An Open Letter to A White Gay Man

Dear White Gay Male,

Hi.

We took a class together that talked about racism. In that class, we also learned about intersectionality.

Your intersection: A white, openly gay male.

My intersection: A South Asian woman, appearing straight and boring. I’m actually closeted in many regards. If you knew what I got up to at dungeon parties, I am sure your head would spin, but I’m not here to talk about what I get up to.

I want you to know how proud I am of you for wanting to learn how various races are portayed and discussed, but I think you may have also missed a couple important points, so I’d like to emphasize them:

Being gay does not lessen your white privilege.

Being part of the LGBTQ community is indeed a place where there are huge challenges and oppression, but intersectionality is not the Oppression Olympics. One person’s oppression does not cancel out their privilege. Just because you are part of one oppressed community, does not mean you can speak over another.

This class was all about teaching us to consider our intersection and where we have privilege. But you didn’t do that when it came to putting what we were learning in class to practice.

We had a moment in the midst of a class discussion where in the middle of my sentence you cut me off and patronizingly told me you were not arguing with me. Your tone indicated you wanted me to calm down. The class laughed, and I smiled with them, but I want you to understand how incredibly tone deaf and hurtful this action was. In a class on race, intersections, and a whole semester spent unpacking privilege, I was stunned into silence at your audacity. You, a white male, patronised me, a South Asian woman in a class on racism and intersectionality. Let’s just stop and think about for a moment, how convenient it was for you to not realize that you are male, and white, and to forget how your race and gender plays out in your interactions with people – in particular, when speaking to a woman of color. My, what privilege you must carry that makes it so convenient for you to forget your own intersection so that you can shut me down in such a socially humiliating way!

Check yourself, dudebro. Just because you are gay, does not lessen your whiteness, your maleness, your ability to take up space, time, and your ability to have an opinion. That you can exist openly as a gay while male and not be in the closet and shadows as I am is a sign of your privilege. Many South Asian people cannot come out to their family as, well, anything. So think about how privileged you are, even within your own community.

The next time you open your mouth, perhaps you should consider if there is a voice that you are instead better able to amplify. Or, better yet, shut your mouth and listen. Listen to people of color and what we are saying, don’t shut them down.

Intersectionality, to me, is a bit like examining your own racial consciousness. It means being aware of when and where you are privileged and powerful, and when you are not. It’s okay to be a part of a community that is lower on the intersectional privilege grid – and your other intersections mean you can safely speak for your community! This is your privilege doing good things! But it also means being aware of whom you are hurting, who you are stepping on, when you speak.

What you did that day was small, but so are most racist and sexist things (and being gay and taking a class on rscism doesn’t excuse you from racist and sexist behavior). Most sexism and racism is implicit, not explicit. They are small drops into the bucket, until our buckets of tolerance start to overflow with anger and hurt.

Your momentary flippant action was a deep cut in a place where such behavior shouldn’t have happened. It has weighed on me, causing me a wholly unreasonable amount of anger and frustration. But this, I guess, is what happens when people get tired of dealing with microagressions and shit like this.

I hope someday you realize the gravity of your actions and think before you speak to a woman or person of color like that again. I hope you learn the lessons this class was trying to teach.

Til then, may you wave your flag at Pride, but also pause to remember upon whose backs the Pride parades began, and their intersections too.

Sincerely,

Irene Leonis

Introducing The Desi Rant: Tea Tea

Remember, my loves, when I promised you a rant?

It is now time for that rant. Oh yes. Welcome to The Desi Rant – a place where we tear apart really stupid and frustrating things!

First up, deservedly so, is this Inc.com article, because ignorant white people like to ruin everything – including chai. So grab yours, and let’s break it down piece by piece.

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The title reads: “On a Whim, This Hippie Founder Packed Her Bags for India. Now, She’s Made $35 Million Selling Chai Tea”
…Okay, stop. Stop right there.

There is no. such. thing. As chai tea. Because “chai” means tea. So by calling it “chai tea”, you’re a redundant idiot. And don’t give me some bullshit excuse about, “oh, well we’re calling it that because it is Indian and is boiled with milk and masala in it, so we must distinguish it from other kinds.” Although that is technically correct, if you really need to call chai anything other than tea, call it masala chai. That’s it. It’s that simple. It’s not a chai latte, or a chai tea latte (what the fuck? “Tea tea with frothed milk”? Are you fucking kidding me? It’s only saving grace is that it’s kinda good…), or chai tea or masala chai tea. Let’s make your life simpler, redundant person: call it masala chai, or call it chai, or just call it tea.

Accha? Yes? Good. Let’s continue.

“Brook Eddy founded Bhakti Chai after falling in love with India’s favored drink.”

…A white woman founded “Faith Tea”. Because that’s literally what Bhakti Chai means, she’s just swapped out English for Hindi to sound all fancy and yoga-like. You could also make an argument for Devotion Tea as a translation, but it’s still not very creative. We’re not even into the actual article yet and this is already a fucking mess.

“Brook Eddy is America’s own 21st-century master chai wallah (Hindi for chai merchant). She founded Bhakti Chai, a B Corp with projected 2018 revenue of $7 million, whose cold-drink product can be found on Whole Foods, Costco, and Target shelves across the U.S.”

I don’t just call bullshit, I call blasphemy. Chai is drunk hot, regardless of whether it is winter or summer. Iced chai is a North American invention. She’s also not a chai merchant – she’s a thief profiting off of my culture for a whopping 7 million dollars. 7 million. That could pay for my entire degree!

“In 2002, after listening to an NPR story on Swadhyay, a social change movement originating in India, Eddy packed her bags for South Asia. ‘Swadhyay seemed like this really cool movement that 20 million people were practicing but no one had heard of,’ says Eddy”

…Um, 20 million people have heard of it and are practising it. So who exactly do you mean when you say “no one” had heard of? And who invited you to crash the party??? Let’s think about that for a moment… But wait – there’s more!

“Her research brought her to villages across Western India, where she quickly fell in love with the flavors and aromas of the country’s favored drink: chai. She soon became an aficionado, able to distinguish one varietal from another, noticing no two cups were the same.”

Fun fact, that’s because even though the basic ingredients are the same, the amount and order that they’re put in differ from place to place and family to family.

“Back home in Boulder, Colorado, she formulated an original chai brew when she was unable to find an authentic version at her local cafés.”

So she did all this research and went to India, then went looking in local cafes run by white people for “real” chai and expected to find it? That’s not how logic works. I am certain there must be Indian people in Boulder, Colorado that know how to make chai in the comfort and privacy of their own homes.

“Now, 26 employees brew, package, and market chai concentrates, which are natural, organic, and fair trade. All the ingredients come from outside the U.S., including her “special sauce”– 300,000 pounds of organic ginger delivered annually from Peru.”

Wait – is it tea, or is it a concentrate? Because a concentrate isn’t real chai. There is no “concentrate” version of authentic masala chai. What the fuck? Also, who the fuck says “special sauce” anymore? Ew. Did the writer just want to try and sound cool? Because that…totally…worked. Not.

“And in 2015, in keeping with the company’s original mission, Bhakti Chai launched a social-change initiative called GITA (Give, Inspire, Take Action) to award financial grants to causes that range from feeding the homeless to providing access to clean water.”

…No. No. Stop. Could you be any less fucking creative and any more fucking offensive? First of all, “Give, Inspire, Take Action” is an incredibly uncreative and boring as fuck name for a social change initiative, second of all, the Bhagvad Gita is an essential holy scripture in Hinduism. So, you think you’re being cute by being a “devotional tea” company that isn’t even making real tea and referencing a religious item for your social change initiative? Why haven’t I heard of a social change initiative called BIBLE yet?!

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…Okay, deep breaths. Moving on!

“India continues to be Eddy’s muse and she returns frequently for fresh ideas. “I’m a white girl born of hippie parents in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, and then raised in Michigan, right? I shouldn’t really have this pulse for India, but I do. I love the chaos and vibrancy. Every time I come I’m introduced to something new. It’s just real.”

Correction: India continues to be where she steals things from like a tomb raider of ideas. Look, If you’re a hippie, and you fall in love with India, that’s cool until you start stealing it. Don’t steal. Don’t be a cultural appropriator. That’s the lesson of this rant.

Now, rather than going out and buying this overly gingery bullshit concentrated nonsense, here’s how to actually make masala chai, if you can get your hands on some of the correct masala tea blends (or, find the teabags that have the tea and spices all in a bag!!):

  1. Start with your water in a pot on the stove. Add your teabags and masala. One or two will probably do. Go easy on the masala if it’s your first time.
  2. Bring it to a boil. Let it boil for a minute.
  3. Now, add your milk. Equal parts to the water, or slightly less than the amount of milk (it may or may not be very challenging to create only one cup of chai for this reason – also why a “concentrate” is bullshit).
  4. Bring this back to a boil again, and watch your pot like a hawk to ensure the milk does not boil over, because that’s always a total mess. As the milk and tea come to a boil a second time, the tea will take on a rich golden colour.
  5. Now, strain and serve!

And that’s how you make real masala chai! So, not only did you get an entertaining rant, you also got a recipe! #Bonus! Once you drink the real thing, you’ll never want to go back to Tea Tea ever again. 😉

 

And that’s a wrap on our very first Desi Rant! Did you love it? Did you learn something? Anything else you’re frustrated about? Leave all that good stuff in the comments! ❤
p.s. Leave a good idea for a social change initiative that we can acronym BIBLE! 😉