The Whitewashed International Media
The murder of the 46 year old George Floyd, on May 26, 2020, in Minneapolis, at the hands of a white cop has raised certain important question we need to think about when we talk of the stagnant ideologies of separation. The United States saw continuous days of protests despite the rapid spread of COVID-19. Protestors had been marching on the streets, shouting slogans, while gathering outside the house of the cop who was responsible, to mark him with the sign ‘murderer’. The cases of racial police brutality, in numerous regions around the globe, are raising an alarm lately. In times likes these, it becomes imperative to look back to the deeds and achievements of black and coloured people which have been erased by whitewashed media channels. It is through this that we would understand the nuances within hegemonic concepts which exists to stabilise white supremacy within the folds of popular imagination and establish it as the realist model of life.
Jacinda Arden, the 40th Prime Minister of New Zealand and the leader of the Labour Party since 2017, is one of the most popular women politicians in international news these days commemorated for her progressive and inclusive politics. Applauded for having birthed a child while holding office, Arden has been heralded for opening offices of governance to blacks, queer people, people of indigenous ethnicities, to name a few. She led New Zealand through three tumultuous years which saw a volcanic eruption, terror attacks, and a global pandemic. While all this is worth appreciating, what we do forget in this whitewashing is that women at power in the Global South, especially in nations comprising South Asia, have done the same, and sometimes, even more. Out of 25 women who are head of state in the world today, 11 are women of colour. For instance, the first woman to give birth while holding the office of Prime Minister was Benazir Bhutto, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, in 1993, and not Jacinda Arden. In fact, the first female prime minister in the world was Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka, elected in 1960.
A recent Instagram post of the news and media website Au Fait, garnered huge traction among people from non-white geographical areas. The headline of the post read, ‘New Zealand is not the first country to provide paid miscarriage leave. They’re just the first white country.’ If we look at the data, we realise that India was the first country to legalise miscarriage leave and had passed the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act in 1961, which grants 6 weeks of fully paid leave for women who undergo a miscarriage at any point during their pregnancy. Mauritius grants 3 weeks of fully paid leave for a miscarriage and 14 weeks for stillbirth. Likewise, Philippines provides 60 days fully paid leave, Indonesia, 6 weeks, and Taiwan, between 5 days to 4 weeks. In comparison to all these nations, New Zealand has miles to go since it has sanctioned only 3 days of paid leave, as of yet. In fact, according to the data of 41 countries compiled by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the United States ranks last in government mandated paid leave for new parents.
This is just one incident where white media has ignored the efforts and accomplishments of women of colour. New Zealand is still considered ‘white’ by the Western media and therefore, fits in their notions of a liberal democracy which can become an example to lead other ‘backward’ nations. This constant attempt at showcasing the white world as advanced and superior adds to the inherent stereotypes against people of colour as not being civilised or educated enough. Why have we never pondered over the fact that the first Indian female Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, is known as the Iron Lady of India, in reference to Margaret Thatcher, the Iron Lady? Isn’t this title baffling since Indira Gandhi assumed office in 1966, almost 12 years before Margaret Thatcher, who was elected in 1979?
We live in a world where the justice to a black man is celebrated as victory of the oppressed, and not something taken for granted. In the aftermath of former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin being convicted on Tuesday of murder and manslaughter for ‘pinning George Floyd to the pavement with his knee on the Black man’s neck’, The Indian Express stated, ‘The verdict was read in a courthouse ringed with concrete barriers and razor wire and patrolled by National Guard troops, in a city on edge against another round of unrest — not just because of the Chauvin case but because of the deadly police shooting of a young Black man, Daunte Wright, in a Minneapolis suburb April 11.’
It is time for us to understand that these crimes do not take place in vacuum. The whitewashing of media and news channels is a very significant way to aid the already existing notions the world has of black and coloured people.