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Seeing Black V. White: “The Bluest Eye” Amidst Black Lives Matter Protest

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African-American, black, violence, racism, injustice, protests. If these are the terms that you have been hearing lately, you need to know the root cause of today’s aversion to black men by racist white people. What is it that makes an American white man hate a black man to a hideous extent? I found the answer in Toni Morrison’s book The Bluest Eye. White Supremacism.

‘Black is Beautiful’, ‘#inclusion’, ‘#noracism’, ‘Black Lives Matter’. The slogans have changed with time, but their meanings haven’t, and neither has the time altered for the blacks.

Black Or White?

Be it 1968 or 1982 or 2014 or 2020, white supremacist people have show that black lives do not matter.

  • 1991- Rodney King, a black man, beaten brutally by white police officers of LAPD
  • 2009- Oscar Grant, a black man, manhandled and shot by white police officers in California
  • 2020- George Floyd, a black man, manhandled to death by white police officers in Minnesota.

Do you see the play of colours? Black and White. Black or White. Black vs. White. Difference of colour is more important than humanity for many people.

Two women, one black and one white, standing together
Black and White. Black or White. Black vs. White. Difference of colour is more important than humanity for many people.||Credits- Photo by Milena Santos

What’s Up With Chauvin?

We all read this news: “Derek Chauvin, a white police officer in Minneapolis, pressed the neck of George Floyd, a black man, with his knees for nearly nine minutes, resulting in the death of Floyd.”

If we follow The Bluest Eye, people like Chauvin struggle to accept people with dark shades due to their white supremacism.

In simple words, white supremacism a psychological belief that white people are superior to black or brown people, and that white people are meant to rule over them.
The concept shouldn’t be anything new for Indians, after all our development was called “the white man’s burden” by Rudyard Kipling.

White supremacism is a mental patch in people, and reading The Bluest Eye last week I realised how books are the only medication that can heal these patches in people like Chauvin.

Is Your Subconscious Making You A Racist?

The author Toni Morrison, a Pultizer Prize winner, has brought forth how racism is installed unconsciously in many minds and stays put subconscious mind, only to emerge out in the form of conscious breathing words and actions. It was this play of unconscious and subconscious that manifested in the deeds of Derek Chauvin on May 25 when he brutally ended the life of a body that wore a colour of a shade darker than his own.

In the book, there is a small instance when we see a little white girl, not more than 6–7 years old nurturing an aversion for black girls her age. Then there is a little boy whose mommy “did not like him to play with niggers.” When you grow up centered with such thoughts, you become a racist backed by your subconscious.

I Am Ugly: I Don’t Have Blue Eyes!

The Bluest Eye' by Toni Morrison
‘The Bluest Eye’ by Toni Morrison

Reading The Bluest Eye, you will see how an Afro-American little girl learns to hate her own black eyes, only because everyone seems to love the blue eyes of dolls. How the little girl could trade anything for getting blue eyes, only because it has been stuck in her mind that white blushing cheeks and blue eyes are the only thing that adults could love.

The little girl cannot decipher why “the world had agreed that a blue-eyed, yellow-haired, pink-skinned doll was what every girl child treasured.”

She thinks that her mommy loves the white girl with yellow hair more than her own child. It’s pretty normal for her to think so because her mommy tends to the tears of this fair child more than her injured leg. She begins thinking that she is ugly and not worthy of love and attention.

Are You A Racist?

Morrison has laid down many self-examining questions for people affected with internalised racism:

  1. Do you consider a light-coloured face more cultured and well-behaved?
  2. Do you fall in love after your eyes comprehend the body colour?

How do you get to love people? Is it colour? Skin colour, eye colour, hair colour? Well, love ain’t got anything to do with colour, and this is what a person (in this story, a child) has to realise to be able to love oneself.

Why The Struggle Still Continues?

The Bluest Eye was set in 1941, and it’s 2020 now, but racism has not become redundant. America did away with segregation in 1964, but that hasn’t stopped people from nurturing xenophobia.

How many American movies have you watched that portrayed black people as thugs or as a rude person? Well, most of the American movies can be held guilty for this stereotype.

How many of you have been taught that the symbolic representation of black is bad and that of white is good? Living in such an environment from a tender age leads to normalising of stereotypes; you automatically either grow an aversion to black skin or treat them as inferior, thus becoming a white supremacist.

Be it 1941 of Ohio (the setting of the book) or 2020 of Minneapolis (where Floyd was killed), racism is still a killer. Though the 1964 law banned segregation and imparted equality to all Americans, much still needs to be done by people who continue to nurture the theory of white supremacy.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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