An unusual thing happened to me recently. I received an email from someone from the BBC who was interested in learning more about alternate reality games. In the process of our chat, she mentioned she was involved with producing a TV show for Asians and wondered if I knew any British Asians who were into gadgets, technology, that sort of thing. I said I’d have a look, and that incidentally, I was an Asian who was into gadgets, etc.
Then she asked me if I was Indian, because the programme was for Indians. Of course, I’m not, and so it ended there. But it made me notice how the British media equates Asians with Indians, or at least people from the Indian subcontinent. The next time you read a newspaper or magazine, or in particular, view the BBC, look out for where ‘Asian’ is mentioned, and you’ll find that what they really mean are Indians.
Take, for example, this BBC pictorial about Asians in Britain. Very interesting, I’m sure. But it’s all about people from the Indian subcontinent. There is nary a Chinese, Malaysian, Japanese, Thai or Korean person to be seen, despite the fact that they also live in Asia.
Now, this doesn’t particularly bother me. Asia is a big continent, after all. And while there are more than a million people in the UK from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, there are less than a quarter of a million from Hong Kong, Malaysia, China and Singapore combined (Source: BBC). It’s hardly surprising that the Indian subcontinent gets more attention in the media. But there’s no point going on about Asians or ‘Asian programming on the BBC’ when what you’re really talking about is Indians or ‘programmes that are to do with Indians’; it gives the false impression of inclusion, where there is none.