Sunday, October 10, 2010


I don't know how I landed up on the topic of Racism while looking for guitar lessons on youtube. I think the connection went something like this -> video guitar lessons -> America's got Talent -> America's Next top model -> Tyra Banks -> Tyra Bank's interview with incredible racist family. It was surely incredible watching the White-Supremacists talk about ridding America of all but white people and how they were ready to do "all it takes" for that.
Thoughts scampered about and I thought of racism in India. Not many fair skinned Indians in India understand that they too are not considered White. They’d hold the banner of the Indo Aryans and fight for their White right and claim it, at least in India. When they are discriminated against, they pick the banner or the Ancient Indian Mysticism and how we’re culturally and socially superior over any other civilization in the world.
People talk comfortably and openly about it about it as an accepted norm. Of course I know how hard it has been growing up dark skinned. MAN! It's merely been a decade since I've realized that I'm human too; before that I was convinced otherwise by the society. Mocking, laughing and joking about it are prevalent and jokes on skin color in standup comedy and cinema induces an unusually high tickle in the audience. At the end of the day, they blame the British for most things like the India-Pak tension, POK, racism etc. I can't say about POK but surely the British were not responsible for the development of the caste system in India. And of course the high caste being much fairer than the lower caste and the whole mythological concept of the different caste emerged from different body parts of Lord Bramha castes them into the dungeons of inequality forever. No offence to any religion, all religions have the “weird” element in them.
When it comes to color discrimination, the predominantly dark-skinned South Indians are no better. The Tam-Brahm (Tamil Brahmins) craze is quite obvious and I wonder if it’s a coincidence that they’re light skinned as well. I recently met a Tam-Brahm who works with the Merchant Navy (at a friend’s wedding) who was giving in depth details of how the Tam-Brahms are “white” to an intently curious North Indian friend’s mother. Ah! It was nice to know that they actually had a connection; they were all “White Indians”!
Growing up in Chandigarh in a mostly closed environment, with my parents never sensitizing me about it, the discrimination was very confusing. My mother’s north Indian so I neither felt alienated to a fair North Indian nor to a dark South Indian like my dad. When I was discriminated against— no sooner that I’d stepped outside the house, earliest memories go back to kindergarten— it was very confusing as to why people were being nasty to me because of my skin color; my fair mother loved me more than own self.
Growing up gifted me its own set of experiences. Meeting people brought up in Punjab, Haryana and Himachal (unlike ones that were brought up in Chandigarh who were a wee bit milder) was a revelation about the level of caste discrimination in conjunction with color discrimination. It was unbelievable initially and I found out that most guys liked me (frankly because I’d grown pretty big and fat back then and looked dangerous) but as soon as they’d find out that I’m a Christian, they’d step back and inquire if I was Scheduled Caste (of course from other friends of mine) and when they’d find out that I wasn’t, things would be hunky-dory and I befriended a lot of such people trying to gain acceptance in the "society". Had I belonged to the SC community, my life would’ve taken a very different course. So closed are their minds that they’d inadvertently discriminate when they go and meet destitute children and have that extra little liking and conversation with the lighter tones. Kids sense this very easily and so starts the vicious cycle all over again.
Joining PhD I thought I was over and done with meeting bigots of this kind but I was so wrong. Here I came across bigots that defended their bigotry with “logic”. These were educated and many of them, rich people. The Bigotry was of a level I hadn't heard of before and I realized I was living with these people, had grown up with them and though they loved me (I’d say that without doubt), I had just grown on them and if I were a stranger who would just cross their path, they’d have very different views about me if they happened to see me. It’s not in their DNA, it is taught early on, it is taught with accuracy and it’s taught with passion and it gets so deeply ingrained that they don’t even know they’re racists. For them it’s not racism, it is the right thing and they don’t even know that it is a representation of Right-Wing fascists.
Be it sophisticated Army officers to high class Bank managers and doctors at high positions, (and to some degree my own parents) all sing the songs of color and caste. The day-to-day conversations and jokes are insinuated with such “facts”. So is TV, so are advertisements, so is the cinema, all conjuring up and cementing the bigoted mindsets such that it always stays as a norm. It’s so damn acceptable that if you question them, they’ll start giving you reasons without compunctions.
So how come when these Superior Indians face racism outside, they don't come back to teach their buddies that this is all wrong? Well some of them do. I have seen one extreme racial bigot (who was a good friend of mine!) transform after staying for 8 years in Canada but true also is that fact that many don't. This Punjabi Jatt boy worked hard and struggled (doing odd jobs to make a living and battling drug addiction that he overcame) to finally make things work for himself and his bigoted views had changed. Of course when it came to marriage, the parental bride requirement was stereotypical to an extreme but what the heck, we all want “Good Things” for our children don’t we? It was a pleasant surprise to meet him and interact with him after those many years though. I wonder how many actually change like that.

There are definitely a handful few who have been liberated by education; friends that don’t talk and think like their parents. At least a few and I hope that there’s still hope.

Here’s link to the accepted bigotry that is well funded and well propagated by us, you can read most comments under the article to know how unaware people are while they are in the very act of bigotry:

No comments: