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Thoughts on being a #curryscentedbitch

13 May 2016

A couple of nights ago Azealia Banks engaged in a racist, homophobic and frankly disgusting twitter ‘battle’ with Zayn Malik over accusations that aspects of his latest music video had copied one of hers. It’s not so much the allegation of copying, but rather the reaction on Banks’ part that that grabbed everyone’s attention.

The easiest way to describe it would be to say the insults Banks hurled at Malik were vile. I contemplated including screenshots of the rather one-sided exchange, but to be honest the comments made were too horrific to share; I had to log off Twitter at one point because of the incredibly triggering nature of the tweets. I am sure they are easy to find on the internet if you wish to read them. She got incredibly aggressive incredibly fast, calling him various terms including “p***”, “sandn*****” and “curry scented bitch”.

Once desi twitter got wind of this (in particular Canadian YouTuber Jus Reign), there was massive backlash which resulted in #CurryScentedBitch trending. The solidarity between diasporic South Asians that followed was beautiful with South Asians posting sarcastic tweets and selfies to reclaim the term – my twitter timeline has never seen so much brown beauty in one day! Here are a couple of examples:

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I was SO here for the way #CurryScentedBitch was flipped around and used to fill my timeline with glowing and beautiful desi queens – yet I also had a problem.

I mean, many people might be thinking ‘it’s not that deep, it’s just curry right?’ – wrong. Growing up I, like many others from the diaspora, had unintentionally internalised self-hatred of my culture. So seeing “curry scented bitch” thrown around was incredibly triggering for me because it reminded me of growing up, and how I was shamed for my culture.

I have had ex-flatmates leave the kitchen when I started cooking curry “because of the smell”, I have had people assume I know how to cook it/would cook it for them, I have had my name changed to ‘curry’ in a group chat, and in high school I would aggressively avoid taking it for packed lunch, well, ‘because of the smell’. Growing up as a British Asian, I was always aware of the stereotype that surrounded Indians and the assumptions that we ‘all smelt like curry’. You can only laugh when you consider that Chicken Tikka Masala is Britain’s national dish.

As a result I attempted to distance myself from my culture as much as possible, aspiring to be viewed in the desired status of ‘coconut’ to prove my successful assimilation.

So whilst it may not seem ‘that deep’ on the surface, you cannot deny the spite and anger that lay behind the tweets. Banks successfully managed to evoke painful memories with just three simple words. The internalised self-hate I had was strong, as is the lingering pain I carry, so I can understand why some ‘Brown Twitter’ users did not think reclaiming the term was a good idea. I can see how they could not comprehend how something so hurtful could be turned on its head and celebrated-  but I think the reclamation was successful simply because it was empowering for so many and became a movement which included thousands of south Asians from the diaspora showcasing their beauty – through this the slur lost its power.

Banks followed with an ‘apology’, her justification for the outrage being that she felt the need to:

“Remind him that we’re both in the same boat in this industry as people of colour by reminding him that no matter what you may think of yourself, the world still sees you as ‘other’ as they see me.”

But we are reminded of white supremacist structures constantly; the microaggressions, discrimination and prejudice we (and all people of colour) face on a daily basis is exhausting. Do we really need to remind one another in such violent and hurtful ways?