We all know that whether we like it or not, India as a country is divided on the lines of colour, religion, caste and gender. With the advent of globalization and the concentration of money in the hands of a few, we are now divided on the lines of wealth as well. But the two things that stand out the most are discrimination by colour and social standing.
Over the years, we’ve come to accept that people with fair skin and loads of money are better than others.
So how did a country where the majority of people are dark skinned come to this conclusion?
I come from a middle class Indian family. And I’ll be honest. Most of us look down upon “poor people.” We look down upon blue collar professionals like taxi drivers and rickshaw pullers.
And if a person is a so called “untouchable,” then he/she is in for a whole other world of prejudice.
How deeply engraved this concept is in our minds was something I figured out when I went to visit my mom’s twin sister and her daughters in America.
My aunt and uncle came to the USA in the late 80’s. My cousins were born and brought up in America. Their skin color is dark brown. And this is probably the only “Indian” thing about them.
Both of them have American boyfriends. My cousins gave me weird looks when I tried to ask them questions like, “Don’t American boys want white girls for themselves?”
Sensing where my questions were headed, one of my cousins cleared my doubts and shut my mouth once and for all by saying,
“Skin color is not an issue here unlike India. Americans think that brown skin is hotter.”
I was a little jolted. Not only was I being racist towards my own people, I was also presuming that Americans were racist as well.
I realized I had a mental block when I went on a camping trip to a music festival in Nelson Ledges, a remote place in the state of Ohio with my sister’s boyfriend, Tim.
This was, simultaneously, one of the most uncomfortable and enlightening situations I’ve faced in my life.
I was probably the only brown guy there. For some reason, I went into a self-conscious shell. I realized that I had an inferiority complex. For no reason at all, I felt that I don’t look as good as the whites do. I became conscious of my accent. Although no one bothered me in any way, I spent the night in my tent, not even coming out to attend the concert itself.
A middle-aged lady from the neighboring tent walked up to me asked me my name, speaking really slowly. I felt offended and I yelled at her, “I know English!”
Later, Tim told me that she had been a bit high and that was why she had addressed me in that peculiar manner. I was embarrassed. I had let my insecurities get the better of me and made me forget my supposed “Indian Values” which say that you should not shout at your elders. It was then that I realized how deeply this racial and cultural self-discrimination was ingrained in me.
I came back to India but that incident stayed with me. As time went by, the more I thought about it, the less I was surprised.We blame foreigners for being racist to Indians living in their country. But are we any better?
We are racist towards people from our own country!
A guy from Mumbai hates a guy from Bihar for no reason.
North Indians discriminate against people from the North East.
When people from South India visit North Indian states, they are teased with words like “Mallu” and “Kaalu.”
And are we any better when it comes to treating foreigners with dignity? We spare no time in swearing at Africans. We call them “Hapshees.”
If we see anyone with slightly oriental features, we call them ‘Chinkee.”
Women tourists in India fear for their safety, life and dignity. Their embassies have started advising them to exercise caution in “Racist and Sexist” India.
I guess it’s safe to conclude that most Indians are racists. We are racist to foreigners. We are racist to each other. And most importantly, we’re racist towards our own selves.
We’re so desperate about changing the world’s perceptions about India. We want to tell the world that we are modern, we are educated and we are rich. That we’re not a land of snake charmers anymore.
But the first thing we should do is look into ourselves and understand that the West’s perceptions will change only when we change our own perceptions about ourselves.
So the next time you see a person of colour or a white skinned foreigner, hold back that jibe. Because you might just be the racist you hate so much.
This article has been edited and reformatted by the Editorial Team at ScoopWhoop.