An Indian TikToker has called out a growingly popular trend on the video-sharing app, highlighting how microaggressions against marginalized communities can snowball into full-blown racism.
If you’ve spent even a few minutes browsing TikTok over the past month, you’ve likely come across content creators pairing the wind tunnel face effect and a snippet of this classical Indian song to produce something along the lines of the following effect.
The premise of the wind tunnel trend — which has been replicated over 2.6M times as of writing — may appear harmless. On a surface level, it seems TikTokers are merely laughing about the dramatic facial filter. But Monique Virk, a 22-year-old student from California who believes there are more insidious implications to the trend, says such culture mocking can snowball into more blatantly racist words and actions.
In a now-viral video, Virk explained how using a classical Indian song as the butt of a TikTok joke — especially when combined with mocking facial expressions or gestures, as seen with the wind tunnel trend — can contribute to discrimination.
“Here’s an example of why [this trend] makes me upset,” Virk began her video, which has since been viewed over 880K times. “I used to have this one friend who used to make stupid faces and noises to Indian songs. And when I would tell her, ‘Hey, can you please stop doing that? It’s rude and it’s getting annoying,’ she’d respond with, ‘Calm down, I’m just joking'”
“I kept letting little things slide with her and because I kept letting her subtle racism slide over and over again, it just kept getting worse to the point where she’d say things like, ‘Why can’t you people just have a normal American wedding?'” Virk continued. “I’m sorry, what? I get everyone is just laughing at the filter, but why use that Indian song? Is that filter what Indians look and sound like to you?”
“Yes, this trend, in particular, isn’t as bad as the lady pretending to order in an Indian restaurant,” she added. “But when you let little things like that slide, you’re going to start to see people being even more offensive.”
Virk, who works part-time as a behavior technician and will be starting graduate school in the fall to get her masters degree in psychology, told In The Know she began contemplating sharing her personal anecdote after watching countless celebrities and content creators duplicate the wind tunnel trend without thinking twice.
“I understood that many users doing the trend were laughing at the wind tunnel effect, however, it was upsetting to see how Indian music was chosen to go along with the effect,” she said. “I feel that any other type of song could have been used.”
Virk doesn’t deny that the genuine intentions of those recreating the trend seem to be — for the most part — innocent. However, she says the negative effects have already outweighed any benign intent.
“I’ve seen some comments saying that the song sounds exactly like the filter,” she shared. “I had even received comments saying that they thought the song was from ‘Shrek.'”
“This is even more upsetting because, after years of people believing in negative stereotypes that Indians have a funny accent and smell bad, the last thing we wanted was for our music to sound ‘funny’ to where it becomes a hurtful trend,” she added.
The particular danger posed by trends like this one, Virk explains, is how normalized and innocuous they make racism seem — to the point where such microaggressions even become perpetuated among Indian people.
“As an Indian, I can see how racism towards Indian culture has become so normalized that even my own people feel the need to make hurtful comments,” she told In The Know.
As for the friendship Virk mentioned in her first video? Sadly, after years of detrimental and racist comments, it wasn’t able to be salvaged.
“My friendship with the friend I had mentioned in my video has recently ended,” she told In The Know. “This is due to her becoming much stronger in her beliefs of negative stereotypes of not just Indian culture, but other ethnicities and cultures as well.”
“I regret letting the microaggressions slide, as this led to her thinking it was okay to make even more offensive comments,” she continued. “I tried my best to educate her along the way and inform her of how her comments made me feel.”
Ultimately, Virk says she hopes her story can help others — especially TikTokers who may feel inclined to partake in this trend without fully understanding the implications — stop and listen before perpetuating potentially harmful ideals.
“Just listen and be respectful of how others feel,” she said. “I know not everyone may agree, but instead of invalidating our feelings now that we are speaking up, it is important to try their best to understand the message we are trying to get across.”
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