Mindy Kaling’s Brother Donned Blackface for 2 years in Twisted, Racist “Experiment”

vijay-chokalingam

(H/T M. Holt)

Did y’all know Mindy Kaling had a brother?

Yeah, neither did I. Turns out that the star of the hit comedy The Mindy Project has an older brother named Vijay. A quick Google search of his name reveals little: on the internet, he exists entirely in the form of short quotes (one to Dartmouth Alumni Magazine, the other to Parade, another to the New York Times) about how awesome his sister is. He is also listed as a surviving child in his mother’s obituary. On a fansite for The Office, Vijay trawled for threads about his sister and shamelessly name-dropped that he was related to her (Update: link no longer active). On Twitter, he has a scant 230 followers (at the time of this publication) despite having been on the microblogging site for four years as a self-described “anti-affirmative action hacktivist” (#tcot?). In his Twitter bio, he tells us that the most pertinent detail about his life is that he’s related to Mindy Kaling.

Yet, Chokalingam is making news today in super-Rightwing news media outlets: in early March, Chokalingam released details of a book pitch documenting his efforts to gain admission into medical school by donning Blackface fifteen years ago.

Yes, you read that right: Mindy Kaling’s brother says he wore Blackface for more than two years while applying to and attending medical school.

What. The. Fuck.

Continue reading “Mindy Kaling’s Brother Donned Blackface for 2 years in Twisted, Racist “Experiment””

Canadian students at Brock University don blackface, win Halloween costume contest

Students at Canada's Brock University dressed in blackface.
Students at Canada’s Brock University dressed in blackface.

Looks like we’ve already got our first submission for the closing credits of Dear White People 2: Guess You Weren’t Paying Attention The First Time.

Students at Brock University, located in downtown St. Catharines, less than an hour’s drive south of Toronto, decided to go to an on-campus student-organized Halloween party last week as the Jamaican bobsled team from Cool Runnings. They wore Jamaican colours and then three of the four students (who are White) accentuated their costume with honest-to-God-shoepolish-black blackface; the one Black student did not wear makeup.

This isn’t your modern-day wifebeater and gold teeth blackface. This is your I-just-got-done-watching-Birth-Of-A-Nation blackface.

And just went you thought that a group of students in shoepolish-black blackface was where this story was going to end, I’ve got one more thing for ya: these students didn’t just enter a costume contest, they won. 

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Opera Providence mocks, threatens peaceful protest against RI yellowface production of #Mikado

Providence, Rhode Island residents protest Opera Providence's recent yellowface staging of "The Mikado". (Photo credit: James McShane)
Providence, Rhode Island residents protest Opera Providence’s recent yellowface staging of “The Mikado”. (Photo credit: Peter Glantz)

Last month, a yellowface production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s operetta “The Mikado” — put on by local Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society — sparked national controversy and a number of outraged articlesMultiple Asian American writers and advocates spoke out against the use of yellowface in “The Mikado” (including Sean Miura, who published a compelling guest post on this site) and several Asian American organizations issued statements in protest of the Seattle-based production, including the OCA and JACL.

This national conversation on yellowface may have its focal point in Seattle, but the issue extends far beyond that city. For, as defenders of Seattle’s yellowface production of this operetta have pointed out, “The Mikado” is one of the most popular and widely performed productions out of the Gilbert & Sullivan repertoire.

Today, hundreds of productions of “The Mikado” are performed annually in the United States; many recreate the same yellowface that characterized the operetta’s original 1885 run at the Savoy Theatre in London. But the show’s enduring popularity as contemporary  and unchallenged yellowface does not negate its racism.

Thankfully, the debate first sparked by Seattle’s yellowface production Mikado have inspired others to speak out against yellowface racism elsewhere in the country. Last month, Opera Providence (located in Providence, Rhode Island) opened a three-night production of “The Mikado” that ran from August 8 – 10, and which also featured actors in yellowface.

Several Rhode Island residents courageously organized a street protest and a petition against Opera Providence’s yellowface staging, even though they faced threats and retribution from Opera Providence for exercising their First Amendment rights including an alleged death threat against protesters uttered by an actor during the on-stage production. I had a chance to interview two of the protest organizers, James McShane (@james_mcshane) and Sakiko Mori (@mrsoioi), about what inspired them to take a stand; the full interview appears after the jump.

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ACT NOW! Go (in-person or online) to Seattle Rep’s diversity townhall on 8/18, 6:30pm | #Mikado #SeattleAFAR

A photograph of Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society's production of "The Mikado".
A photograph of Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society’s production of “The Mikado”.

Yellowface and brownface seems to be all the rage these days.

The Asian American blogosphere has been leading a vocal online conversation over the inappropriateness of yellowface in stage productions of “The Mikado”, prompted by this July 14th op-ed by Sharon Pian Chan; you can check out the wonderful guest-post by Sean Miura that was published on this site last month in protest of Seattle’s latest yellowface “Mikado” production. Meanwhile, HBO is touting its newest cross-over show “Jonah From Tonga”, which premiered last week, and which features Australian comedian Chris Lilley in anti-Pacific Islander brownface;  you should read my post on the offensiveness of Lilley’s show and his routine use of yellowface and brownface and then sign this Change.org petition. In both cases, we’ve seen abjectly racist use of racial drag defended as artistic license, when the rhetoric in defense of yellowface can be understood at all (which isn’t always the case).

Apparently, a conversation on race in the arts is overdue, at least for those who forget the first rule of yellowface and brownface. I still assert that yellowface and brownface is one of those “obviously racist” aggressions that really doesn’t warrant additional exposition; but, hey, everyone can benefit from a little dialogue, right?

Continue reading “ACT NOW! Go (in-person or online) to Seattle Rep’s diversity townhall on 8/18, 6:30pm | #Mikado #SeattleAFAR”

Seattle Rep issues statement, will host townhall on race & art regarding yellowface #Mikado

Actors from the Seattle's Gilbert & Sullivan Society revival of "The Mikado". Photo credit: Greg Wood / Getty Images.
(corrected) Actors performing “The Mikado”. Photo credit: Greg Wood / Getty Images.

Much of the Asian American community is in an uproar over this year’s production of “The Mikado” by the Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society, which features unabashed yellowface. Yesterday, I published a wonderful guest-post by LA-based activist Sean Miura (@seanmiura) about the production.

Both the Gilbert & Sullivan Society and the theater where “The Mikado” is playing — the stages of the Seattle Repertory Theater — have found themselves thrust into the spotlight. Today, in response to the controversy, the Seattle Repertory Theatre issued a public statement clarifying their relationship to the production. The Seattle Rep writes that they have no relationship with the Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society, and that the Bagley Wright Stage where “The Mikado” will run this month is rented to the Society by way of a contract between the Rep and the City of Seattle. Thus, the Seattle Rep clarifies that they did not authorize the Society’s yellowface production of “The Mikado”.

The Rep also commits to hosting a community townhall on race, art and cultural representation that can address some of the issues raised.

Full text of the press statement after the jump.

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