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Is Desi A Racist Word?
I just came across this article after searching for this word after being called a 'desi' by another Indian living in the UK.

I have never understood the word desi before, known where it came from, nor why Indian people kept on using this word to describe themselves and other Indians, so I first looked up the definition of desi:

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Desi (or Deshi) is a word originally from Sanskrit literally meaning "from the country" or "of the country". The term "Desi" refers to a person of South Asian heritage, from either Pakistan, India, or Bangladesh

It is mainly used by those of South Asian origins themselves, rarely by the majority population, and carries a subtext of inclusiveness and unity. It allows South Asians to refer to their broader immigrant community, rather than requiring a specific, nationalistic label such as "Indian" or "Pakistani". As such, its connotations are positive, alluding to the shared values, bonds and experiences of descendants of the entire region.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->

This definition makes the word sound fine to use, but I still did not feel too comfortable about people running around yelling 'desi' at me, so I furthur looked up desi and racism and read this artice:


<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->My friend’s five-year-old came home from school one evening with a note. She had referred to her Chinese friend as a “Chinki” and her teacher wanted to know why. My friend looked sheepish as she read the note.

“She must’ve picked it up from us. We sometimes do say ‘Chinki,’ you know,” she revealed guiltily.

We Indians love labels, don’t we? And I don’t mean Guccis and Pradas. I mean labels for people, of both Indian and non-Indian origin. It helps us match person to personality, gives us a ready manual for assessing behavior and associated characteristics. We don’t like being caught unawares by unfamiliar personality types and don’t seem to realize that our love for quick allocations could amount to a serious affliction: racism.

We are desis in a foreign country. Indian-Americans raised in the United States are promptly tagged ABCDs (American Born Confused Desis). And for a certain population of desis, the Chinese become “Chinkis,” African-Americans become “Kallus,” and white people become “Goras.” We see nothing wrong in making casual use of these names. We permit ourselves to do the very thing that would likely offend us if we were on the receiving end. If one were to ever refer to us as “brownies” or, even more disturbingly, as “rag heads,” we would be screaming “racism!” from the rooftops.

Racism is ill defined within the Indian community. I have come across people who think that only the discrimination on part of white people is racist. Their own discriminatory behavior, however, is permissible.

Bollywood’s portrayal of Caucasians, for example, makes me wonder if we have been fighting the freedom struggle a little too long after independence. Most white characters are portrayed as money-hungry, double-crossing villains who the hero mocks in Hindi or triumphs over in the end.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->

Is ethnic labeling within the Indian community itself considered to be acceptable and fine? I have never been comfortable with my parents over use of the words 'Gora' and 'Kallah', and feel uncomfortable when these racial words are used, often in a deregratory manner. I have however, never heard my parents, nor anyone of the older generations in my familly and Indian community use the word 'Desi' to call each other, in fact this word seems to be rarely used if anyone does use it, and only seems to be spoken carelessly by members of the younger Indian generation living in the UK who think it is a 'cool', or 'modern' name to call each other by (I am from the UK and rarely ever hear the word Desi used, and when I do I feel just as offended as the words 'Gora' and 'Kallah' have made me feel throughout my years, and also just as offended as a black person would be if called a N*gger, or a Pakistani person in this country called a P*ki).

So am I the only Indian person that finds it offensive for someone to come up to me and call me a 'Desi'? What is wrong with calling me by my name, or if my race is being discussed, reffering to me as an Indian instead of a desi? Do you think that this label of desi is fine and acceptable to use? Do you or do you not refer to other Indians as desis, and would you like it if people of other races, e.g. 'Goras' and 'Kallahs' used strange words to refer to you by your race or skin color as well?

I know that I do not accept, nor like any kind of labelling or branding based on the grounds of skin colour and / or race. I have never been called anything personally at school, university, at work, or by friends, teachers and employers of all races other then my name, and my race is never discussed in any enjoyable social situation, I find that I am better able to integrate and mix with people of any background if racial names, which I will in my opinion brand as racist name-calling, are left out of my discussions, and I only refer to people by their name, or preffered nick name, and not a name describing their race or skin colour.

Messages In This Thread
Is Desi A Racist Word? - by Guest - 12-12-2008, 03:44 PM
Is Desi A Racist Word? - by dhu - 12-12-2008, 04:41 PM
Is Desi A Racist Word? - by Guest - 12-12-2008, 06:07 PM
Is Desi A Racist Word? - by Husky - 12-12-2008, 06:48 PM
Is Desi A Racist Word? - by Shambhu - 12-12-2008, 07:11 PM
Is Desi A Racist Word? - by Bodhi - 12-12-2008, 08:16 PM
Is Desi A Racist Word? - by Guest - 12-12-2008, 10:31 PM
Is Desi A Racist Word? - by dhu - 12-13-2008, 03:05 AM
Is Desi A Racist Word? - by shamu - 12-13-2008, 12:22 PM
Is Desi A Racist Word? - by Husky - 12-13-2008, 06:34 PM
Is Desi A Racist Word? - by Bharatvarsh - 12-13-2008, 06:58 PM
Is Desi A Racist Word? - by Guest - 12-13-2008, 09:08 PM
Is Desi A Racist Word? - by G.Subramaniam - 12-14-2008, 07:36 AM
Is Desi A Racist Word? - by Husky - 12-14-2008, 09:40 AM
Is Desi A Racist Word? - by Guest - 12-30-2008, 09:28 PM
Is Desi A Racist Word? - by Guest - 12-30-2008, 10:11 PM
Is Desi A Racist Word? - by Guest - 01-01-2009, 08:55 AM
Is Desi A Racist Word? - by Husky - 01-11-2009, 09:58 AM
Is Desi A Racist Word? - by dhu - 01-11-2009, 10:22 AM
Is Desi A Racist Word? - by Husky - 01-11-2009, 11:40 AM
Is Desi A Racist Word? - by Guest - 01-11-2009, 09:07 PM

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