Rap star Akon’s March arrival in India has gone viral on the net-boob-tube, and youth commentators seem to have descended into a frenzy of excitement over the star’s potential work here in Bollywood. As a commercial rapper, Akon raps about women, but only the ones who strip and swing from poles. With global marketing deals as the spokesman for Fair and Handsome skin bleaching cream, Shahrukh Khan has appeared in TV commercials ridiculing skin half as dark as Akon’s, telling these darkies that they’ll never be successful in their careers or with women. What a match. Wow, hopefully Shahrukh Khan does not try to get Akon to use Fair and Handsome. That would be sad, but perhaps it will work the other way around. Maybe Kareena & SRK will find Akon’s chocolate skin so beautiful that they will stop promoting self-hate through self-destruction. Bleaching literally destroys the skin. Indeed, there’s no questioning that skin bleaching physically damages the skin, but to that I would add that skin bleaching destroys the spirit and births and nourishes a false self.
In the welcoming ceremony, a real craft in modern publicity, Akon claims to have this long interest in India and her popular culture. Yet, as an exotic star (blacks are popular in the Indian imagination and popular culture in a narrow range of stereotypical roles from blinged-out rappers, to cricketers, to criminality), he will likely continue to receive his local laudation and respect. Yet, like many other Africans who settle here in India and are confronted regularly with signs and symbols of India’s color caste, how might this impact this deliciously chocolate global superstar? Will his exotic roots and international status trump his darkness here in India? Will Akon rap about the Indian color caste? Though we would all like to sit aback and enjoy this Afro-Indian love, we cannot and should not let Mr. Khan off scot-free, not when millions of individuals around the world revere him as an icon and worship him as an idol, and he chooses to earn money through self-promotion and damaging habits. This is nothing short of gross.
Finally, on the streets of Delhi, Akon has undoubtedly made his mark. Here, for example, Once I encountered a group of adolescent boys in a park in South Delhi. Perhaps it is my gender and black skin that attracted the youth to me, announcing my admission into the global hip-hop corpus. The boys approached me as I sat quietly on a park bench one day, buffering my time spent at work, with the evening at home. At 14, the boys knew all the lyrics about girls swinging on poles. See for yourself:
“I see you windin’ & grindin’ up on dat pole” by adolescents on the streets of Delhi!
// Notes from the Road
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