By Anuashka Sharma:
A few months back, I had a heated argument with one of my closest friends. I was angry at him for calling me a racist. I had hundreds of examples and reasons to prove that I was not one, but he won’t budge. Little did I know that it wouldn’t be long till I realized this fact on my own. As much as I would hate to admit this, but yes, I have a racist person dwelling somewhere inside me.
Famous American Actor/Comedian/writer/singer, Denis Leary, says ‘Racism isn’t born folks, it’s taught. I have a two year old son; do you know what he hates? Naps. End of the list!’.Â How true. Caste, Religion, and Race – I don’t remember knowing these words when I was eight. Then how and when did I become someone who calls herself a racist today? And it’s not just me; every second person I meet has some traits of racism in them. What is it that makes even the educated, ‘elite’ people, racists? What is it that even our education could not teach us?
Being an Indian, I know much of this discrimination stems from the environment that we have grown up in. This environment does not necessarily mean our parents and close relatives. It’s what we see around us, what we read, and what we perceive out of all this. I am a Brahmin. I have always been taught to appreciate the fact that I was born a Brahmin.
If we consider the mythological lineage, Brahmins were the gurus, the teachers who imparted knowledge to people, and were respected the most in the society. Brahmins were supposed to be completely vegetarian, and live on fruits and leaves from the forests. I would like to ask whether being born to Brahmin parents is enough to make one a Brahmin? How many such Brahmins actually follow the Brahmins ‘way of life’? I am sure each one us would have seen many Brahmins who relish eating non-veg food, who consume alcohol, and many non-Brahmins who stay away from any kind of meat and alcohol. Who do you think is actually following Brahminism?
The moot point that I wanted to raise is even when we have entered the 21st century, why can’t we free ourselves from the shackles of these petty and illogical ideas? Why can’t we just respect people for what they have achieved by themselves, instead of judging them by their caste or race? Why not appreciate their deeds more than something which they have no control over i.e. their birth into a community?
I never believed that I had this discrimination in my mind, and that’s what I was offended when my friend accused me ofÂ being a racist. A little while after that incident, I read about someone on the Internet who had very impressive achievements to their credentials. Having read much about the person’s qualifications, my next Google search was about their caste. Now that I come to think of it, I realized that intentionally or unintentionally, I had been sheltering a racist inside me. I felt ashamed of myself for doing so. Everyday in our routine, we do so many things that we never thought could actually be considered as racist. Sub-consciously, we have practised or are practising some kind of discrimination which needs to stop, right here, right now!
I am reminded of two lines from the speech that British actress Emma Watson gave at the U.N. – ‘If not now then when, if not me then who?’. Racism will stop only when each of us take one step forward towards ending it. I pledge today to stop supporting racism, and urge every reader to do the same and contribute towards a better nation and society building.