“It’s Not Going to Be Easy” – A Call to Action for Representation in the Arts

I promise the title is not clickbait (nor is the picture 😉 )  If anything, it’s a legitimate call to action.

I write this piece as the ‘American Born Proud Desi’ (ABPD), and it has grown to become more than simply a platform for voicing out for those who feel voiceless. It’s about making a change, and in order to do so, we as the “brown people” of our community must understand the disadvantages we carry in terms of representation.

Sure, we are somewhat politically represented and whatnot (what a bang-up job they’re doing, right?), but I’m going to talk about representation where it really matters – in the arts.

We can sit here all day and argue about what shapes our lives mores, and from what I observe while living here in the United States is we are a celebrity-oriented culture. We are fed images of these handsome and glamorous stars since birth. If you want to understand the power of a “celebrity,” look no farther than the highest office in the land…

What you see very much influences how you feel about yourself. It’s equally important that what you don’t see does the same.

While the lot of us are busy becoming doctors, lawyers and engineers, the ability to shape our own narrative was taken out from under us. The single-minded pursuit of security has left us forgotten as a culture; we’re still very much a stereotype, locked out of certain pursuits.

And, while we are witnessing a “revolution” of sorts right now in terms of representation (Hasan Minhaj, Priyanka Chopra, Kamal Nanjiani, etc.), keep in mind something I hint at often when it comes to our upcoming as a “brown community,” – we are allowed one at a time. We are still, for the most part, a side role, if we are even thought of; and even then, I can pretty much guarantee the role would prefer a “quiet, shy, smart, light-skinned ethnic actor/actress with overprotective parents.”

And that’s just the TV/film industry.

It’s difficult to blame anyone but ourselves for this. I’ve worked in a variety of roles and one thing I’ve often noticed when it comes to the arts/entertainment/public communications sector is that I am oftentimes the only brown face in the building…

To be an artist today is to confront continual uncertainty. There is economic uncertainty, and also uncertainty of purpose. Modern society seems to value art — art is preserved in museums, and purchased for large sums by “collectors,” and yet the normal artist is strangely disconnected from the top levels of success. There is far more wealth in the world today to purchase art than in any time past. The difficult position of artist today is therefore something of a mystery, so if there is a general appreciation of art, and money to buy art, then why is it so difficult to fulfill the role of artist?

Compare this with other professions. A competent pilot, trained at a good flight school, is more or less assured of a successful career. He or she might not get the opportunity to fly the biggest and newest commercial planes, or fancy jet fighters; but a stable career is a reasonable expectation, certainly compared to what an artist can hope for.

Now take this idea of becoming an “artist” and have a minority pursuing the field. We’ll use myself as an example: I chose to “break free” of the path of becoming a doctor and instead, decided to pursue my passions. In choosing to being an artist, I was outcasted for a while and didn’t get all the “luxuries in life.” There were times where I created masterpieces of creativity that mostly went unrecognized… There was no doubt about it that I struggled immensely, but I figured it was all part of the field – only to see in some circumstances that it wasn’t…

I believe once you know your weakness, you can work on fixing it. What I have loosely outlined here is where we are undoubtedly weak…

I see everybody as an artist. Art is all about creation; being creative, having ideas and this applies to all aspect of life. As an individual, it is best to do what you have passion for and focus on your talent, that way living or surviving won’t be hard but as easy as breathing.

A true artist believes in passion and talent. The work we create brings joy, happiness, a lovely, great feeling that can’t be expressed in words but various ways and living can just be easy for an artist if he/she believes in themselves and their artwork and not what the world thinks. Be different, confident in yourselves and artwork, be patient and love what you do and everything will come naturally.

*Please support the brown artists you know, in any medium. And not just when they are sparingly co-signed by the mainstream, because it’s less of a risk for you. These beautiful, brown artists are on the front lines every day and may be your only hope at being remembered.*

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