ByÂ Urvashi Mitra:
An article I read in the paper left me feeling embarrassed and ashamed. Now this isn’t bad considering newspapers generally report bad news. However this was a different kind of embarrassed and ashamed; one that made me squirm.
This article highlighted the nature of our society; deeply hypocritical at its very core, the stench of the rot, hateful. RacismÂ¹Â is an issue discussed very frequently, that is, when we see ourselves as victims. From hate attacks in UK and Australia, ‘random’ frisking at International airports, less than friendly behaviour encountered outside India. These have been discussed and racism deemed horrible, in general and in principle.
But what happens when the hunted becomes the hunter? What happens when we operate on the principles we swear we abhor? What happens when the cringing at being called Brown turns to staring, leering and abusing at what we call Black?
An inherent racism in the Indian gene has taught us that world power is colour coded. Whites, Browns and BlacksÂ². In that order. This power structure is evident at the shops. The Whites are wooed endlessly, while you are treated like any other Brown skin and the Blacks given cursory glances: all this when the value of merchandise bought is of equal monetary value.
Racism may have been adopted by us over 200 years of colonial rule or it may be simple economics. To the barely literate shopkeeper, America (where all Whites seem to come from) is better business than Africa (a continent often reduced to a single country which is inarguably perceived as poor).Â Sadly, the attitude of the well-educated Indian is not any better. Even after years of schooling and value educationÂ³ classes, his racism is manifested in his dealings and interactions with his own countrymen.
Being a Delhite, I can safely say that I have seen it all. The North-Easterners being called ‘chinki’, chowmein or other variations of Chinese food; and people a shade darker than average being termed ‘mallu.
The comments on Dhanush’s Raanjhanaa trailer on YouTube are an indication of the racism that we embody and espouse. (One swears that he won’t watch a Tamilian star because he is too dark skinned, and this is one of the kinder comments. The others are such that they cannot be repeated here.) It is the educated and well-schooled lot which has such an attitude. What can we expect from a society that knows only hate; and which produces more forms of it every day?
From worshipping the whites and degrading the blacks, from the perpetuation of stereotypes which cause conflict between North East and Main India*Â and doing nothing to bridge the gap, from using ‘Idli-Dosa’ as a blanket term for the South of India, from racism against the dark skinned and light skinned variety and every shade in between, we have it all.
And it is shameful and hypocritical; to stand up against racism faced by Indians abroad and then to participate in the continued degradation of Indians at home, whichever part of the country they may be from. Not to say racism against foreigners is excusable. Degradation of people is dreadful; whichever part of the world they may belong to, however much melanin content they may have.
Stages, situations and people may change but ideals remain the same. It won’t do to have different standards for different skin tones. It is immoral. As humans, we need to believe in a better tomorrow where brotherhood of man overrides colour charts. With every person who resolves to adopt an anti-racist attitude, we bring in the belief of a better tomorrow. To have a truly free and equal world, tolerance needs to be assumed. At the very core, at the very centre.
Â¹Racism here has been used in the most general sense as discriminatory behavior against people of a different race from one’s own. I do realize that using the term ‘ethnicity’ would be more appropriate when talking of Indians from the South and North East. Technically, their genetic makeup is different and they constitute races. But in times of interbreeding, no true race remains. However, for the purpose of the article, Racism has been used.
Â²Politically incorrect and insensitive terms used here only to maintain flow of article.
Â³The Value Education books issued under NCERT which dedicated a major portion of the curriculum to ‘understanding differences’ of race, language, nationality etc.
*Main India is what many North Easterners talk of in relation to their homeland. Mostly it means North India. This shows how even though the country belongs to 28 different states and people of different ethnicity, the nation is appropriated by a few prosperous regions.