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Overcoming Racism & Hate in America – Indian American Celebrity Anand Bhatt Speaks Out


 

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Indian-American Rocker Anand Bhatt wasn’t always loved by fans & friends. Growing up in a Chicago suburb, he faced horrific racist challenges as a young boy. from other children urinating on his personal belongings to flat out violence, it is apparent that racism & white supremacy still thrive in the United States.

I remember being told almost every day by other children and their parents that I was going to Hell because I was neither white nor Christian, says Bhatt when asked to describe his youth, some of my little friends were forbidden to play with me for this reason alone. Surprisingly, such awful treatment can count as mild compared to some of the other horrors the Indian-American youth faced. For instance, during a 4th of July celebration when Bhatt was only 10 years old, a large drunk stranger (an adult at that) began yelling at him & threatening violence because of his ethnicity. A scare that no child should have to experience. Bhatt and his family have endured ridicule, violence, house eggings, and regular insults. at other times, friends would invite the young Anand Bhatt to seemingly innocent outings such as bowling or parties, when in fact it was a church event and a group-wide sham to attempt to convert him to Christianity. Bhatt adds, One time in 1st grade, my best friend got points and won a contest for tricking me into coming to Sunday School. [Laughs] He at least shared his candy prize with me. It’s heartbreaking to realize that all of these racist acts, and the ones you’re about to read about, were done with impunity.

Bhatt was kind enough to answer more questions:

WHAT WAS ONE OF THE WORST RACIST MOMENTS YOU REMEMBER?

That would be all of 7th & 8th grade. I was literally an untouchable for a period. There was a school-wide popular game called [racial slur omitted] in which if a white kid touched an Indian he would have to do 50 push-ups. Of course the unruly testosterone-filed teenager I was, I got sick of this treatment and went out of my way to touch every kid that rubbed me the wrong way. The other kids retaliated by stealing my clothes & shoes during gym and peeing on them. This was a 2 year ordeal in which teachers and other authority figures never intervened.

DID PEOPLE ATTEMPT TO HOLD YOU BACK BECAUSE OF RACE?

I was once up for the role of Jesus in a community production of Jesus Christ Superstar, but apparently this caused a bit of a local uproar. some girl even told me to my face that she was completely offended that a brown-man would even be considered to play Jesus.

HOW DID YOUR PARENTS REACT WHEN YOU WOULD COME HOME UPSET?

My parents were helpful, all though their generation’s philosophy seems to be ‘Ignore It and Don’t Speak up for fear of the White Man’s Wrath.’ I have quite the mouth on me and am sure I’ve embarrassed them my share [laughs]. they knew what to say to help get situations out of my mind though. my father came here from India in the 60s to go to school in Florida, so he knows racism [smiles].

DID YOU EVER WANT TO RETALIATE?

If you asked me at fifteen I probably would have joined whatever the South Asian equivalent of the Black Panthers would have been. Thankfully my emotions came out in some lucrative guitar riffs instead. Once I hit puberty though, started attracting girls, and joined a band, I was having too much fun to be concerned with anger.

HOW DID YOU OVERCOME RACISM?

Believe it or not, I’m actually grateful for any childhood hardships. Nothing eradicates entitlement like racism. I came to the conclusion at a young age that nobody else is going to stand up for me, and I have only myself to set and reach my goals. Also, I’m aware that people will go out of their way to try to focus on your negatives no matter how much positive action you’re trying to take. So much so, that it’s hard to take them seriously after a point. by not expecting decision makers, bosses, producers, labels, agents or media to help me when I need I think I’ve been lucky enough to pave some of my own way. Of course, help & support is always appreciated and needed, I’m usually surprised when I get it.

DO YOU STILL FACE RACISM?

[Laughs] hardly a day goes by when a seemingly reasonable or educated person doesn’t say to me ‘You Speak English Really Well.’ Also, People still admit to me that when they initially met me they expected me to have an accent. Now that’s far from violent, but it’s bluntly racist.

Hollywood proves to be pretty racist still. Unless you’re white or black, you’re a tough sell to the powers that be. other than Aziz Ansari, I know of very few other Indians in the biz that haven’t change their name or been coincidentally Christian to get a decent gig. Kal Penn, Russell Peters, and Naveen Andrews notwithstanding. To make things worse, many available roles are comedic in nature in a really racist way. To the actors’ credit though, doing the accent is pretty fun.

I also have heard that American radio directors are scared to play my songs on the air out of fear that the DJ can’t pronounce my name. This is only a problem in America. I’m sure the S. African and European DJs may not intuitively know how to pronounce my name either but they don’t seem to have a problem giving it a try.

WHAT ARE YOUR FANS LIKE TODAY?

Looking at my Facebook Fan Page, fans range from students to single mothers. One thing they all seem to have in common is they’re really smart and really fun. You can tell by the conversations they have on wall posts. Most of them are pretty good looking too. Anand Fans are some of the greatest people I’ve ever met Life would be boring without them.

The important thing to remember is that these are recent events, Anand Bhatt graduated high school in the 90s and still confronts racism today. If you look at his television appearances and interviews on YouTube, it is shocking to notice the amount of racial slurs in some of the comments. Amazingly, Bhatt doesn’t appear angry at all. Bhatt closes the interview on a positive message of hope for all that experience racism: One of the most important things I’ve learned, is the ability to not take people’s harmful actions personally. It turns out in every case that the racist is just poorly expressing his own personal frustrations. It is counter-productive to hate the hater.

If you or anyone you know is feeling the pressures of racism, feel free to reach out to Anand Bhatt on his Facebook Wall to ask for support, advice, or even simply to share your story

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Anand Bhatt found on Facebook at facebook.com/anandbhattrock

Anand Bhatt Television Interview: youtube.com/watch?v=tr28lnNSAIo

Rock Personality and actor Anand Bhatt is known for his rock/pop solo career and as frontman of the tribal hardcore group Anand clique. Bhatt got a great career launch at a young age from his work with Jim Martin (Faith No More), and has walked the GRAMMY red carpet as an award consideree and an academy voting member.

 

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