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Racist India

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Recent news is full of a New Zealander TV show host making fun of the surname of Delhi CM ‘Sheila Dixit’ pronunciating it as ‘Dick Shit’ (Link). Earlier, the same host was making fun of their Governor General of Indian origin, following which he was summarily suspended for a fortnight. (Link).

Now, it is not for the first or second or even third time that such a thing has happened. We have had incidents in which TIME, an erstwhile leading magazine, published an article by Joel Stein here leading to the entire furor; ultimately leading to TIME publishing an apology. We have had an Indian actress win a Big Brother season sailing on the popularity generated by such racial comments when she was called racist names by Jade Goody (Link).

But this post is not supposed to be an outrage against such incidents. I do not intend this post as a rant against how the world is not giving India the respect that is due to it. This post is intended to question us alleging anyone else is being racially prejudiced when we Indians are the biggest racists ever.

A conventional racial system of Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Shudras has been prevalent in Indian society for quite some time now. This distinction was based on the kind of work that people were doing and often ended up creating a divide between the different factions of the society.

 

 

Modern India follows a more culturally-based racism between ‘The North India’ and ‘The South India’; between ‘The Punjabis’ and ‘The Gujjus’; between ‘The Bengalis’ and ‘The Mallus’. Usage of Chinki in common parlance is very frequent. An average Indian will still stop and gawk at any ‘firang’ male or female they come across, even while buying sweets at a shop. Any Caucasian would be addressed as being ‘amerikan’ while any dark-skinned, non-Asian person would be deemed as ‘negro’ or ‘afrikan’. And anyone showing traits of being in foren is promptly robbed blind, not by thieves, but by people who are no better; the kulis at the station, auto wallahs etc.

And then there are distinctions on the basis of religion. Not getting into specifics, it is not entirely uncommon for people to be denied flats to rent sorely because they do not (or for that matter do) belong to a specific religion. (Link)

Some time back, I received a mail forward as to how an average Delhite looks at the rest of the country and the neighborhood. I am sure an avid observer of human traits would be able to construct a similar map from the viewpoint of all parts of the country.

After all this, I ask, are we really qualified to call someone else a racist?

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About aashusood

  • http://heloise8.wordpress.com/ Heloise

    Hey, spent a lot of time in India, sounds about right to me. Since I am brown I was mistaken for Indian more than once and treated well.

    But the racism is palpable in India, but it was the best damn vacation ever. I must say. Love India, welcome to America old boy.

  • http://heloise8.wordpress.com/ Heloise

    oh by palpable racism I meant between the white Americans I met and myself. I was totally invisible to them! Thank God for the French and Spanish they took me in.

  • STM

    Wonderful to see some sense in this debate, aashusood, instead of blanket statements made for what seems like no other reason than to embarrass others.

    Nicely written too, and love the map. Nice result in the second Test, too, but only for you :)

    I wondered about “once a competitive cricket playing nation” … was that meant to point to Pakistan, England, or was it about India?

    Because if it’s the latter, there’s no “once” about it.

    Cheers

  • STM

    Aash:

    Also, I think Joel Stein’s piece was possibly lost in translation if it caused such a drama. Taken very literally I guess you might take offence, but I can tell that wasn’t his intention.

    What he was alluding to was the fear of immigrants that goes right back in America. In his parents’ and grandparents’ generations, it was Irish and Italians, but Joel thought all that was normal (as indeed it is).

    For him, it was a shock to see so many Indian immigrants in his little town … but as he points out, you look at the yearbook of the second generation and it’s all-American again, with kids of Indian background assimilating just perfectly into American society.

    The humour is very subtle, but it’s also self-deprecating … he’s kind of asking us to look at his own irrational fears and why on earth he has them … knowing that they ARE irrational, which is the important bit.

    I’m not surprised there was a furore, but it’s not all how I read it. I see it more as: One more welcome to America’s rich cultural mix.

  • Ruvy

    Having been invited to visit India more than once, I suppose this article is of some help. Looking like the Russian that I do, the locals would call this Firang, “American”. The really problematic part of all this for them is that I’d be hanging out mostly with Muslims (Pathans) in India, rather than Hindus.

    But it could be worse. I’m not a woman, and do not have to witness what goes on in the high class ladies’ bathrooms at the high class malls there….

  • http://financialpolitics.com/ Sekhar

    There are many disparities in India. I think racism is different from religious, cast, gender and other disparities as they are different from one another among themselves. As Indians we have to question our disparities and try for solutions. Also we have to question other racial discrimination from the people of other countries. The discriminations within India can not sanctify the discriminatory outlook of some people of another country over India.

    Because Indians have disparities among themselves, can not prevent some of them to question discrimination from other sections of the other countries.

    We have to discuss religious intolerance and caste oppressive system on international platforms whenever such occasion occurs, instead of feeling ashamed of it. Such discussions may force perpetuators of such discriminatory systems to back down at least to some extent.

    But, we have to try for solution continuously with our practice and discussions.

  • http://financialpolitics.com/ Sekhar

    But, your map is thought provoking. Have you drawn it yourself?

  • http://aashishsood.blogspot.com/ Aashish Sood

    I am glad that the article has not, as yet, invited any unwanted comments.

    @Heloise: I am not in States but very much in India and loving it.

    @STM: I am glad that you liked the article. Firstly, The comments is aimed at Pakistan. Secondly, I have been through Joel Stein’s article and while it seems that he is writing about his fear of immigrants and more so for Indian immigrants; but going through it couple of times, you can discern a subtle, intended derision of Indians and Indian culture, with not so subtly placed “dot heads” and “elephant gods”. Thirdly, as I said earlier, I am very much in India, in fact in Delhi and loved the CWG event… Cheers!

    @Shekhar: Much as I would have loved to take a credit for the map, I am not the owner of the map and have just used it for illustration purposes. I think the name of the author is written on the map itself!

    @Ruvy: I hope that being from Russia, and assuming you are fair as most Russians are, you would have been clubbed easily with Amrikans. Being with Hundus or Muslims or Pathans hardly matters because at the end of it all, whatever religion they may have, they are all Indians!!! Cheers!

    PS: In case anyone of you wants to explore more of my posts, you can visit my blog at Wandering Thoughts and/or my Facebook page at Wandering Thoughts FB Page

  • STM

    The Commonwealth Games were a revelation … one of my friends was heading up media coverage for an Australian company and he had lots of good things to say, especially about the Indian people. I watched the Indian women’s 4 x 400m team win the gold medal. Pretty amazing.

    Aash, the thing about dot heads and elephant gods is part of the humour. Yes, he’s deriding it, but he’s deriding it in the same way that other Americans of other generations derided the Irish, the Italians, the Poles. That’s why he’s pointing to the year book and the all-American “Indian” kids of the second generation. Notice he also mentions the term “Guido”, for Italian immigrants, and no one uses that anymore.

    They’re just Americans now. Get my drift?

    I can see how it might get lost in translation, but I can see exactly why he’s writing what appears to be subtle derision.

    It’s a literary device more than a shot at Indians.

    He’s also quite deliberately made a point of the fact that his friend the mayor is Asian. I think all this is why the editors of Time allowed the piece to run.

    Also coming from a multicultural society, where one in four Aussies is from somewhere else and two out of the other three are probably kids of people from somewhere else, I do get where he’s at. Part of it is him understanding that his “white-bread” fears are unfounded, and have already been shown to be unfounded.

    Perhaps it needed a rider on it explaining it, although there is the view that if you have to explain humour, it’s no longer humour.

  • http://aashishsood.blogspot.com/ Aashish Sood

    @STM: True that his intent might have been something else entirely different from what they went on to be. If you ask me, I have my reservations.
    Again true about the humour, if you have to explain it, then its lost its value and believe me, I have experienced that as well.
    Finally, I do believe that there are some things which are better left untouched because of their sentimental values. Gods etc, when addressed by a non-Indian is never tolerable, definitely not on international level and most certainly not in a magazine of TIME stature… In fact such humour is not even tolerable from Indians
    Cheers!!!

  • http://financialpolitics.com/ Sekhar

    Aashish, I’m with you, when you say there are some things like gods, which are better untouched. It is a matter of culture. If one is interested in humor from forms of others gods, he can go on extract humor from every religious culture.

    As a matter of fact, I do not believe in any religion or god. But I incline to give gifts of religious significance to my friends and relatives. It amounts to respecting their sentiments. Your taking of the issue is commendable.

  • http://aashishsood.blogspot.com/ Aashish Sood

    @Shekhar: I am glad that you liked the post :D
    In fact I am myself not overtly religious… but I do realize that a lot of people have a lot of religious sentiments associated with Religion and I always respect them, whatever and however they may be.

  • KK

    You are a clueless gasbag.

    1. Caste is not the same as race and the caste system has nothing to do with racism. Ditto for religion.

    2. Chinki is not used as an offensive term. My Chinese friends never took offence to it.

    3. Assuming that all white visitors are Americans is not racist, either.

    I could say more but why bother. You are just spewing over-generalized nonsense to feed the stereortypes Westerners have of India.

  • http://aashishsood.blogspot.com/ Aashish Sood

    Dear KK
    Thanks for your views…

    1) I am aware that Caste, Race and Religion are not the same thing. But what are they if not the tools for one person to distinguish themselves above the others?
    2) Your friend(s) never took an offence to it doesnt mean that it is not offensive. I know a lot of people who do and lets face it; would YOU not feel offensive if you were called a dothead?
    3) Assuming that they are americans is not racism, but gawking at them and over charging them because of their skin tone definitely is…

    And can you deny the map? Is that not a stereotype racism?

    Regards

  • Flavian Hardcastle

    I don’t know anything about people being denied flats because of their religion.

    I do know about 50,000 Indian Christians being made homeless during pogroms in Orissa recently.

    There’s also a lot of caste related discrimination in India, which Human Rights Watch recently called it a “hidden apartheid”. There are two Dalits killed every day, three Dalit women raped and two Dalit houses torched every day.

    Now some might call me a “clueless gasbag” because these aren’t, technically, examples of racism, per se. But morally, wants the difference? Either way, India clearly has its own problems with violent bigotry on a massive scale. Wagging your finger at other people won’t solve them.

  • Flavian Hardcastle

    If you want examples of racism in India, though, you should read the accounts of African American accademic Diepiriye Kuku, about how racist and rude Indians in New Delhi. How they don’t just stare at him, but stop and point.

    He also has scores of videos talking about his experiences with racism in India. He says he’s received death threats from Indians for that.

  • http://aashishsood.blogspot.com/ Aashish Sood

    Dear Flavian: Dont mind but isnt what you are doing also counts as ‘Pointing fingers’?
    This post is written from an Indian’s perspective and predominantly aimed at fellow Indians. This should not be a place for you to point fingers at us.

    Talking about instances, lets talk about Asians being stopped at US airports just because of their darker skin tones… How about Indian students being abused in Australia… Talking about dalits, why dont we talk about poor Dalits being paid by the well funded christian missionaries paying dalits to convert and providing them with false hopes on better future…

    This post is NOT supposed to be a rant, I said so in the very beginning. I can do a rant how Indians are not treated fairly but would prefer not to turn this post into a rant.

    This post was started more with the purpose of a self realization post where people would post their experiences of how they faced such problems in THEIR OWN COUNTRIES.

    I hope that I have been able to make my point here!!!

  • STM

    I think Aaash is right. He is pointing the finger at his own countrymen, urging them not to make half-baked accusations about others when India has more than enough problems of its own.

    Not sure he deserves to be shouted down, have things we all know pointed out again and called names for bringing a touch of sanity to a debate that initially seemed to be in response to completely hysterical accusations of racism fed to Indians by the Indian media and levelled at Australians.

    I find those accusations, which are based only on a grain of truth revolving around a tiny minority, grossly offensive given the problems India has, but Aaash has made a decent attempt here to point out the flaws in the erroneous arguments of other commentators and should be applauded for pointing out some home truths rather than be abused.

  • logicclass

    One who says that because we are racist we should allow racism on us should take a class in elementary logic ASAP. It is NOT ok to show racism against a racist. Indians on average, may be the most racist people on earth but still it is NOT ok to call every Indian on earth a racist. Does anybody think it is OK to steal from the house of a thief, just because he also steals from others. Tit for tat??!! No sense of honour??

  • http://aashishsood.blogspot.com/ Aashish Sood

    @STM: Thank you! And this article was not intended only for Indians. I am sure a Chinese resident can find similar cases in their culture as well and so can a British and an American! I am not even going to comment on the Indo-Australian problem because a) That is not the point of this post and b) I do not know enough about them, first hand.

    @Logicclass: I am not saying that we tolerate racism aimed at us. What I am saying is that a) We SHOULD NOT point fingers at other and b) SHOULD try to NOT practice racism with others.
    I guess you took the article other way round. Request you to kindly read the article once again from the top!

  • Sunil

    Hypocrites. We Indians are hypocrites. That map is just prefect.
    I found that Joel Stein article a little offensive, but its hard to miss the fact that this is probably what the Americans feel and joke about in secret, just like we think and joke and feel that the Americans are dumb, or the British are uptight and snobbish.
    Every man to his own, right? But we Indians will never, ever get that.

  • Sunil

    Plus, some mindless commentators here have shown that no one(not Indian or “phoren”) can talk about India without being shot down. We can also not take criticism, or ignore it.
    Anything, anything at all said against what any person X believes in, will invoke a raging reaction from X. X(who is, maybe 6/10 Indians), is yet to evolve intellectually enough to just brush perceived criticism aside or atleast do something about it.
    God knows who is going to shoot me down now.

  • http://aashishsood.blogspot.com/ Aashish Sood

    @Sunil: I, for one, will not shoot you down as I can see that you are talking sense. We, Indians, do not take criticism in the right spirit. That does not mean that we should let anybody and everybody criticize and not answer back. What it means is take criticism, accept the positives, learn from negatives and ignore the rude comments.

    We all have our own perception and biases, and BTW bang on for Americans and Brits :D

  • Gianna Griffith

    In India, I found a race of mortals living upon the Earth, but not adhering to it, inhabiting cities, but not being fixed to them, possessing everything, but possessed by nothing

  • http://aashishsood.blogspot.com/ Aashish Sood

    @Gianna: That kind of got a little bit philosophical… but I am glad that you think so highly of us! :D

  • http://sunnywalia.wordpress.com Sunny Walia

    A very relevant article. I would add another point to the mentioned ones. We all know how big the market of ‘Fairness Creams’ in India is. The idea of ‘fairness is superior’ is planted deep into the mentality of us Indians. Just check any matrimonial column and you will find the ‘USPs’ of a girl ‘Very fair, slim’ coming before ‘educated, homely’. Is this not racism?? It is the strongest form, and it is deadlier when it is among our own countrymen.

  • ARJEN the fokin truth

    WHAT A JOKE!!

    [Personal attack deleted by Comments Editor]

    HAVE YOU heard of eugenics?..have you heard of how white christians imposed eugenics on to the rest of the world??

    have you heard of racism in the bible that DDICATED to whites that they where superior??

    have you heard of the salve trade?

    have you heard of christian genocide of jews, of africans, of indians,. of chienese

    [Personal attack deleted by Comments Editor]

    YOU NEED A REALITY CHECK!!!!!!

    christian occupation of india saw a fall of 80% in wealth in less than 200years a destrcution of indian industtries that comepted with europe, a famines caused by christian policies based on race,

    [Personal attack deleted by Comments Editor]

  • ARJEN the fokin truth

    if you want a debate on this

    I WELCOME IT!!!

    you macaulite child!