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India has Been Ranked As One Of The Most Racist Countries In The World, Here’s What Makes Us So

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By Asees Bhasin:

In a map of a survey 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.

Picture Credits: Lennart Tange
Picture Credits: Lennart Tange

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 regressive 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.

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  1. John Miller

    Hello Asees,

    Your commentary is long overdue and very encouraging! I have observed the behaviors to which you allude among many of the Indians I have encountered here in the United States. Of course many people from other countries come here and also fall for our home-grown American brand of racist culture. But I agree with your analysis of the background and current situation in India.

    I would suggest however, that we all remain vigilent and ever aware of the power of the words we choose in the context of “race”; that we not succumb to the many linguistic traps culturally coded into the English language by giving unwitting endorsement to terms such as “fair” (having a positive connotation and not coincidentally also meaning “light” colored skin) through their continued usage.

    1. John Miller

      “vigilent” = vigilant
      Where is “Spell-Checker” when she’s needed! LOL

  2. Prashant Kaushik

    Correct your lenses, Even if you can slightly relieve yourself from the western notions about this country, you and many of your believers will be better able to picture India.
    Not that I am averse to hearing or accepting anything negative about India, I agree, vast population of India is illiterate, semi-illiterate and ignorant, but I will never agree to a crap report on which you have based upon your self prejudiced article i.e. calling India the most racist country.

    I dont think on earth you can find a place which is as social and as TOLERANT as India.
    Yes at times there is discrimination and infighting but not every discrimination is equivalent to Racism.
    India has been such a perfect melting pot of different races that people here dont even know which race they belong to. You can find an astonishing fair Jayalalitha in so called dark skinned land of Tamil Nadu and many dark skinned people can be seen in northern states of Punjab and UP. How do you define such intermingling if you thing rigid races exist in India?

    Futhermore, A dark skinned musician from Tamil Nadu is worshiped by crores of fans across north India ( Rehman ) .
    3 minority men are heartbeat of a nation which is 80% Hindu and
    untill quite recently a foreigner lady from Italy was the most powerful woman in India.

    I don’t understand where do you get such crazy ideas from and who pampers you to propagate such false notions about the people of India.

    1. Jainn

      You are talking about exceptions here ! there is a lot racism at a lot of levels in india . I am dark skinned north indian living in karnataka who does not know Kannada . I face racism from people out here for not knowing their language and even when i did manage to learn bits and pieces , i was mocked for my northie accent ! much worse was the case in tamil nadu . When i went to the north(delhi) the people discriminated against my skin color , taunting me with the phrase “kaala kauwa” ,black crow . i am a jain and i have been mocked for that also . then again there has been several cases of unbiased display of humanity portrayed by my fellow citizens towards me , so its not all gloomy ! so we are not as “TOLERANT” as u make it out to be ! just saying as a victim of racism ! (” i was banned by my mom and dad to play outdoor sports after 10th grade because i was becoming too dark and they were embarrassed by it , dont even get me started on the number of times i have faced the same issue in marriages and other social gatherings )

    2. Prashant Kaushik

      Have you ever seen people fighting on streets ? I guess you must have came seen such violence on streets due to petty matters like violating parking space, vehicles scratching each other etc.

      Would you call those acts ‘TERRORISM’ ? Would you say those people on streets are TERRORISTS ?

      Just like every act of VIOLENCE is NOT Terrorism,
      Similarly Every Act of DISCRIMINATION is NOT Racism.

      I understand the acts of discrimination and being mocked over which you have faced, but they are not example of Racism.

    3. Sukhpal Singh

      Racism is alive in India whether you like it or not, from Bollywood to your local corner store there are many racial stereotypes, racial hatred towards one another. Let’s take a look at how Punjabi Sikhs were being treated in the 80s and 90s. Or how about how thousands of muslims were killed in 02. Let me ask you something, would any traditional hindu/sikh/muslim family be okay with marrying outside their religion, of course not!! All of my hindu and sikh classmates are barred from mingling with muslims, and why is that? Or better yet try telling your Indian parents that you would like to marry a black man or woman and please post what they would say. How about when last year, when two women of Chinese descent from Singapore were molested in Goa, the police delayed the registration of their complaint with the excuse that they thought the women were from the Northeast. Or how about the death of Nido Tania? India needs to become more accepting from within and only then will we become a progressive state.

    4. Vishnu

      Religion ≠ Race! don't equate Hindu/Muslim Congress/Sikh riots into racism..(and yes i use congress cus it was a congress led ethnic cleansing of Sikh).

      “Or better yet try telling your Indian parents that you would like to marry a black man or woman and please post what they would say”
      Why even go that far? just tell them your average north Indian parent that you're marring a Golti or a Arunachali they'll be fuming! lol how dare our gora chora marry that kali Madrassi who can't even speak Hindi!? how dare he marry that chinese looking slant eyed NE:indian?

    5. Khayi

      I think you should have a look at the dictionary first. The term “racial discrimination” shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction, or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin that has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.

      So, Mr. don’t try to be smarty pants, coz you are making yourself look like a fool.
      When you go to other country and face discrimination then you’ll say its racism.

    6. sayandeep ghosh

      true, western countries always fin something to throw to India. as they fear Indian economic and military growth or from the guilty filling that they do for years??calling India a racist country LOL funny..

    7. Akshita Prasad

      The narrator called India ‘THE MOST RACIST COUNTRY’, and that is entirely the narrator’s opinion, prejudiced or not. But Mr. Kaushik you say “I dont think on earth you can find a place which is as social and as TOLERANT as India.” This once again is an opinion and not a fact. So i guess, just like you, the narrator has the right to voice his opinion, and you don’t have to be upset over it

    8. Raj Guildford

      It’s not simply ‘opinion’, it’s a proven fact. India tops in the second place among the most racist nations. Are you actually happy that we not first or what? Then why are you saying it is entirely narrator’s opinion when he even mentioned a link as a proof in the very first sentence of the article. Just because you have some freedom of speech to waste?

    9. Awi Mukhia

      Correct your lenses, this would be the line appropriate for you Prashant Kaushik.

    1. Raj Guildford

      I want to appreciate your research on why India is so racist. It’s a good work. Anyways its still a long way for this country to be any less racist but I hope this article might help trigger to a good start.

  3. Lucky Thakur

    Yes, I am an Indian and I think India is one of the most racist county in the world.

    1. Basher51

      Very true, I agree as well. Really liked the sentence – “It can be noticed that countries which are racially more tolerant are usually melting pots of different nationalities and cultures” . This pretty much sums up if our country is racist or not.And all the folks here who are lauding India are either living under a big rock or haven’t visited any other country to get a different perspective

    2. monika

      Yeah..Im agree with you

  4. Parv Sharma

    I have no doubt about the fact that India is one of the most racist countries you can imagine. Racism is so deep rooted in us that we often fail to even realise we’re being racist. From the notions of beauty being directly linked to lightness of skin to thinking that just because your skin colour is lighter than another makes you superior. I had the opportunity to go out with a few Ghana nationals to a restaurant and this was a restaurant I frequently visit and the staff did know me. This time, they tried to seat us either outside in the dark and upon refusing they proceeded to find us a table in another dark corner and this is just one of many incidents that happen. Anybody who thinks India does not have a racism problem is living under a rock and sadly, it seems that most of the country falls under that category. We need more awareness and sensitivity training starting at a young age.

    1. Vishram Gokhale

      U have made these comments based on some personal experience(s) and are trying to generalise the same. No doubt there is a lot of improvement in India. However, India is far from being the most racist country in the world.

      The ‘meritorious’ countries in this list would be the Western nations and also the Arab nations follwoing very closely behind…India may top the list somewhere…down near the bottom.

  5. doodledame

    I have not seen or heard of a more tolerant community than in the country of India.

  6. Clive Jamison

    We should just nuke India. The world would welcome it.

  7. Harshal Desai

    What a load of rubbish, if we were one of the most racist countries on the planet or xenophobic (i hope you know what the word means) then we would not have one of the oldest communities of jews in the world that have freely practiced their faith for over a century or have given Shelter to the zoarastrian faith who thrived in India.

    Do some research before you bash your own motherland, watching western tv shows and dressing like them actresses don’t make you one of them. Respect your roots, don’t forget where you come from.

    1. OLightEternal

      Let me ask you something – Do *you* know what the word xenophobe means? Because, right now, you seem more xenophobic to me than Jesse Helms.

      “Watching Western TV shows and dressing like them actresses”

      You talk as though the watching of TV shows produced in the west is something to be ashamed of. Not, of course, that you aren’t entitled to your opinion about television, but discrediting a few hundred perfectly good television shows based on the nationality of the cast does make you seem kind of xenophobic.
      And what is the part about dressing supposed to mean? Okay, so you’re a xenophobe, but so are hundreds of millions of others where you come from. But that does *not* give you the right to moral police your countrywomen – or any women for that matter. Just because you’re offended does not mean you’re right.

  8. ItsJustMe

    India is definitely racist, but to label it as more racist than European countries or USA and Australia is just sheer arrogance and cultural imperialism by American media. Lets cut it down to basics – do all races enjoy equal rights in India: Yes
    do corporates discriminate on the basis of race when it comes employment in India – No, Do people recognize a foreigner as a foreigner in India:Yes (So is it in USA or Britain but it is much worse in Australia and many European countries including Ireland, Scotland, Spain, Italy.) Will epople treat you differently if you are from another land – yes (True for all the countries mentioned above. Sometimes in India you get treated better because you are a foreigner). The problem I think is because Indians are largely misunderstood when it comes to racism. We do not know tobe politically correct and be cautious of our racial overtones when we talk. Which westerners are quite good at. But they are also good at subtle, yet notveable racism and hold almost same amount of prejudice against foreigners, especially brown skinned people. In countries like Australia, Ireland, Scotland, Italy it is so much evident, people leave a restaurant if they see abrown skinned man dine there in Italy. In Ireland and Scotland they look at you like you are carrying a belt bomb. They do not prefer to live in neighborhoods where muslims or Indians live because you know (they dont know the difference). Call me defensive but I dont find any difference when it comes to the minds of people, its definitely under the notion that fair skin implies a fair mind, no matter where you are. So don’t think its just an India thing

    1. Sam

      Have you ever visited any of these countries? I live in Australia and can tell you for a fact it isn’t like that. Yes, some people are racist but most are perfectly nice and polite, your generalisations are inaccurate. And when it comes to India, Indians can be racist, not all, and the country does have a problem that needs to be addressed.

    2. ItsJustMe

      I lived in a small town near Canberra for 7 years. I dont know if you know the place its name is Bungendore. I can assure you that nothing I have said about Australia is an overstatement. In fact one of the reasons I left Australia is because of extreme segregation and isolation me and my family felt there. You may be living in a bigger city. But once you move to smaller towns you will notice the prejudices these people have in their minds. In bigger cities it is much more subtle, but in smaller towns its very explicit. I am glad you find Australia to be not racist and I hope your experience stay the same. But India is by no measure more racist than Australia

  9. yadu

    Sure India is.. And the latest incident that proves this is the hate campaign against kerala. People from other states spread photos and incidents of cruelty on dogs and saying it happens in kerala and boycott them. In fact these are pics from other states. And these people are spreading these hoax and scam with racial abuse. Kerala is the Indian state with highest human development index and is the first among other states in many aspects. But the people from other states are referring keralites as black uneducated cruel people. These are fake animal lovers and racists..

  10. Sujit Sarkar

    Hi,

    It’s not very difficult to see that Mr. Bhasin at the beginning did mention that it was Tye Washington Post that conducted the study and came to the conclusion. Anees just tried to decipher that may have led to the behaviour. I agree to Ms. Prasad that it is the narrators opinion.

    Indeed there is racism in India, but name a country that does not have it. The question is how do you rate a country. Since it does not have a standard measurement system, one cannot say that the study stands 100% true. In some parameters, we might have remained at the top but then there may be others in which we were at the least.
    Mr. Kaushik I agree to state that India has been very tolerant and has welcomed everyone with and open arm. But, it is sad to say we Indian are still to learn to stay in harmony. I have been a victim of racism and I am witness to the time when someone else took a stand for me against a racist remark.
    We are talking of a social reform and history stands by my side when I say that these change didn’t happen overnight. It takes time, generations. India is still a young country and has been able to adopt to such changes. If the far developed countries couldn’t put a rein to the age old racism, how do you expect India to change it overnight. I am sure you all stand witness to the change that’s happening around this issue. My apologies to the guest that visited my beloved country and had a bad experience, we hope your next visit will see change, if not huge maybe a small change.

    And yes Mr. Clive Jamison, please grow up. You are very welcome to visit us for the grand Indian experience. But if you talk of nuke please remember “We love, we care, we respect and we give back too.”

  11. Gopikanta Ghosh

    Yes it is most racist country

  12. Vishnu

    “It can be noticed that countries which are racially more tolerant are usually melting pots of different nationalities and cultures”
    And you're implying that India ISN'T a melting pot of different nationalities&cultures? are you telling me that Tamil culture is the same as Punjabi Culture?

    “they are immediately viewed as an outsider and beyond the Indian social fabric”
    You are CORRECT, except this also applies to the Tamil man out of Tamil Nadu, he is in all technical terms a “Foreigner”, a white westerner would actually get more respect simply for his skin colour in India whereas DARKER Indians won't,especially not ethnic minorities like Tamils.

    “Racism as an act of retaliation”
    NO ONE and i mean NO ONE in India cares about Indians living outside India(hell no one even cares about Indians in India), maybe the news catches our attention like the rest of the world but that's it no ones holds “grudges”.

    “a foreigner seems even more alien, and a common enemy of all.”
    Who's exactly the “foreigner” here? a Tamil man is a “foreigner” to a punjabi and vice-versa,your sheer ignorance of this cultural divide astonishes me.. I highly disagree with the logic of flawed political boundaries deciding who's “foreign”.

    “Children, and even adults, aren’t being taught tolerance”
    You mean to say ACCEPTANCE? we tolerate things that we don't like,tolerating things doesn't mean we accept it, tolerating something is not really a good thing(i mean in my mind i can just have the same racist beliefs).

    The real problem is that India isn't a homogeneous country like China, it needs to become a confederacy not a federation with an all-powerful Central Govt(which just pits ALL the different states against each other) Central Govt should be downsized to hold only external affairs&military stuff, so that way there would be no more ethnic strife in India people would finally stop being so closeminded if they actually feel like their ethnicity/state is self-sufficient and autonomous.

  13. Salim Aliyu

    I mean to be honest,there is nothing stereotypical about the post. Weather we like it or not,indians or foreigners we have to accept the fact that india is one of the most racist country on earth which must change only by Indians them selves esp those Indians living outside india who have been victims of racism or have understood that being superior doesn’t just mean been the fairest or the most white. I’ve been a victim of racism in Indian many times because i’m from africa,and there is a question of ignorance in india where by many Indians don’t actually know anything about the outside world esp africa,they don’t know about many Indians living in africa and and being treated nicely. Indians worship whites and ironically the same white people that they worship disrespect them while those blacks that are victims of racial segregation treated the Indian people with more respect than the whites in africa! There are a lot of problems going on in the world but we tend to overlook em and focus more on stupid things like wanting look fair and thinking that black or dark skin is a disease,i hope i’ll live to see a day in this world where people from all corners of the world will come united as a single race called the HUMAN RACE and join hands to fright against the common threats that confront Us All!!!

  14. Diya

    I feel the meaning of racism is wrongly interpreted here. The reason India is ranked in top position among the most racist countries is not based on Indian’s attitude towards white, central Asian or black foreigners (yes, that too contributes to some part but that’s minor). Its because of the infamous “caste system” of India which is practiced by even the most educated of Indians (evident in newspaper classifieds) Practices like dowry system, etc against females is also included in racism. The real definition of Racism is “discrimination on the basis of external and inherent characteristics.” So it includes enormous types of racism in India.

  15. asdf

    They are the most primitive race in earth. and those low life scums love being racist. Hilarious phenomenon I’ve ever seen.

  16. Aditya Basu

    Have you guys seen the discriminatory approach we take towards fellow Indians from other states or cities or other religion? Its not about being racists outwardly to other nationals but being racists inwardly towards Indians only is what bugs me more. And we don’t need to say we are this way because if of this or that…plain and simply we can’t live peacefully with other Indians also if different states and cultures and religions. We are very stiff when it comes to being liberal and adjustive and that leads to abuses of rights of others giving birth to racism.

  17. Franky Ruatfela

    I’m not a story teller,if we can work together or if we can reduce this discrimation India will be one of the most great country in the whole world,but this is only a dream.

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biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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