The UK has a population of 35.9% British South Asians with ONLY 3.2% of South Asians appearing on screen productions in the UK. This makes us the least represented minority in Global and British media according to a diversity report from 2018. When we are represented, the roles of on-screen South Asians are limited to belittled characters and racial stereotypes. The effect of this is the normalisation of racism towards South Asians and a lack of role models for the diaspora to look up to. This leads to an increased chance of mental health issues and lack of self-esteem as we so clearly see the small box society puts us in.
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Racial Stereotypes, absence of role models, harassment, bullying, lack of opportunity, increased risk of mental health issues, low self-esteem, normalisation of racism and lack of connection to culture. These are just a few ways the lack of representation for South Asians affects the diaspora. As the media plays a vital role in 21st Century society, we must acknowledge the influence it has in how we regard people, the negative toll it takes on us and how it can be used to make positive changes if done correctly. It plays a significant part in the stigmas faced against minorities especially in white-dominated communities as they can subconsciously create an opinion for the viewers to believe. Thus whether an effective change is made soon or not, it will contribute towards if the treatment of South Asians in society is improved or worsened. The lack of representation for South Asians creates more tolerance towards racist stereotyping, inequality, islamophobia, colourism and more.
It is often found that ethnic minorities have a small selection of celebrities in mainstream media with the platform to share personal experiences, opinions as well as to inform. These celebrities who then find themselves a part of this small selection, are automatically given the weight of representing an entire communities belief, even if they do not realise it. Generally, we see that it is expected that one ethnic celebrity’s comments stand for what everyone has to say and so when a South Asian celebrity, for example, talks about how they feel. about politics, it is assumed that the rest of us share the same belief. I speak of this through personal experiences as multiple times I have had conversations where my opinion was automatically assumed and when corrected, was followed by questions such as ‘if this person said it then why don’t I agree? I know this can be seen as a normal conversation however it is the tone of the conversation that is so belittling to what I feel to be true and what they feel to be true so as not to be politically incorrect. This ordeal is hardly talked about and so I feel it is an important point to make. When situations such as this, it makes you wonder, does this person have any true interest in this topic or are they trying to make sure they are ‘with the times' so as not to make any mistakes in the presence of an ethnic minority. With more representation for ethnic minorities and more platforms for us to share our opinion, we are forced to ‘shift from the seemingly commercial myopic lens through which our narrative is usually shaped’ and provide more cultural awareness towards South Asians.
Through accurate and nondiscriminatory portrayals of South Asians in the media, outcomes such as less racial bigotry towards the community and better self-esteem would result. Improved representation for all communities would also share these results as this topic does not just cover the lack of South Asian representation. Representation generates realistic and impactful role models along with sources of inspiration. Many people appear to underestimate the importance of having a role model to look up to and relate to however many success stories start with a role model for inspiration such as Lupita Nyong’o who believes having black role models was why she felt she could become a successful actress. Representation challenges the status quo, bringing ideas to fruition and because minorities are rarely given the focus, representation in the media helps to shatter these formulaic approaches. It provides a platform for more people’s voices to be heard. The risk of echo chambers online and how damaging they are to establishing constructive, stimulating dialogue is a topic that is frequently brought up. Offline, the same notion applies. When the same voices are heard over and over, the conversation never moves forward and society is never challenged. Giving minorities a voice allows everyone’s world to be opened up and their opinions to be challenged in a positive, productive way. Media enables the dismantling of prejudices and misconceptions, as well as more accurate portrayals. Giving people who are affected by the media’s false portrayal of minorities a voice and a platform to speak is the only way to properly tackle these challenges. By doing so, we can battle negative preconceptions and beliefs that, if unaddressed, will continue to do significant harm.
The South Asian community have been a victim of racial stereotypes and unjust prejudices in media for as long as we have been portrayed in mass media. These racial stereotypes and profiling found within films, tv shows, books and so on are a result of pre and postcolonialism, imperialism in modern-day, systematic racism and profiling. Consequently, the diaspora has stood to endure the most struggle from this resulting in a lack of confidence in identity, the normalisation of racism, and an absence of role models. The lack of South Asian representation in the media stands to be an evergrowing movement with the diaspora being its biggest participant and supporter. With thousands of shared experiences and beliefs, we can conclude the effect of the lack of representation for South Asians in the media has a large impact on the diaspora. It affects us in ways we may not see and in ways, we wish we did not see. It affects us from a young age and stays with us as we get older. It affects this generation, the ones before us and will continue to affect future generations if the change is not made. Representation stands to be an opportunity to be heard and seen for more than the racial bigotry and small box of expectations portrayed to us in the media. It is the representation in media that we have now that severely influences the diasporas self-esteem and how others portray us leading to the normalisation of racism towards South Asians as well as giving power to white supremacy. With the media's large sphere of influence, we should encourage cultural awareness when representing South Asians and allow for all ethnic minorities to have more role models to look up to. Ones who are the hero and not the shopkeeper, ones who remind you of home and not remind you that tomorrow you’ll be compared to Apu from The Simpsons. With only 3.2% of South Asians in media and 54.7% of our year spent consuming media, the increase of South Asian representation could cease the stereotypes that lead to bullying, improve inequality and create less tolerance of racism and islamophobia.