Response Paper on Mississippi Masala (1991): the impact of racism and race in the identities of the characters
The themes of racial identities & interracial racism are ones that surface multiple times in the movie Mississippi Masala (1991) by Mila Nair. In the beginning of the film, we notice Jay’s resentment of having to leave his country Uganda. Jay argues with his childhood friend Okelo that he has “been called a boot licker and a traitor to Indians… Uganda is my first home and India my second”. It saddens Jay that after 34 years of his life it all came down to the “color of [his] skin”. His childhood friend reminds him that “Africa is for Africans… black Africans”. The exile of South Asians, which is enforced by military leader Idi Amin, tarnishes the view of the African culture for Jay. He, along with the other South Asians that are forced to leave, turns his back to the African culture he grew up and welcomes the Indian culture in American land. Jay even goes as far as not saying goodbye to his brother-like friend Okelo treating him with a cold shoulder. Jay fails to realize that his friend’s close mindedness is not one to blame for the ignorance that was going around in Uganda.
Another instance where race and the color of the skin create bias is at the wedding of Mina’s cousin, where two ladies are gossiping. The ladies comment on Mina’s dark complexion, noting that one cannot be “dark and without money and expect to get with Harry”. Notice the appraisal for a fair or light skin color. This racism, coming from within the culture, is an example of the struggle that Mina and the family face. Because she is a ‘darkie’ and poor, she cannot expect to woo the heart of the rich Indian bachelor Harry. Racisms is used as a double-edged sword; best seen when Uncle Jammubhai says that “people of color stick together…united we stand, divided we fall” yet regards blacks as ‘foreigners’ and troublesome if they tarnish the family’s honor. Mina’s relationship with an...
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