Why so Racist, India?

Racism for some reason has always been the subject of my interest. It’s amazing how the colour of your skin can play a vital role in determining your place in the world. It’s also funny how people can love or hate you based just on that.

We’ve seen the media rife with news about Michael Brown and Eric Garner recently. It’s sad that racism is still quite rampant in a country as progressive as the US. But it also got me thinking about racism in our own backyard. Would such a killing in India (which surely happens every now and then against the lower castes) even warrant a trial? Would the authorities in rural India even consider it a crime? Do they even consider them human? I don’t know. But I do know that a significant number of them are considered slaves. But that’s just rural India, right? Well, is it?

I grew up in the hip suburban town of Bandra which is also quite popular for its forward thinking citizens and all kinds of pop culture. But I still was occasionally subject to racist behaviour in school. Although, I don’t consider myself especially dark skinned just a tad bit tanned from all the outdoorsy activities, my classmates occasionally called me ‘Kaalya’, when they ran out of more intelligent retorts, almost as if they knew that it was a very effective cheap shot. The colour of one’s skin is a very personal matter and although fully aware and equipped with the knowledge that I was anything but black, it still did considerable but temporary damage to my self-esteem. I can’t imagine, what those kids who are actually dark skinned go through. They were teased all the time. And whatever happens to the girls. At such a young impressionable age it’s difficult to understand that the colour of your skin doesn’t make you any less of a person.

I was at Leopold Cafe around 4 years ago, the legendary Colaba bar, but I was treated with disdain. The staff was eager to serve all the Caucasian white customers but very pretty rude and impatient with me. This definitely wasn’t about a higher tip. They looked like hippies and weren’t particularly the high spending type. I looked like I could match their tip or higher perhaps. Alas, I wasn’t white. Indians treating Indians as second class citizens in India. Appalling! Again, happening in the heart of India’s arguably most modern city, in the very liberal Colaba.

Image Courtesy : The Hindu

Image Courtesy : The Hindu

To us, all black individuals are Africans, and only whites have nationalities. All ‘Africans’ are drug dealers and all whites are highly paid expats. Until recently most North East Indian folks were called Chinese or Chinky. Now a lot of them are being brutally beaten.

We want fair skinned celebrities and fair skinned grooms & brides. I barely see any dark skinned actors either on TV or the big screen. I barely see any fair skinned labourers or domestic helpers. We complained about the Americans whining they had an Indian as Miss America instead of lauding the fact that she became Miss America in spite of being dark skinned. Would a girl of her complexion even stand a chance like that in India?

A close friend of mine, routinely asks me a question whenever a dark girl passes by me. He asks me if I would date them. He asks me because she’s seemingly pretty. He doesn’t ask me these questions when a fair skinned cute girl walks by.

We may all be racist in some ways. But at least the Westerners seem more sensitised to it. We just don’t admit it. Maybe we don’t even know it. I think we just ignore it.

India’s is on the brink of being a formidable world power with the new government. We have start ups and business springing up all around. But the true progress of a nation should be judged by its mindset and outlook towards such things and not merely by the size of its economy.

Image Courtesy: http://paulhastings.me

Image Courtesy: http://paulhastings.me

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7 thoughts on “Why so Racist, India?

  1. It is very deeply ingrained in the psyche. The only way to erase it would be to ban all reservations, make all education free and give jobs purely on merit. That would be true equality and will reduce a lot of simmering discontent amongst castes.

    As for color, we Indians remain hopelessly enamored of white skin. While the western world tries every trick to get tanned. Maybe it’s just a case of ‘grass greener on other side’

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  2. This is such a pertinent post; this reminds me of how some people keep telling me how I am ‘dark, but beautiful’…as if to reassure me that all is okay with my colour. Everything you have written is so so true. I wish our obssession with the white skin ends someday. Well said!!!

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  3. I do totally agree with you Shaun, we all are racist and we don’t even know it, or pretend we don’t know it. And it is true too, that the western world is trying to solve the problem by passing anti-discrimination laws, while at the same time others countries are ignoring that altogether. We expect too much when we visit other countries; we go home totally disappointed when we encounter racism, but we forget our own people are discriminating each other for the same reason. We should work on that a bit more. I love the honesty you write with. Great post!

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