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24 Mar, 2021 14:52

Matt Groening shouldn’t defend Simpsons’ Apu… such blatant racial stereotyping has fuelled anti-Asian hate

Matt Groening shouldn’t defend Simpsons’ Apu… such blatant racial stereotyping has fuelled anti-Asian hate

The Simpsons’ creator, Matt Groening, has talked of his pride in the programme’s Indian character, Apu. But Groening’s one-dimensional treatment of a racial minority has helped foster an environment where prejudice thrives.

We need to talk about Apu. Again.

Springfield’s favourite racial stereotype is back in the news after Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, said he was “proud” of his character, and had “ambitious” plans for the duplicitous workaholic manager of the Kwik-E-Mart and father of eight, given the ongoing criticism of how the show represents Indians. The truth is, the only dignified thing to do with Apu is retire him altogether.

No other recurring character in The Simpsons was explicitly mocked for their ethnicity. Carl Carlson – Homer’s fellow engineer at the local power plant – and Dr. Hibbert were both black and depicted as educated, responsible members of the community.

But everything about Apu from his unpronounceable surname – Nahasapeemapetilon – to his outsized brood and the sly, corner-cutting, frankly fraudulent way in which he runs his store, is just a stupid yokel fantasy of what Indian people are. And that’s before we take into account his ridiculous sing-song accent that was voiced by a white actor, Hank Azaria, until he quit due to the outrage about the obvious racism in his portrayal.

The irony is that Indians generally speak much better English than the average American, and are among the best educated ethnic groups in the USA, with 72 percent of those aged over 25 having a bachelor’s degree, and 40 percent postgraduate ones. Even President Trump was compelled to sing their praises on the election stump.

The present CEOs of Google and Microsoft are Indians, as is Bhavya Lal, the woman who is currently the acting chief of staff of NASA. Another Indian-American woman, Swati Mohan, quarterbacked the landing of the Mars-rover Perseverance last month. And all it takes is for one of Joe Biden’s tumbles to be nastier than usual, and Kamala Harris, the daughter of an Indian doctor and cancer specialist, will become the first female president.

Migrants from a developing country, who’ve reached the summit of national life entirely on their own merits in just a generation or two, Indians in the US embody the American dream probably more than any other group. And against this backdrop of stellar achievement and massive contribution, the character of Apu looks like nothing but a snide and resentful backstabbing of a minority that has taken little from, but added greatly to, the success of the land they regard as their new home.

The shooting of six Asian women by a white man in an Atlanta massacre that left eight dead has sparked a debate on anti-Asian racism in America, an ugly segment in the patchwork quilt of racial grievances that comprises much of the nation’s culture. Indeed, the success that is the fruit of much struggle and sacrifice is not celebrated by many, but in a very un-American way resented as proof of ‘Asian privilege’.

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With President Trump having repeatedly called Covid-19 the “Chinese virus”and happily making jokes about “kung-flu,” there was a 150% surge in violence against Asian Americans.

And while many will defend Trump for simply being honest about the origins of the pandemic, they don’t want to accept the dangerous truth about just how ignorant many gun-toting Americans are, unable to make distinctions between geography, governments and their fellow countrymen of a different heritage.

Many Americans have never lived outside their home state, and less than half have a passport. Beyond their own particular local and ethnic enclave, they know very little about the wider world. In a country awash with assault rifles and small arms, this is a lethal context in which to encourage racial stereotyping.

Groening may well have major plans for Apu, but the biggest ambition should be to drop the one-dimensional treatment of racial groups from television altogether and start showing people as the complex, empathy-deserving individuals they are in reality.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.