Quoted: Nina Jacinto on the Term “Namaste”

Though the word Namaste has been a South Asian greeting for centuries, now every yoga student, celebrity (check out Al Gore’s picture in the wiki entry) and creepy guy trying to hit on an Indian woman thinks it’s fine to use it as a way of saying “hey” or “I’m so in touch with what it means to be worldy and spiritual.” It’s been appropriated, along with cultural and religious Hindu icons, saris, yoga, and Bollywood films, with no credit or recognition to the violent history of colonialism and context from which these things derived.

The presumption that I would feel flattered or respond in kind to the “Namaste” greeting is infuriating as well. After hundreds of years of British Colonialism enforcing English as the dominant language in South Asian government and schools, trying to erase the many facets of culture and history that mark the region, I’m supposed to feel flattered that the dominant culture I live in now wants to start using some sort of “authentic” greeting that doesn’t even have anything to do with them? And as a second-generation Indian-American, I’m also perturbed that people assume anything about by my relationship to “Indianness” in the first place: I’ve used “Namaste” only a handful of times, with South Asian elders who I’ve never met before.

When majority culture wants to start adopting the exotic, everyone is supposed to just come along for the ride. My mom and I wince a little when we get asked to be the voice of Indian authenticity – it may be a well-intentioned attempt to appear culturally sensitive, but to me, hearing “Namaste” from complete strangers will always be appropriating and a little racist.

—“Saying “Namaste” Will Not Make Me Want to Date You,” Wiretap Magazine

About This Blog

Racialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our daily updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations, and of course, the inevitable Keanu Reeves John Cho newsflashes.

Latoya Peterson (DC) is the Owner and Editor (not the Founder!) of Racialicious, Arturo García (San Diego) is the Managing Editor, Andrea Plaid (NYC) is the Associate Editor. You can email us at team@racialicious.com.

The founders of Racialicious are Carmen Sognonvi and Jen Chau. They are no longer with the blog. Carmen now runs Urban Martial Arts with her husband and blogs about local business. Jen can still be found at Swirl or on her personal blog. Please do not send them emails here, they are no longer affiliated with this blog.

Comments on this blog are moderated. Please read our comment moderation policy.

Use the "for:racialicious" tag in del.icio.us to send us tips. See here for detailed instructions.

Interested in writing for us? Check out our submissions guidelines.

Follow Us on Twitter!

Support Racialicious

The Octavia Butler Book Club

The Octavia Butler Book Club
(Click the book for the latest conversation)

Recent Comments

Feminism for Real – Jessica, Latoya, Andrea

Feminism for Real

Yes Means Yes – Latoya

Yes Means Yes

Sex Ed and Youth – Jessica

Youth and Sexual Health

OMLN

Online Media Legal Network

Recent Posts

Support Racialicious

Older Archives

Tags

Written by: