Once I stood gazing at the giraffes at the Lucknow Zoo only to turn and see 50-odd families gawking at me rather than the exhibit.
Racism is never a personal experience. Racism in India is systematic and independent of the presence of foreigners of any hue. This climate permits and promotes this lawlessness and disdain for dark skin. Most Indian pop icons have light-damn-near-white skin. Several stars even promote skin-bleaching creams that promise to improve one's popularity and career success. Matrimonial ads boast of fair, v. fair and v. very fair skin alongside foreign visas and advanced university degrees. Moreover, each time I visit one of Delhi's clubhouses, I notice that I am the darkest person not wearing a work uniform. It's unfair and ugly.
Discrimination in Delhi surpasses the denial of courtesy. I have been denied visas, apartments, entrance to discos, attentiveness, kindness and the benefit of doubt. Further, the lack of neighbourliness exceeds what locals describe as normal for a capital already known for its coldness.
My partner is white and I am black, facts of which the Indian public reminds us daily. Bank associates have denied me chai, while falling over to please my white friend. Mall shop attendants have denied me attentiveness, while mobbing my partner. Who knows what else is more quietly denied?
"An African has come," a guard announced over the intercom as I showed up. Whites are afforded the luxury of their own names, but this careful attention to my presence was not new. ATM guards stand and salute my white friend, while one guard actually asked me why I had come to the bank machine as if I might have said that I was taking over his shift.
It is shocking that people wear liberalism as a sign of modernity, yet revert to ultraconservatism when actually faced with difference. Cyberbullies have threatened my life on my YouTube videos that capture local gawking and eve-teasing. I was even fired from an international school for talking about homosociality in Africa on YouTube, and addressing a class about homophobia against kids after a student called me a 'fag'.
Outside of specific anchors of discourse such as Reservations, there is no consensus that discrimination is a redeemable social ill. This is the real issue with discrimination in India: her own citizens suffer and we are only encouraged to ignore situations that make us all feel powerless. Be it the mute-witnesses seeing racial difference for the first time, kids learning racism from their folks, or the blacks and northeasterners who feel victimised by the public, few operate from a position that believes in change.
Living in India was a childhood dream that deepened with my growing understanding of India and America's unique, shared history of non-violent revolution. Yet, in most nations, the path of ending gender, race and class discrimination is unpaved. In India, this path is still rural and rocky as if this nation has not decided the road even worthy. It is a footpath that we are left to tread individually.
(The writer is a Black American PhD student at the Delhi School of Economics.)
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
These self-serving and consoling argument about being resist, guided by ignorance and deep-rooted bias has neither compassion for nor understanding of a group of men in black skins, especially given their eccentric religious beliefs. Those dark skin from South India or Africa are far from 'racist Indians so they only exist in the eye of some distant cast system. You write from Hinduism so it means something to you. We rule the India based on Skin so what is Ours means the same to the world. Everything else means nothing. You world views lives inside the Beltway.
I remeber one respndent recently succently sumerised:
Another deeply rooted part of the culture of Indian racism is dishonesty and a lack of empathy for the victims of their racist abuse. Don't expect to evoke any remorse for it because according to the philosophy, you deserve to be abused and suffer. Do however; expect to be accused of being racist by them for NOTICING & SPEAKING OUT against their racism. The reason is two-fold, (1) It is a very effective tactic to silence and confuse any criticism of their culture of racism (2) Based on the philosophy of Hinduism, what we call 'racism' is actually a normal and healthy thing and is the foundation of their identity and therefore, your criticism is an attack on their 'identity' and therefore akin to racism to them. got it? It's a sick and sad reality but a reality none the less. Also, since Hinduism dominates the political & social spectrum of India, even though there are other religions such as Islam, Christianity etc...the 'culture' of racism has leeched into the general culture shared by all Indians to a large degree. This is why you have the same racism in Christianity, Islam etc among Indians...even when they convert to another religion to escape the racist caste-ism they replicate the same racist culture. There is a saying in India 'Caste first Christ Second"...separate churches, pews & even separate cemeteries for the black dalits.
NOTE: Their racism is not geographic, it is a mindset that they carry with them all over the globe with pride and defiance.
This is a very old article. However, there is no doubt that India is a highly racist country. We fawn over white foreigners and despise blacks. This is a fallout of our internal caste prejudices wherein light skin is associated with higher castes and vice vers.
However, the article quoted in #80 has many anomalies. How many whites in the US would welcome a black neighbour? A country in which a householder is acquitted of wrongfully killing a Japanese student who rang his door bell because "his wife was scared of yellow skinned people" is deemed amongst the least racist!!! Tell me another.
Pakistan - only 6.5 percent of Pakistanis objected to a neighbor of a different race. Yeah right. Perhaps because they don't object, they just kill them.
A fascinating map of the world’s most and least racially tolerant countries:
Dear Deipiriye Kuku,
I'm surprised that you got this space even to express youself and your anguish. The country's media does not allow such room to those who are at the receiving end of the Indian supremacists, even many of them would be quite capable.
I can feel the sense of frustration at the treament you have been receiving from Indians. The Indians you have been meeting are not only admirers of white skinned men and women, they actually worship them.
Years ago I had read the following line by Patrick Tamayo, an African American:
"Wear my shoes, and be in my skin,
See what see, feel what I feel,
Then only you shall know
Who I am, what I am and why I am."
Hatred, discrimination, deprivation and inequality are enshrined in the scriptures of Indians. And they guide them as manuals in their daily life.
They have been polluting wherever they have migrated and doing what they do at home to their underprivileged countrymen. But they will speak in loud voice how a great ancient civilization they have inherited that have taught them love the humanity of the universe.
In my opinion racism does exist in India but most of the Indians (living in India) who behave like racists are unaware and uneducated that their behaviour is being racist. The issue is that the audiences of this article are the people who already know what racism is and that it’s bad. It’s the quasi literate victims of our education system who have to be addressed and be sanitized but
a) The ones mocking you don't get to or are inclined to read such articles. So it takes out the possibility of them getting educated and get sensitive about human equality.
b) They don't even know that what they do is racist, for them its just one of the free fun that life has provided them. This fact and their natural curiosity (borne out of lack of interest in books of knowledge) don’t abdicate them from their crime but it’s an indictment of our education system (if there is any).
c) Discrimination in clubs/ discos/ Malls/ ATMs arise from stereotyping of Black Men as a mugger and guy by Bollywood and Hollywood movies. It is grounded more on suspicion created by that stereotyping rather than racism.
d) Similarly every white is a stereotype for being a rich person with lots of money to spare. Its not the color that gets them the offer of tea/ coffee or salute from the guard, its them being thought of carrying a fat purse. You know what, forget coffee or tea I don’t even get a smile from the staff at my bank :).
And Last, all of above explanation is an individual analysis and not meant to downplay the author’s experiences. I am aware of the fact that how badly discrimination faced at individual level hurts one’s feelings. I feel bad for the author and also guilty.
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