Important things from Igbohistory Instagram. European colonialism has, and still continues to dismantle the myriad of sophisticated social constructs upheld by so many African ethnicities, by presenting Africa as a unit by choosing to ignore the huge ocean of differences between ethnic groups, let alone countries.
Interesting fact: Many African ethnic groups, kingdoms, and states were referred to as ‘countries’ before the rise of colonial powers throughout Africa. They were okay as ‘countries’ when slaves and other goods were being traded. You’ll hear of the Ebo country, Benin Country, Whydah Country and so on when reading pre-1850 writing. If you label a kingdom or a state a ‘tribe’ this those what is described above but also implies there was no major or important political organisation. ‘Tribe’ made/makes indigenous African states and ethnic affiliations sound petty and unimportant. Imagine calling the Edo or Songhai people a tribe when their empires have wielded more power than most of the world ever has? But why would you call them countries when you’re trying to impose your own country on them?
1. All those people screaming cultural appropriation at her are ignoramuses who are basically saying, “Wow, you don’t look like my ill-informed, narrow-minded stereotype of what people from this region actually look like!” and “I actually subscribe to horrible, reductionist stereotypes that Indian people can only have dark hair, skin and eyes. Light hair? Green eyes? European (origin) only!”
This is gonna be a tad long, because it’s gonna delve into biology and history- and it’s because I hope people realise how artificial the US paradigm of race is. It’s woefully incompetent at understanding the biological diversity of our species because it is a social construct. Modern scientists and historians generally refuse to categorise people on the amount of melanin they have because it’s just reductionist and oversimplistic- what they do is classify people by their geographic origin, linguistic and cultural ties.
2. India is an EXTREMELY diverse continent. It’s so genetically diverse that the only place more genetically diverse is the African continent, aka, the birthplace of humanity. And this is a big deal. I’ll explain why.
Surprise! People inhabiting an extremely large country that has more than 2000 ethnic groups, members of all the world’s religions, been the site of multiple ancient civilisations, been on the major crossroads of human migration and trade for thousands of years come in multiple colours!
- Presently, the most widely-accepted theory of our origins is the Recent African Origin, or Out of Africa Theory. This holds that originally, humans first appeared in Africa, thus all of us have African ancestors. All modern non-Africans are descended from much smaller groups of people who migrated out of Africa, anytime from 65,000 to 125,000 years ago. How do scientists know this? By looking at our DNA, in addition to fossil and archaeological records. They discovered that the differences in the DNA of non-African peoples like say, a German a Japanese and a New Zealand Maori was far less than the genetic differences between people from different African ethnic groups. (Somali, Dinka, Yoruba, San, Kikuyu, Luo etc- I’m BARELY scratching the surface)
- What this meant was that Africa had to be the original, diverse genetic pool where modern humans first appeared. Everybody else outside of Africa today is descended from much smaller groups of people who left Africa at various times- and that ancestral genetic “bottleneck” is why people who appear to have very different heritage (e.g European vs East Asian) actually have far less genetic variation than the various African peoples.
So, India being the second most genetically diverse place on this planet is a big deal- it’s basically second only to THE CRADLE OF HUMANITY. That’s why I’m pretty convinced your friend can have blonde hair and green eyes and still be 100% Made in India.
3. Now, the genetics of India itself.
Genetic studies have shown that if you take a modern Indian from any part of India, no matter how dark or fair they are, his or her lineage will consist of mixing from two main ancestral groups. One is the Ancestral Northern Indians (ANI), and the other the Ancestral Southern Indians (ASI). You may have heard of the ancient Indian caste system which put a lot of social pressure that prohibited marrying outside your caste. Caste discrimination is banned today, but old attitudes do persist. However, even this caste rigidity wasn’t so 4000- 2000 years ago. ANI people married ASI pretty freely, so that’s why every modern Indian has heredity from both groups. So, already to start off, you got quite a fair bit of diversity hidden in people’s genes.
- And the next interesting part to explain why it IS possible for Indians to have features stereotyped as “European” is because while the ASI seemed to be genetically unique to the Indian subcontinent, the ANI people are genetically related to Middle-Easterns, Europeans and Caucasians (and I mean this not in the sense of “white” as often used in the US, but the actual region of Caucasus, which borders Europe and Asia).
- You mentioned she looks “white”- and the American-understanding of “white” being hurled at her by those people screaming cultural appropriation are actually ignorantly treating “white” as synonymous with “European-origin”. In reality, it’s completely useless in the realm of biology. Biologically, there is actually no real dichotomy where “European” suddenly ends and “Asia” begins.
- As I earlier pointed out, well, we’re all kinda related. And it’s not at all earth-shattering that some people from India look like they’re of “European-origin”. Because modern Europeans, Central Asians and the Ancestral Northern Indians are all believed to be descendants of a group of people called the Proto-Indo-Europeans. It’s believed they lived around 6000-7000 years ago. Some modern people that are descended from the Proto-Indo-Europeans are French, Germans, Iranians and Pashtuns (a major ethnic group in Afghanistan). It’s even been found that Europeans and Indians shared a gene for fair skin from a common ancestor- which is why there ARE people who look like your friend. Naturally, fair skin is just relatively rarer in India vs Europe because more parts of India are located in hotter regions. Therefore, there’s more selection pressure for darker skin which has more melanin to protect from the sun- making fair skin rarer, but still possible.
(This is a map of the Kurgan Hypothesis, which is currently the most popular theory for how the Proto-Indo-Europeans migrated from their homeland to settle Europe, Central Asia, Iran, India and Turkey etc)
- Saying Indians are descendants of the Proto-Indo-Europeans is NOT the same as saying they’re of “European origin”. For example, think of the Proto-Indo-Europeans as like the “mother” of Europeans, Central Asians and the Ancestral Northern Indians- they’re like “sibling” groups, not descendants. The original Indo-Europeans were not “European” in the modern sense. I am clarifying this because plenty of colonial-era scientific racism tried to attribute ancient India’s achievements to “European who left Europe for India”- you might have heard the phrase “Aryan” thrown around in Nazi Germany, which was used to mean “blonde hair, blue eyes”. Nazi scientists and historians also abused it to explain away the sophistication of non-European civilisations in Ancient Egypt and India. In reality, ”Aryan” is derived from the ancient Sanskrit word “Arya" which means "noble". Sanskrit is an ancient language still used in classical Indian texts, and is of Proto-Indo-European origin. For example, the name of the country “Iran” actually means “land of the Aryans”- it was the names ancient Iranians (another people descended from the Proto-Indo-Europeans) gave to what others called the Persian Empire for more than a thousand years before the Third Reich.
- Furthermore, many languages we often separate as “European” and “Asian” like German, English, French, Italian vs. Hindi, Farsi (Persian), Gujarati, Punjabi, Pashto, Sanskrit etc are ALL classified by linguists as belonging to the same Indo-European language family- which all evolved from the original language the Proto-Indo-Europeans spoke. See how artificial the Europe/Asia dichotomy really is, in terms of human genetics and origin of cultures?
4. Finally- there’s plenty of modern proof that the region we call Europe today does NOT have a monopoly on producing people with blonde hair, fair skin and green eyes.
This is Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, a popular Indian Bollywood actress who is also known for her striking blue-green eyes. She’s 100% Indian- she was born in Mangalore, India to Indian parents.
This is a girl from Darfur, Sudan- an area that has more than 30 ethnic groups.
5. And in the first place, what makes up a person’s identity IS NOT JUST HOW MUCH or HOW LITTLE MELANIN THEY HAVE.
- Tell your friend she is 100% Indian, because what makes up her identity is not just how she looks. Identity is what feels most natural to her, and if that identity is indeed very intertwined with major aspects of Indian culture- then well, she IS Indian and noone can say otherwise.
- Those people had no right to make her feel awful and “not-Indian enough” because it’s clear she identifies as such due to actually being born there and also practising major aspects of Indian culture. The best example I can think of to explain this is how in the US, people sometimes use the term “Latino” as a race category, with the stereotype that all latinos must have tanned skin and dark hair. In reality, it’s more of a cultural identity. The are fair haired-latinos and darker-skinned latinos whose ancestors included the African slaves brought to the Americas four hundred years ago. But what really makes them “Latino” or “Hispanic” is their upbringing- growing up in the environment of Latin America, which is culturally a syncretic fusion of Amerindian, African, Spanish, Portuguese and other European influences.
(This is the Brazilian football team that won the 1970 World Cup- you can see Pelé- second from the bottom right. He is an Afro-Brazilian. If you look at his teammates, you can see how latinos come in ALL COLOURS.)
6. Your friend should not be questioning her identity, but those people attacking her should be questioning their utterly myopic worldview. The history of human genetics and migrations makes it abundantly clear how DIVERSE India is- so it’s perfectly possible for her to be Indian but have blonde hair and green eyes, even if it may be less common.
7. On a more general note, I cannot stress this enough to everyone- DO NOT GO AROUND ATTACKING PEOPLE for “cultural appropriation” when you are NOT even from that culture in question and/or don’t actually know in detail the history and genetics of that region.
- If you suspect cultural appropriation: DO YOUR RESEARCH FIRST or ASK SOMEBODY you know who actually belongs to that group. You may be attacking mixed-race people or people like the anon’s friend, who simply has features that are less genetically dominant- blonde hair shows up less easily in countries with a bigger pool of people with dark hair because dark hair is dominant. Even if her parents had dark hair, it’s possible they both carried a recessive gene for blonde hair that was suppressed by their dark-hair gene. Their child would be blonde if she happened to get both copies of the blonde gene instead of the dark hair gene.
- Also, even if you think the person isn’t of that group, please bear in mind they might have been invited to dress in that clothing by a friend, or because they’re at an event. (I.e let’s say, at an Indian wedding)
- I can’t stress how infuriating this “white knight” complex is. Speaking as someone pretty familiar with colonialism, I’ve had people who didn’t grow up in my culture condescendingly insist that if I’m okay with somebody doing something from my culture, it’s “self-internalised oppression”. I’ve studied African colonial literature, and the way people insist on defining what people should be alright with is very reminiscent of 19th century imperialists high-handedly saying, “oh, we have to bring the light of civilisation to save those backwards colonial subjects from themselves!”
This is Reese Witherspoon, wearing a kimono in Japan, where she is being taught by JAPANESE people how to perform the traditional tea ceremony. This is not reducing a culture to a caricature because she’s actually learning stuff respectfully and wearing a bona fide kimono.
- Fighting against cultural appropriation is to prevent cultures from being cheapened, made into jokes, sexual fetishes or ugly caricatures. Part of returning power to people to define themselves is ALSO by allowing them to set the parameters of what they want to share with others- and many cultures are perfectly willing to share aspects that are non-sacred or do not have to be earned. So, for example, do not go around insisting a Japanese person should not be allowed to teach non-Japanese people to wear a kimono- because a kimono, unlike a Navajo war bonnet (akin to veteran’s medals), is something anybody can wear. Recognise this difference.
Know the difference.
I have been invited to Indian festivals and was told I would be expected to dress appropriately, and would be TAUGHT to dress appropriately. It didn’t end up panning out as the woman I worked with got transferred before the festivals, but I would have loved to go! It would have been a great experience, and NOT going dressed appropriately would have been extremely disrespectful, I was told.
Context matters, and the last paragraph is super super important.
ok but does anyone else ever just
yes…yes i do
A guy at a princess store in Disneyland was asking me if I related to Merida in any way and I was like
“I don’t know man. I’m more of an Elinor.”
And he busted out laughing.
What I love most about this movie is that shows that being a princess is not wearing a beautiful dress, marrying a prince and live happily ever after, but a job, a hard job with duties and responsibilities were a lot of people depend on you
being the Lady of a medieval estate was SUCH AN IMPORTANT FUCKING JOB AND SO FUCKING FULL OF HARD WORK WHICH MEDIEVAL MEN ACKNOWLEDGED TBH
(one problem with perception of medieval gender roles is that most of the people who were writing, especially those who were writing HISTORY, were CLERGYMEN who had never been married and lived in a weird situation cut off from the way the rest of the world worked and had like no actual life experience with the real world - and then popular culture’s idea of it has been heavily informed by VICTORIAN choices of who and what to translate and popularize)
upper class medieval women were expected to run and manage the entire estate that they got from their husband (or that they already had in their own right through inheritance or as their marriage portion), a job which was acknowledged as being way difficult and requiring a wife with strength and fortitude and business sense if you wanted to be a successful person
they were the HR managers of households that might have over a hundred people in, and tho a duchess or a queen would certainly not go to the store to do the household shopping, and she probably had a steward to assist her, it was ultimately her responsibility to know what things were needed for that household, to make sure that the appropriate people obtained those things, to oversee the use of the household materials, to make sure that EVERYTHING got done so that ALL those people could live and work smoothly. they wrote letters and managed the business of the estate and networked with other members of the nobility for both important game-of-thrones political reasons and for smaller more personal reasons like ‘that guy has a really nice deer chase, so if i send him some marmalade from our garden, he might send some venison back as a return gift”
even in lower class households mom managed everything and women were basically considered to be shrewder and have better heads for that particularly kind of business than men and choosing a wise wife was the best thing you could do for yourself as a man who intended to be successful
they were like hands-on CEOs and shit yo and don’t get me wrong society was sexist as fuck and they were limited as hell in what they could do and everything was classist beyond belief but no way was being a noblewoman just a matter of sitting up a tower looking pretty & the contributions that they made are so important
also, the ladies of castles were responsible for defense when their husband was away at war (which happened a lot), so while personally participating in battle was unusual (though not entirely unheard-of) they did often find themselves in strategic command. and in wartime they frequently functioned as a sort of de facto logistics officer.
oh, and has anyone mentioned diplomacy. because an arranged marriage is only the START of a princess’s diplomatic career. the alliance she forges with her marriage is one she’s responsible for maintaining her entire life. unless she decides to go ahead and take over the country; that’s been an option too from time to time. :D
suddenly i really want to see a disney movie about a princess AFTER the wedding — forging a political bond with her new husband, defending the castle, sending troops and supplies to make sure he comes home from the war, reading secret reports from her spies in the enemy’s court… *swoon*
And I’ve tried to touch on this with Merida, because ALL OF THIS? THIS is why Merida has absolutely ZERO desire to get married or (eventually) become Queen. Because it means her life - every second of her free time - going down the drain as she becomes more and more tangled up in running the castle AND the kingdom.
(This is also why Elinor’s such a freaking BAMF, she’s got this shit down, man.)
I’ve been getting a lot of these lately, and I guess I just want you all to know what I think when I read them.
The Headless Horseman
This was the scariest shit when I was a child.
i’m so upset
I just realized that the reason ghosts say Boo! is because it’s a latin verb
they’re literally saying ‘I alarm/I am alarming/I do alarm!!
if it comes from the latin word, they’re actually saying “I’M YELLING!” which is even cuter
do they speak latin because it’s a dead language
This whole post is golden from beginning to end
Reminds me I should brush up my latin in case Ghost wants to say hi…
i probably shouldn’t quote this bit as often as I do
this is one of my favorite jokes ever