The other day, I heard about a networking group for black British business women. And the question naturally arose whether such a group was essential and would it then be alright to have a white alternative and possibly one for every hue going. I was told that such a group was not exclusively for Black women but that any woman or man could come along, though I doubt if many others who were not of that ethnicity would take up their invitation.
And this is an ongoing quandary in my mind. Do such selective programmes and opportunities promote division or do they address specific challenges faced by the group of people it is targeting?
I was recently selected for a writer’s development workshop run by Kali Theatre in London which was aimed at creating new writing from playwrights of South Asian origin. It was a fantastic experience being trained by some of the country’s leading talent including the very celebrated Tanika Gupta MBE and Sharmila Chauhan among others.
When I asked Tanika if such a programme was necessary, she told me to take any offer of training that came away instead of questioning its raison d’etre as such hubs of training and development for writers was hard to come by. Sharmila Chauhan mentioned that as an Asian writer she was still expected to write about terrorism and poverty. That if she wrote anything different, no mainstream theatre would ever produce it. It was only in places like Kali that writers of our extraction could be heard, she felt. A writer from our group mentioned how she was considering submitting her script with a more mainstream pseudonym in order for it to have a reasonably good chance of being read and produced.
Perhaps there is still a need to discriminate positively. After all, how many black British business women have you heard of? How many plays written by British Asian women have you watched? Of which how many were not about poverty or terrorism?
May be with enough gender and race specific support, we will not have scratch our heads to remember a black British business woman’s name. May be it will be natural to watch a whodunit written by someone who’s name is a Gupta or a Menon or even an Arumbakkam.