I confess, I thought she was a nanny too…
It is only human to make mistakes, but we have made certain errors a part of our daily pattern. One such plague, ‘stereotyping’, is a widespread problem in many societies. We are fed certain ideas by our surroundings and lifestyle which become an inherent part of our nature and are unintentionally voiced out when there is a situation.
I am guilty of it too.
When the BBC Dad video went viral and I had the first glimpse of it on my Facebook timeline, I laughed and shared it with my friends with the comment,
“The nanny will be in big trouble now”.
The video shows Robert Kelly, a political science professor, and now famously known as the BBC Dad, during a serious television interview about the relationship between North Korea and South Korea until his children come into the frame and create their own history. In case you haven’t seen it already, which is very unlikely, allow yourself 0:42 seconds of amusement.
At the very moment when I let stereotypes takeover and assumed the woman’s role, other people all over the internet were making the same mistake. That woman was not a nanny but in fact his wife, Jung-A Kim.
The label of the nanny was given to her based on certain biases people hold. Many assumed her to be a nanny because she was Asian. Others based their opinion on the body language when she dashed into the room; keeping a low posture, almost crawling out. Some based their bias on her fear-stricken face anticipating a scolding later. Whatever the reasons, that 45-second video brought out the ugly truth.
After all the laughs, reality sunk in.
Some even gave a negative portrayal to the BBC dad for pushing his daughter away instead of holding her. He was clearly panicked and didn’t know how to react to the intrusion of his children. He even feared that he would never be invited for a TV interview again.
But would a mother have reacted differently? A satirical parody of how a mother would have handled the situation sprout up after a few days too.
On the one hand we put women in the roles of wives and caretakers and on the other we pressurise them when they do not fulfil those roles ‘properly’. The stereotyping in this case was at all levels racial, economical, gendered and misogynistic. It revealed how ugly patriarchy and toxic masculinity are when they manifest themselves in matters of the home.
I was made aware of my bias by my husband who was the first to point out my mistake and I realised how I too had become part of the system that perpetuates these stereotypes. I ashamed of myself, and even scared.
Have I let myself become influenced by the ideas our society so shamelessly wants us to believe?
Have I lost my own opinions somewhere in this mess?
Apart from our individual thinking, society practices collective thinking which overshadows everything else. I have been able to witness that in the US after the current elections. Many have shared videos circulating online of various incidents that took place either on the subway or at a supermarket and even at schools. People have been harassed and even physically assaulted for being Muslims. Society at large has labelled Muslims as terrorists or outsiders and as a threat to the locals. It’s the same as me assuming an Asian to be a nanny and there is no excuse for it.
But while there is evil, there is a good not far from it. It will be unfair to say that everyone in the US is out to get Muslims. Many have also stood up in their defence and embraced the differences. They realise the benefits of a multicultural society and the influx of varied ideas and thoughts that make a country richer and diverse.
I was at the supermarket with a friend who happens to wear a hijab, and while we were standing trying to get her three-year old-toddler off the shopping cart, a white woman with her own toddler scurrying behind her walked past us and said ‘Asalamalaikum’. While I was still processing what happened, my friend replied to her with ‘Walaikumasalam’ and turned back to me. I was pleasantly surprised. It felt exhilarating to have your faith acknowledged and shown respect to by a complete stranger. It made me wonder if I would ever walk up to a Sikh and say ‘Sasriakaal’ or say ‘Namaste’ to someone belonging to the Hindu faith. Aren’t these just simple words that can break barriers and show respect to each other’s cultures and religions? Maybe that can be a gesture to educate people about what our religion truly is and how tolerant we can be to others.
One video made me realise every bias I hold and make a conscious effort to unlearn it. To even have a close circle that can call me out is a privilege and I can only work my way to self-improvement and remove my biases.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.