciating Chinese fashion wanting to show off its beauty on a very important night in her life. Several Chinese-Americans retweeted "my culture is not your prom dress," but residents of China didn't see it that way. Something about being an American citizen makes people hypersensitive to their other racial identities.

Sidharth Bhatia, Mumbai-based founder-editor of "The Wire," is quite a fan of Apu. When asked his opinion on the matter, I think he hits the nails on the head: "The controversy about the stereotyping is classist snobbery - Indians in America don't want to be reminded of a certain kind of immigrant from their country - the shopkeepers, the taxi drivers, the burger flippers. They would rather project only Silicon Valley successes, the Wall Street players and the Ivy League products, with the proper accents, people they meet for dinner - by itself a stereotype. The millions of Apus in America, the salt-of-the-earth types, with their less 'posh' accents, are an inconvenience to that self-image of this small group of Indian-Americans."

As hard as it is to swallow, Apu may be based on stereotypes but there are many real people like him out there. Yes, he owns a convenience store, speaks with a strong accent, has an arranged marriage, and practices Hinduism. But he's also a hard-worker with a Ph.D., a ladies man, and an excellent singer. Apu Nahasapeemapetilon is a classic "Simpsons" character that explores our own prejudices and sheds light on our own racist thoughts.

Through everything the show has faced, I am very glad that "The Simpsons" is proud of their work and unapologetic for the controversy that they produce. Like Lisa says, what exactly are we supposed to do? There's always going to be somebody somewhere offended by something that somebody else says or does. I'm not at all saying that people deserve to be marginalized and made fun of and that people should just get over it because it's funny. But what I am saying is that it took 30 years for people to get offended by something that has stayed essentially the same for decades. Groening's perfectly frank comment is addressed to people who think it's cool and perhaps politically correct to be offended by everything in fear of looking ignorant. And look where that's gotten us.

For more content, check out my up and coming lifestyle/travel blog: A Living Purpose :)

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47 Things All Female Athletes Have Said

Yes, I know I am sweating a lot. No, I do not enjoy practices. Yes, I have said all 47 of these.
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Whether you're a collegiate athlete, or a high school one, you have probably found yourself saying most of these phrases. Us athletes know that the athlete life isn't for everyone, and we often find ourselves questioning if it's still for us. So, this is for all my fellow athletes.

All my fellow athletes who know the struggle is undoubtedly real, and who find themselves saying these 47 phrases almost as often as I do.

* * *

1. Do you have an extra hair tie?

2. What if we just said no? What if we just didn't run when the whistle is blown?

3. I, like, really, am not feeling practice today.

4. Do these pants make my quads look big?

5. Are you going to eat before or after practice?

6. I'm so sore.

7. Want to get McDonald's after practice?

8. Did you see that she wore makeup to a preseason practice?

9. I actually looked like a girl today.

10. I wonder what college would be like if I wasn't an athlete.

11. We're up before the sun way too often.

12. Is it gross if I don't shower after weights?

13. How hard do you think practice will be today?

14. Coach is literally crazy.

15. I ate like 20 minutes ago, so there's a 50% chance I puke during this practice.

16. I'm not going to drink the protein shake they gave us because it's going to make me gain weight.

17. I think my legs are bigger than his, so I can't date him.

18. I think my arms are bigger than his, so I can't date him.

19. Today in class a non-athlete was talking about how busy her schedule is. It was so annoying.

20. Thinking about preseason makes me want to cry.

21. Is it even healthy for us to have this many practices in one day?

22. I'll be right back, I'm having PGD (pre-game dumps).

23. I think I'm going to throw up.

24. I should have worked out more on my own.

25. How do other girls have the energy to put makeup on for class every day?

26. My legs are dead.

27. Why did we think being a college athlete was a good idea?

28. Do you think coach will be mad if I have to go pee?

29. I think I peed my pants a little bit during conditioning.

30. Should I wear my hair in a pony-tail, or in a bun?

31. I should probably start eating healthy soon.

32. Only six more practices until the weekend, we can do this.

33. I'd rather be sore for a week straight than climb into this ice bath.

34. They might have beat us, but at least we're still pretty.

35. I can't wait to celebrate our win this weekend.

36. How many hours of sleep did you get? I got 6, it was crazy, I feel so refreshed.

37. I look like such a boy right now.

38. Will you braid my hair?

39. That referee totally rigged the game. We should have won.

40. I think I'd hate being a reg (regular student).

41. It's OK if I eat this since we had conditioning this morning, right?

42. If you're not doing homework, get off the bus Wi-Fi, everybody.

43. These pants fit my legs perfectly but are huge on my waist.

44. I smell so bad right now that I can smell myself.

45. I bet my grades would be so much better if I wasn't an athlete.

46. Coach only gave us, like, one water break during practice. It was horrible.

47. I am so happy that I'm an athlete.

Cover Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Dear Beautiful Black Girl, Never Forget Your Worth

An ode to all the beautiful black girls.

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We live in a society where societal standards greatly define the way we view ourselves. Although in 2019 these standards are not clear cut, some things are not easy to change. Not to play the race card, but this is true for women of color, especially black girls.

As much as I'd like to address this to all women, I want to hit on something that I'm more familiar with: being a black girl. Black females have a whole package to deal with when it comes to beauty standards. The past suppression and oppression our ancestors went through years ago can still be felt in our views of beauty. It is rare to see young black girls be taught that their afros and nappy hair are beautiful. Instead, we are put under flat irons and dangerous chemicals that change our hair texture as soon as our hair becomes too "complicated" to deal with. The girls with darker skin are not praised, but rather lowered in comparison to their peers with fairer skin. A lot of the conditioning happens at a young age — at the age of 8, already you can feel like you're in the wrong skin.

As we grow up, there are more expectations that come here and there, a lot of very stereotypical and diminishing. "You're a black girl, you should know how to dance," "black girls don't have flat butts," "black girls know how to cook," "you must have an attitude since you're black" — I'm sure you get the idea. Let me say this: "black girls," as they all like to say, are not manufactured with presets. Stop looking for the same things in all of us. Black girls come in all sizes, shapes, colors, and talents. I understand that a lot of these come from cultural backgrounds, but you cannot bash a black girl because she does not fit the "ideal" description.

And there is more.

The guys that say, "I don't do black girls, they too ratchet/they got an attitude" — excuse me? Have you been with/spoken to all the black girls on this planet? Is this a category that you throw all ill-mouthed girls? Why such prejudice, especially coming from black men? Or they will chant that they interact with girls that are light-skinned, that is their conditioned self-speaking. The fact that these men have dark-skinned sisters and mothers and yet don't want to associate with girls that look the same confuses me. And who even asked you? There are 100 other ethnicities and races in the world, and we are the one you decide to spit on? Did we do something to you?

Black girls already have society looking at them sideways. First, for being a woman, and second, for being black, and black males add to this by rejecting and disrespecting us.

But we still we rise above it all.

Black girls of our generation are starting to realize the power that we hold, especially as we work hand in hand. Women like Oprah Winfrey, Lupita Nyong'o, Chinua Achebe, Michelle Obama — the list is too long — are changing the narrative of the "black girl" the world knows. The angry black woman has been replaced with the beautiful, educated, and successful melanin-filled woman.

Girls, embrace your hair, body, and skin tone, and don't let boys or society dictate what is acceptable or beautiful. The black girl magic is real, and it's coming at them strong.

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