Marketing Chai and Cultural Appropriation
Eastern spirituality, life force, enlightenment...
If you’re buying into Chai marketing that exploits these concepts, it’s time to take a look at good old cultural appropriation.
Some white people use concepts that they have a passing/ remote knowledge of, probably when they went on their Eat Pray Love trip to India, just so they can sell Chai and put money in their pockets (not even kidding. Go read the ‘About’ section on pretty much every white-owned Chai business).
Why is it a problem?
Think of it this way: would you find it appropriate for a white person to make reproductions of and sell Aboriginal art? Would it be appropriate for a white person to wear a Native American Indian headdress?
Consider also, the violent history of Chai. Read our previous articles on the History of Chai and Modern Day Slavery and you will understand why it’s not exactly a history that white people should be proud of. In the history of British colonisation, Indians were exploited by the British for profit. It is the devastating effects of that history that make it inappropriate for a former coloniser to continue to profit off people they oppressed.
An appreciation for South Asian culture is treating it with respect. Once you start using it for profit, particularly when it isn’t your own culture to begin with, it turns from “appreciation” to “appropriation”.
Don’t get us wrong. We don’t believe that Chai can ONLY be sold by South Asian producers. We are not unreasonable and we are not petty. When made well, Chai is a joy that should be shared with the world.
- Chai has nothing to do with yoga/ meditation/ Hinduism/ Buddhism*.
- You can sell Chai without alluding to Eastern spirituality/ philosophy.
- Just because it’s Chai, doesn’t mean it needs to be packaged in beige.
The Chai Villain is a brown-owned company and we’ve managed to package and sell Chai in kick-ass rockin' bags without any reference to spirituality.
There are a mere handful of Chai companies that are owned and operated by South Asians. Chai is part of a South Asian heritage and the history and cultural connection is authentic and legitimate. When these companies to use it to market the Chai they make - and some of them do - it's authentic, legitimate and non-exploitative.
We encourage you to call out cultural appropriation when you see it, and support brown Chai producers.
*There are of course, links to Ayurveda, and spice infusions have been consumed by Indians as a form of medicine for centuries, well before British colonisation. More on this later, but again, Ayurveda is traditionally Indian, and you have no business profiting off something that isn't yours to begin with, especially when you know very little about it, for that matter.
TL/DR? What this video. And please share it with your friends. We need your help in tackling cultural appropriation.