MetroPCS, a wireless communications company, is currently running a multi-commercial racist advertisement campaign. One of these commercials aired during the Super Bowl. The ad presents a scene with two gentlemen, Ranjit and Chad, who are obvious caricatures of South Asian Americans, flaunting thick mustaches and even thicker accents. Portrayed as style-vapid nerds who are apparent IT masters, they host a talk show, “Tech and Talk,” and are depicted as being entirely clueless outside the realm of technology. At one point, one of the Oriental commentators exclaims, “You are now like my uncle’s cow, Godi — tied to a post and milked at regular intervals!” The commercial ends after the host relays a question from the audience, and bizarre belly dancers jump out from the wings of the stage, ridiculously flailing around in Indian attire. The Bollywood dancers are accompanied, for no apparent reason, by a man donning antiquated Bavarian attire — lederhosen and long socks — who puts a large conical hat on the questioner’s head.
Ideas and representations matter, no matter how absurd the presentation.
We have seen the role media plays in the creation and perpetuation of minority stereotypes. There was a time when African Americans were depicted in media in only one of two ways: as big lipped, gap-toothed buffoons who were good for nothing but eating watermelons, or as monstrous and violent predators. Society has moved beyond depicting black people in such unabashedly simple and disrespectful ways, at least in front of large audiences. Even today, this community still must deal with racism that stems from the stereotypes that past media representations helped create.
The MetroPCS commercials are especially heinous because they are one of very few depictions of South Asian Americans in the media. As such, even stereotypical notions presented by insane commercials can easily be absorbed into society’s common vernacular and indoctrinated as truth.
We like to think that if we had the chance to relive the past, we would break from old norms and stand up to injustices like sexism and racism. Here is our chance. Do not stand idly by while another minority group is victimized. Refuse to buy or use MetroPCS products.