Racism is a Self-induced Disease
August 21, 2009 Pune, India - I had a hard time last week, explaining a European guy that I hailed from a country which consisted of 28 states and more than 25 spoken languages and thousands of other languages. Nevertheless, it wasn’t much surprising for me to believe on his imbecilic remarks just for the reason that he was never outside his own country. Subsequently, another thought haunted my mind – Are we Indians so ignorant about the people from the prosperous countries? I am sure that all my attempts to find such a person, at least among the well-educated sections from the Indian society would turn futile.
It is not uncommon in India for people to gather useless stares at a tourist or a foreigner (firang* – that’s what they refer as in Mumbai) who is on a brief visit to the country. Well, it is not about the stares and glares I am talking about, but I am unable to understand the reason why we are attracted so much towards the white skin. The Englishmen ruled us for years for the very reason and the prejudices that they were taken to be superior, more presentable and thus possessed the power to influence. Why is any thing that is darker than white, rather being wheat-ish or black is considered substandard? I was born to a mother whose skin color was fairer than that of my father. Later, I was being told by a family member that my Grandma prayed for my bright skin color. This trend is common in Indian societies and is omnipresent since generations. It is not that these thoughts of orthodoxies existed only during the reign of our Great grannies and Great grand fathers. It is disheartening that the inclination towards the whiter color is much appreciated than the human nature, his work, talent and merits even today.
One of the most affected sections of this self-induced racism is the fairer sex. A member among the fairer sex has no good future in the glamor-world if she is not born fair. An average looking girl does not stand a good chance of getting married to the man of her dreams just for the very reason that his family members do not prefer her to be a good match. In an arranged marriage, they would always ask for her younger daughter who is rather fairer. Isn’t it disgusting? Unfortunately, this is common among our societies. We have been overlooking these aspects for generations, so much so that they have become a part of our culture, taboos and more significantly, our attitudes. I have been seeing several advertisements being flaunted on the Indian television screens which claim their cosmetic product, a fairness cream or soap guaranteeing a brighter skin color – the product that has a potential to open new doors of success and enlightenment into their sad and non happening state of lives. Some cosmetic companies have not even spared men for their crime of being the darker sex. A typical such advertisement shows a dark colored, oily skinned teenage man sitting gloomy, disheartened for his skin color, unable to attract attention of the girl he likes in his college. Typically, he finishes the two week exercise of the skin cream recommended by the Company and here he goes winning not only the girl of his dreams but also a huge feminine fan club. The question to be raised here is that are such advertisements specially designed for the Indian market? The answer to which lies in the very fact that such advertisements are openly flaunted and anticipated by the various segments of people in the Indian market. This is obvious due to a basic reason that, we have taken dark skin as granted to be an emblem of inefficiency and incapability.
Caste-ism is the worst form of Racism. Believe me, even today it is not easy to be a student belonging to a so categorized scheduled caste, scheduled tribe and other backward class background. I still remember the attempts of my School Principal in class ten, to reduce my internal practical marks in the final examination papers lest I may score more than her son who studied in the same class. I am thankful to my class teacher who stopped this crime from being committed, who stood beside me and later communicated us this loathsome act. Unfortunately, there was nothing I could do. It is not easy to prove the injustices you suffer due to your origin, social or family backgrounds esp. when most of such acts are not done openly. In a society where a person’s last name is asked in order to identify his caste, creed and the profession of his forefathers, it is difficult to grow up and rise esp. when you have not much in your hand. For years, great social reformers have been sacrificing their lives to abolish these unfair practices of such caste-linked biases. Even a majority of ‘Dalit’ population is downtrodden, devoid of basic education. Females are harassed, raped and brutally murdered in Indian remote villages for the reason of being born Dalit. A nation will never grow due to a handful prosperous men that make a mark, rather you must grow in harmony – it’s only when your people grow, your country grows. Reservations, although are helpful to provide opportunities that have been deprived off by the society from this population, it is not the only solution to put an end to these practices. If Racism is the thirty thousand feet view of the Indian society, Caste-ism is the ground view. It’s all in our minds.
There was this superb story floating around through e-mails which referred the downtrodden people among the Indian society as 'grasshoppers'. The fortunate and well qualified people referred to as 'the ants' got fed up one day due to the nuisance caused by these grasshoppers. They were worn out due to the internal politics within the country and due to the opportunities they were missing due to the burdens caused to them due to these grasshoppers. The hardworking ants suddenly became self-centered spiders and gradually decided to build their webs in the United States. The story finally ended up with all the ants landing up in the States and there they started to live happily ever after. In India, millions of grasshoppers are still toiling hard for their living. Well, have nothing to blame for the ants here because they are hard working, sincere, desirous of a society with equal rights and opportunities and laws fair enough for the benefit of all. I feel that these ants are myopic and lack the vision to grab a view of a bigger picture. They are myopic to the fact that these so called grasshoppers are real victims to the greed exhibited by them. These ants have been stocking the food of knowledge and power into their homes keeping the rest of the needy ones deprived of it. Now, let’s stop talking in the language of the ants and the grasshoppers - the story never covered the bigger picture of the whole situation. It's all about us, the people. We fail to realize the tougher situations being faced by the less fortunate people. We never exhibit openness of thoughts towards the socially backward people. A majority of the suppressed families don't even know how to avail the benefits of reservation. Today, a highly qualified business graduate thinks of developing his roots abroad, righteously neglecting his moral duties, giving almost nothing back to his country. This negligence is another form of racism and is the real picture of Indian society today.
We being humans, favoritism will never cease to exist in our minds, but it is rather more important to assess ourselves on the terms of the way we think about others. Being fair-looking or being born to prosperous parents does not provide us the ethical right to build a narrow outlook towards others. Just give it a second thought when next time you disparagingly refer an Indian a 'Desi'. This is the time to review ourselves before terming the world a 'Racist'.