fickle: (asian pride)
Fickle ([personal profile] fickle) wrote2009-01-16 03:29 pm

Public Service Announcement: STOP SAYING NAMASTE.

Today, I had yet another guy try to pick me up with the opening salvo of "Namaste".

The fact that we were in a crowded shopping mall is probably what saved him from being viciously savaged by an angry Sri Lankan girl who is absolutely sick of having people greet her with that.

If you see a white person, any white person, are you going to assume they're German and start a conversation with "Guten Tag"? Or French and say "Bonjour!" to them? No. So why see nothing except my skin color and think that I'll appreciate 'Namaste' as being your token proof of 'knowing my culture'?

Namaste is a Sanskrit term, used most commonly by Hindus and Nepalese for as a greeting. Sanskrit is a root language, like Latin.

How many of you go around greeting all white people with a Latin phrase or word?

India's huge. India has a lot more than just Hindus in it. So even if someone is from India, there's no reason to assume that 'Namaste' is the right greeting to use -- Muslims, for example, have their own greeting, which goes along the lines of 'salaam alaykum'.

I am Sri Lankan. Sri Lanka is an entirely different country to India, and we have very few Hindus. The majority of the country is Buddhist, and I have never ever heard anyone in Sri Lanka use 'Namaste'. Sri Lankans say "Ayubowan" (pronounced 'eye-oh-bo-wung', with wung rhyming with lung)

Cultural appropriation is one of those complicated things I haven't sorted out my feelings about, but I know exactly what I feel when people try to apply other people's culture to me, assuming based off nothing more than my looks that I am belong with that group.

So here's something that I can't believe I have to state explicitly: Not all brown-skinned people are Indian Hindus or from Nepal. Though I doubt that people associate 'namaste' with Nepal. However, if you're greeting them with Namaste, you're implying you believe they belong to that particular social caste/class and will therefore understand it, and give you brownie points for having tried to speak their language.

Here's a quick geography lesson for you. Asia is a huge continent. Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, India and Sri Lanka all fall under what I'm talking about when I say South Asian. East Asian, for me, is usually China, Taiwan, Japan, Tibet, North Korea and South Korea. And South East Asian is Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore. Russia's a whole different story. That's a lot of countries already and I know I'm missing some.

Unless you actually know where someone is from, don't assume they're from whichever country is most in the news. Playing the odds is a great way to offend people and quite frankly, it's unnecessary. A friend of mine said: "It's like greeting everyone you've been told isn't a black American with 'What's up mon' as if all other Blacks are automatically Jamaican. Or automatically African."

Next time you see an East Asian or South East Asian person and want to spew "kawaii desu arigato!!!!" at them, or think you've spotted an Indian whom you can show off to with "Namaste!", don't. Just don't.

Go start up a movement to promote Klingon being taught in public schools instead. Or Vulcan. Or Bajoran. Or Romulan. Whatever floats your boat.

Just please, please, PLEASE stop it with the cultural misappropriation.

~Fickle, who is still brown but still not Indian.

[identity profile] 2009-01-16 03:20 pm (UTC)(link)
*puts hand up* Can we say "Namaste" if we want to make the literal "the god in me sees and honors the god in you" meaning, and would say it to anybody? Including white folks?

<-- uses "namaste" in theology discussions
ext_6366: Red haired, dark skinned, lollipop girl (Default)

[identity profile] (from 2009-01-16 03:37 pm (UTC)(link)
Hey, didn't I just see you in the discussions of Appropriation and White Privilege re: [ profile] matociquala and [ profile] truepenny?

[identity profile] 2009-01-16 11:16 pm (UTC)(link)
No, actually; I was lurking, but I did not comment on any discussion that I recall. At least, I do not think you did... ? I cannot think of any reason why you would have, at least.
ext_6366: Red haired, dark skinned, lollipop girl (Default)

[identity profile] (from 2009-01-16 11:20 pm (UTC)(link)
The name looked familiar. But after all the reading I've done in the last few days if that's not it - I have no idea.

[identity profile] 2009-01-16 11:25 pm (UTC)(link)
Well, I know who you are, so. I think we have a couple people in common? Also, I read your blog. I... cannot think of any reason why you would know *me*, but. *hands* It is a big internet. I am sure there is some person out there with a name very like mine, or you were jumping friendsfriends, or whatever.

[identity profile] 2009-01-17 12:28 am (UTC)(link)
Maybe you know her from DC fandom? I think she's friends with Marcelo and an admirer of Thete and Brown Betty, so you could've crossed paths there.

[identity profile] 2009-01-16 03:40 pm (UTC)(link)
That's technically the yoga-ized translation, though. It's actually more along the lines of "I bow to you", Sanskrit-wise, or to be said as offering as a salutation. There are versions that translate along the lines of 'the god/light in me sees and honors the god/light in you', but that's not really strictly accurate. Though I do know that white people go around saying 'Namaste' to each other all the time, since it's currently trendy.

That aside, it's still an incredibly weird thing to do/say, just because it's not necessarily a greeting that'll be understood by the person it's being aimed at, and it's got a specific cultural context, especially for people who are from that region. Like me -- if you say it to me, my reaction is to be offended that you're conflating Indians and Sri Lankans, even though you're doing it with full knowledge that I'm Sri Lankan and I know that. Someone who has a very specific sense of cultural identity doesn't appreciate having something from another culture applied to them.

Friend suggested that it's like "if someone says they're Pagan, assuming that 'Blessed Be' is the appropriate greeting, when they might follow a Nordic Tradition for all you know." Since I'm an atheist, I don't really get what that means, but I'm assuming it's bad and shows disrespect for the fact that there's more diversity within a certain culture than just the people who say 'Blessed Be'.

I stay out of theology discussions, so I have no idea if it's appropriate there or not. XD But in general passing, if you're going to just greet someone with "Namaste", I'd say it's best to check first that they're Hindu or Nepalese -- or, considering its current appropriation, a white yoga fan. XD

[identity profile] 2009-01-16 11:19 pm (UTC)(link)
Ohhhhh. Oh, *okay*, now I get it. Thank you for explaining! Yoga was where I had first heard the term; I had failed to subsequently do sufficient research to find out where my teacher had gotten it.

I try to not be rude. Sometimes I fail. *wristslap*

I really do appreciate your patience with explaining, especially since, well, hi, look at the context in which you made this post. *hugs*

[identity profile] 2009-01-17 12:45 am (UTC)(link)
You're a friend, you asked politely, and I'd much rather that someone ask rather than just dismiss my rant and go on their merry way tossing 'Namaste' about. ♥ So no thanks necessary for the explanation.

You weren't being rude on purpose. As soon as you had it explained to why it's not a good idea, you got it and decided to change your ways. Which is GOOD. Yay! One less person using it carelessly! Because I have to admit, the extent to which yoga's popularized 'Namaste' makes me wince at times, especially when 'Namaste' gets directed at me. XD

*hugs back* Nighty-night!

[identity profile] 2009-01-16 05:26 pm (UTC)(link)
"Blessed be" is a greeting used primarily by Wiccans, but also by some of us other Neopagans. From what I can tell, it's usually just for those who practice magick and/or follow the wheel of the year (calendar), but the "fluffy" poser Wiccans/Neopagans go around spouting it to all and sundry.

(Also, the only person I've ever said "Salve" to is my high school Latin teacher and fellow classmates. XD)

[identity profile] 2009-01-16 05:27 pm (UTC)(link)
...And the comment I was replying to vanished. o.O

(edit: durr, nevermind, LJ is just being dumb.)

[identity profile] 2009-01-17 12:23 am (UTC)(link)
Ahhh, thanks for the clarification. I think I get it now, especially if it's being abused the same way that 'Namaste' is.

(In that context, it's fine. XD If you're taking Hindi lessons, feel free to greet everyone in your class with 'Namaste'. Just please refrain from inflicting it on hapless brown-skinned people. ^_~)

[identity profile] 2009-01-16 09:48 pm (UTC)(link)
Along with what you've said, it's just so much easier to use a language you actually know. BE LAZY!1

[identity profile] 2009-01-17 12:27 am (UTC)(link)
... *DIES* That's got to be one of the weirdest things you could say that actually support my argument. XD

[identity profile] 2009-01-17 12:29 am (UTC)(link)
Call it like I see it!

But no really you are abosoultey correct about this being offensive and dumb.

[identity profile] 2009-01-17 12:46 am (UTC)(link)
Your viewpoint is highly original, WR. I will say that for you. XD

Yeah. Seriously. Plenty of people rant about fangirl Japanese but fortunately for me, people don't use it around me IRL. What I get subjected to instead is 'Namaste'. Argh!

[identity profile] 2009-01-18 12:34 am (UTC)(link)
Kinda not totally related: I am sick and tired of people calling me Monica Lewinsky, dammit. It's common in the south for people to do this because there aren't many Polish lastnames quite as bitching as mine around here that also have the misfortune to end in the "inski" sound. They use the name as code to refer to me when they can't be bothered to remember my name (at the damn pharmacy, even!), or they hear my name they try to be cute and insist my lastname's Lewinsky no matter how many times I correct them.

I don't think it's funny at all. If you're too lazy to remember the freaking lastname, but too cool to freaking ask me about it, then lemme know so I can gave you some derogatory nickname back.

[identity profile] 2009-01-20 04:23 am (UTC)(link)
I have a question.

What about those phrases (such as "Bonjour!" or "Ciao!" or even "Hola!") that are said with the very obvious knowledge that you are not French or Italian - etc.

I know that assuming one thing - such as what was done with you - is very different, but I am curious about this sort of situation as well -- for you personally, is that bad?

[identity profile] 2009-01-20 11:58 am (UTC)(link)
..I should specify that this is likely between friends or those that know you.

[identity profile] 2009-01-25 08:30 pm (UTC)(link)
I tend to think that those are pretentious rather than insulting, because it's so obvious that I'm not French or Italian. However, real French or Italian people are VERY unlikely to go around greeting people in their own language unless they know for sure that the other person speaks that language and is comfortable doing so. For example, I know four languages fluently but I usually stick to English all the way, just because going "Bonjour!" at someone reeks of "let me show off my pathetic, limited vocabulary in an attempt to impress you!".

[identity profile] 2009-01-25 11:12 pm (UTC)(link)
Gotcha. Sorry to hear that it can come off that way to those thst speak it to you. I apologize, also, if I ever did use non-English words around you. And, thank you for informing me.

(re-comment, because I had just woke up. Also, was worried that by my giving a short reply, I may have come off as rude and I wanted to apologize for that as well - in case that I was.)

[identity profile] 2009-01-26 10:18 pm (UTC)(link)
Dude, you don't need to apologize. I don't get offended by random European languages, since that's not a case of racial confusion but just people being show-offs. XD

*hugs* S'okay, Danikins. ♥ Thanks for making me think.

[identity profile] 2009-01-27 12:26 am (UTC)(link)
^^;; Well I'm glad to hear I didn't have a reason to, at the very least! ^_^

*snugs* Yay. <3 you Ficklekins.