Actor Jameela Jamil recently opened up about the racist bullying she’s been subjected to, both in her childhood and as an adult. The Good Place star went on Amanda de Cadenet's podcast The Conversation, which you can find on Spotify. For its first episode (launched July 2, this morning!), the show got candid with Jamil on her experience with racial trauma, as well as mental health treatments.
Jamil, who is a Pakistani-British woman, says that as a child, racism formed the “main part” of the bullying she experienced. The Independent also reports that Jamil told the podcast Films To Be Buried With that, “I was bullied for being Pakistani at a time in England when they only really wanted our food but not our presence.”
In her talk with The Conversation, Jamil talked about people using racist and xenophobic slurs to hurt her during that time. “I was called a ‘dirty Paki’ all of the time,” Jamil said. She went on to say that the racist bullying hasn’t necessarily abated as she’s gotten older, saying that “I still get called a 'stinking monkey' on Twitter at least once a week.”
Unfortunately, many people will be able to identify with Jamil’s experiences of being othered, especially when it comes to the demonization of different cultures and foods “... People bring up the word 'curry' around my smell. That's bizarre, truly,” Jamil told The Conversation. But Jamil refuses to let those comments strip her of her confidence, jokingly saying that “...Curry is a great smell, so that's not a diss — it’s a wonderful smell. If I was gonna bring out my own fragrance, it'd be a f*cking Rogan josh."
Jamil has also been outspoken about the ways that the media contributes to racist perceptions and portrayals of her, especially when she speaks up about problematic comments fellow celebrities have made on social media.
"Even if I didn't start the altercation, the headline is always 'Jameela Jamil attacks', it's always me attacking the white woman, and it's this desperate need to portray women of color as aggressive and violent, and to undermine our opinions. That is something that really needs to stop... It's really racist," Jamil said on an episode of The Talk that aired June 6, 2019.
Even though Jamil says she wants the media to stop portraying women of color as aggressive, she says she has learned to embrace the power of her outspokenness. "I now very much so embrace the side of me that is scary and powerful, and I am not afraid of people noticing that. It's time, as a woman of color, to have that response — rather than people expecting me to just serve them in every different way," Jamil said.
In addition to discussing these experiences with racial trauma, Jamil also talked about a life-changing therapy she went through to address it. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is a treatment to post-traumatic stress disorder that uses images to help patients process harmful feelings.
Dr. Steve Levine, a board-certified psychiatrist and founder and CEO of Actify Neurotherapies, told Bustle that EMDR's interactive nature works well for some patients. "For some, a 'talking cure' is just the thing, but others have difficulty articulating their feelings or processing verbal input. With the guidance of a specialist, these non-verbal therapies offer a way to access, express, and process these unspeakable feelings."For Jamil, the treatment has been invaluable in healing from trauma. "EMDR therapy is the thing that I would recommend." Jamil said on The Conversation.
Women of color like Jamil who speak up about the racism they’ve endured and the steps they’ve taken to heal from it are starting needed conversations. Going through this kind of bigotry can be incredibly isolating, but hopefully people can look at Jamil’s story and see that they’re not alone, and that healing is possible. Like Jamil says, "I've survived a hell of a lot, and I everything that I think I won't be able to make it through, I always do."
If you or someone you know is seeking help for mental health concerns, visit the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) website, or call 1-800-950-NAMI(6264). For confidential treatment referrals, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website, or call the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357). In an emergency, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or call 911.