Having watched last Saturday's Bridgwater Carnival, one Bridgwater resident has written a letter to the Mercury expressing their concerns over what they refer to as 'racism' within carnival...

Racism within the Bridgwater Carnival

I have lived in Bridgwater my whole life and going out into the freezing cold to watch the carnival was an event my family and I looked forward to each year, just like the rest of the town.

It wasn’t until I moved away to university a couple of years ago that I was unable to watch the carnival, so social media became a good way to catch up on what is happening back home.

The morning after the carnival I began seeing pictures online of a few of the carts, many of which looked similar to past years, though I have always appreciated the artistry and hard work that goes into the making of the carts and costumes.

One thing I did not appreciate however, was the blatant racism and cultural appropriation.

It is no secret that Bridgwater, and most of Somerset for that matter, is primarily white, with little to no diversity within our homes, schools, and workplaces.

Many people living in the town cannot say they have a friend who belongs to an ethnic minority group.

It is this fact that makes me question whether this is the reason why many cultures are mocked and used as costumes in the carnival; because there is no one to offend.

One carnival club stood out as particularly offensive to me, and that was Renegades CC and their cart named ‘Ganesh’s Journey Home.’

The performers on board the cart donned traditional Indian outfits, along with dark wigs and jewels on their faces, meaning to portray a bindi.

All of these performers were white, and inappropriately wore traditional dress that isn’t their own.

For years Asian people from all countries have been mocked for wearing their traditional dress in the western world as it is ‘strange looking’ and ‘ugly’.

However, when a white person adopts this culture, they are suddenly deemed as beautiful. What disgusted me further was learning that for the carnival concerts earlier on this year, members of the Renegades CC received spray tans for their performances, in order to look darker.

For the uninformed, this is referred to as ‘blackface,’ and is completely unacceptable. Nowadays we wouldn’t dress up in curly wigs and paint our faces black; so how is portraying Asians in this way any less offensive?

READ MORE: LETTER: Bridgwater Carnival committee responds to 'racism' letter

What concerns me is that not one person from the carnival club stopped to think about their actions, and what message they are sending to the audiences of the carnival.

As mentioned before, I have watched the carnival since I was a child, and as a naïve six-year-old upon seeing a costume of a different culture to mine such as Mexican or Chinese, (both of which were mocked during this year’s carnival) I would’ve seen this as a funny costume.

This is the message that carnival clubs are sending to young children; that dressing up in a culture that does not belong to you is okay, and that we are allowed to mock these performances because there is simply too small of a minority population for us to care.

The controversy surrounding racism and cultural appropriation is constantly in the news as of late, with dozens of articles being published every October warning people to not dress up as anything offensive on Halloween.

It angers me that we need these articles, it angers me that I need to write this, and it angers me that in 2018 cultures different from our own in a white, Conservative Bridgwater are being mocked rather than celebrated and learnt about.

I write this to urge carnival clubs in the future to think about the message they are sending to their audiences, and to pick a theme that does not mock, harm, or belittle an ethnicity, culture, or religion, and to instead pick something that ensures a safe and fun carnival for all – without the racism.