By Asees Bhasin:
In a map of a surveyÂ released last year by The Washington Post, India was ranked as one of the most racist countries in the world. Through the course of this article, I have tried inspecting the reasons which many have caused a deep rooted xenophobia in the minds of the Indian populace.
Racism as an ego defence mechanism
After two hundred years of colonial domination and being labelled as barbarians, the Indian identity faced a major setback. The belief that India needed saving from itself and the initiation of an entire ‘civilizing mission’ for the populace reiterated a sense of Indian inferiority time and again. Some regressiveÂ Indian cultural practices were questioned at a global level, and many were changed. The attempt to get the Indians to emulate the Western ways of living infuriated the Indians, while making them question their own identity time and again. Post independence, in order to counter the existing mindset, a strong patriotic identity was forged. This identity led to an exaltation of Indian culture and practices, and portrayed these to be superior to British or Western tradition.
As Alfred Adler, an eminent psychologist postulated, “superiority complexes are essentially inferiority complexes in order to mask feelings of insecurity”. Does our racism stem out of a larger attempt at protection and promotion of the Indian identity?
A subservience can still be traced to British and Western structures. The common notion of beauty is attached to fair and light skin, which is evident in the search for brides/grooms who are fair skinned. The endorsement of a plethora of fairness products substantiate this. The persecution of Africans and black skinned people from Uganda and Nigeria in the past can be attributed to the deep seated contempt towards dark skin.
Racism due to the perception of an ‘out-group’
It can be noticed that countries which are racially more tolerant are usually melting pots of different nationalities and cultures. Most of these nations are also very individual centric, wherein people are self absorbed and individual identity is placed above group identity.
In India, however, post colonial rule hasn’t been much of an influx of different nationalities settling down for work and living here. Therefore, when one encounters foreigners, they are immediately viewed as an outsider and beyond the Indian social fabric. This xenophobia leads to hostility and alienation as they don’t fit in Indian standard norms and societal framework.
Racism as an act of retaliation
There have been many noted cases of visible racism against Indians around the world. These are evident in reports of crimes against Indian students in Australia, UK, politicians and business corporations discriminating against Indian brown skin, and in America, where Indian-Americans are constantly shunned. Also, Indian stereotypes are used to taint the image of the country time and again, and questions such as “Do people in India go to school on cows?” and “How can you speak in English?” are asked very often, demeaning and infuriating the Indian masses.
Racism due to competition
With the coming in of so many foreign firms, Indians are often reminded of their managerial positions in the workplace. In most scenarios, Indians form the labour workforce for international business ventures, but even if they reach corporate set-ups, they often hit a glass ceiling and find individuals of western nationalities superseding them, or above them, in the corporate ladder. This constant competition for jobs and financial comparison leads to an unhealthy relationship or mental perception towards foreigners. This makes them an out-group and subjects of Indian indignation.
Racism due to diversity in identity
Racism in India is also visible amongst Indian communities. Due to a large regional diversity, we find communities pitted up against each other ideologically, or for resources. There have been many cases of North Indian discriminating against those from the South, the mainland population isolating the North Easterns and a multitude of regional clashes. In a scenario where the country is so fragmented within itself, a foreigner seems even more alien, and a common enemy of all.
Racism due to a lack of imbibing virtues of tolerance
Children, and even adults, aren’t being taught tolerance or the beauty of harmonious living. Since this is left as a grey area, people live on with persisting mindsets. They are given no stimulus to change the way they think and the importance of international help and support doesn’t trickle down to the masses.
Furthermore, the government hasn’t put in place strong deterrence in instances of violence towards a particular community or racial abuse against foreigners who come to the country. A clear no tolerance policy towards racial intolerance must be put forth by the government, and the message should be loud and clear.