On the Andrew Symonds affair, Vir Sanghvi writes in Mint:
“Are Indians racist? You bet we are.
“We are, first of all, an extraordinarily colour conscious people. In traditional families, the best bride is a fair girl and a dark child is an object of shame or pity. Often we are more colour conscious than we need to be: Both Amitabh Bachchan and Shatrughan Sinha were turned down by producers in the 1970s on the grounds that they were not fair enough…
“But while we may have changed our attitudes to colour, we are still stubbornly racist. Like Brits and Americans, we are willing to treat black people differently if they are famous sports stars or movie idols. But we are less willing to mix with black people of no great distinction.
“Speak to any African student in New Delhi and you will hear stories of the most appalling discrimination. They find it hard to rent houses—places that were on the market suddenly turn out to be full when landlords discover that the potential tenants are black. Rarely are they invited to people’s homes and some even find that taxi-drivers and scooterwallahs are unwilling to accept their custom.”
Read the full article here: Are we racist? You know the answer already
Also read: India’s most racist advertisement, or its most futuristic?
I think the more appropriate word would be “colour conscious”. ‘Race’ as a term doesn’t make any sense because there is no Indian race, and the very concept of bundling Kashmiris and Malyalis into one race is quite laughable. Rather, we discriminate on the basis of skin colour and physical characteristics (which is not all what racism is about by the way). This is more societal prejudice than institutional discrimination which was also a hallmark of racism.
i prefer eating the well fried darker gulab jamuns than lightly friend (maybe undercooked) ones. does that make me racist? does preferring fairer kids make anyone racist? maybe stupid, but racist? oh puhleees!
old indian (racist?) joke:
tamilian (to sardar): “tamil terimaa?”
sardar (in response): “punjabi teraa baap!”
a similar misunderstanding undoubtedly developed at sydney.
Sanghvi hasn’t called any Africans for his chat shows so far. That doesn’t make him a racist!Likes and dislikes are part and parcel of life, but it should not be blown out of proportion to see if it fits into present discussion.
well said “some body”.
I have seen too many of these arm chair idiots calling anything and everything as racists, seems like “racists” and “racism” has become the new cool in town. On similar note, I like vanilla icecreams more than chocolate ice cream. Does that mean, I am racist too?
Instead of trying to understand the biases that are predominant in our scoeity, calling everything as racist doest sound ok. Africa is traditionally been associated with poverty and malnutrition. If owners refuse to rent, it could be their sub-conscious mind acting as well. The author shows no decency in asking the landlords why they refuse to rent to Africans but instead makes the claim that it is because of racism.
Wonder who the racist here is.
Vir Sanghvi has pointed to a very pertinent problem and we should recognise it instead of dismissing it offhand that it is simply a problem of likes and dislikes.
This is more societal prejudice than institutional discrimination which was also a hallmark of racism.
How much time does it take for societal prejudice to become “institutional discrimination”? Just suppose in a company interview, there are two candidates – An African-American and a Caucasian, and the Caucasian gets the job simply because of “Societal Prejudice”. Remember, the landlord who refuses accomodation to a black person may be the same person who is recruiting for an Indian MNC. How long before our globe conquering Tatas, or Wipros get slapped with a “racist” recruitment policy??
I agree that Indians are a single race, and the discrimination that happens here is not “racist” as was practiced in Europe or SA, but till the time we find an appropriate English word for “color-discrimination-without-being-racist” symptom, we have to accept this as “racist” behavior.
We can’t mistake symptom for the disease itself.
Discrimination against black Africans is part of the same mindset that believes that we should lighten ourselves to become fairer and therefore more beautiful. That does not mean we change our race.
Race is linked to birth and not looks. E.g In certain states in Southern USA, a person was “black” if one of his grandmothers was black, even if he was actually had Caucasian features. Likewise, in Hitler’s Germany, having one eight Jewish blood made you Jewish even if your features were “Aryan”. Both of these were mandated by law.
At the individual level, we have hundreds of prejudices all ending with enough “ist”s to make one’s head spin. Many middle class Indians will spew hatred about Muslims but cheer wildly at every Shah Rukh Khan movie, or Irfan Pathan wicket or Sania Mirza victory, or Abdul kalam speech.
A black American in post-bellum Southern USA or a Jew in Hitler’s Germany could not even hope to achieve such kind of success. (For instance read Mohammed Ali’s account on the racism he faced in his own hometown AFTER he won the Olympic Gold). True also of Apartheid South Africa or many parts of British India.
Racism, like caste, has a definite history, and we cannot condense all forms of discrimination into racism simply because it is just based on skin colour.
As you might have seen, there are plenty of african students in Mysoru. Just go and talk to them. You will understand their plight.
I do agree that calling everyone a racist is naansense but we too have to recognise and tackle this fair=lovely syndrome.
But there is something called as globalization of white supremacy that you seem to have forgotten about, and which is taking roots relentlessly in India. And also remember that racism in the colonies came about as a product of the colonial encounter. It definitely got aggravated and complicated after independence.
Not renting one’s house to someone just because of his skin definitely is racism. I don’t see any confusion there. I only see globalization of whiteness, and its internalization by Indians.
When the Independence movement was an agitation against racism and descent based discrimination, I fail to see how it got magnified AFTER Independence.
The point is that racism is NOT just about skin colour. Race is in fact about descent, like in some ways, caste. Simply because landlords refuse to rent out houses to lawyers does not make them casteist.
I am not disputing that there is discrimination against black African students, but that is only a symptom. Landlords are also very chary about giving houses to lawyers, Muslims, single men, male students, among others for different reasons. It cannot be a sole indicator of the range of “isms” with which we want to classify in Indian society.
aruna_urs says: You will understand their plight.
Madam, I am not saying I am ignorant of their plight. All I am saying is what proof do we have that African students are being rejected for the sake of their colour. Infact, none. Just our perceived prejudices including the one of Africans being always shown with a fly buzzing around their mouths (pardon me please). As anyone asked any question to the landlords on why they are doing this? I dont know. The article doesnt mention that, but the article goes straight off and says, because the Africans are dark, hence they are refused a house.
Now, all I am saying is, does the absence of proof makes it anymore valid?
Good post. Atleast for once, I agree with your post.
I am glad you agree that discrimination exists, whatever the name we will it as – “racism” or “discrimination-against-dark-skin”.
The point is that unless we recognise and tackle this, it may not be just limited to landlords. As I gave an example above, what is to prevent the landlord from recruiting the same African (or African-American) into his firm simply because he doesn’t like his skin color?
Don’t just think this is a hypothetical situation – There are many IT companies which recruit foreigners as will Tatas or others when they acquire more foreign companies and become MNCs.
Why is everyone so focused on discrimination simply because the students are African? Stripping all pretentions, we know most Indians consider African people of the negroid race as less because of their skin color and their physical features. If the same African person was caucasian from countries such as South Africa, Zimbabwe or from other parts of Africa where they may be fairer skinned (Tunisia, Libya etc) the author wouldn’t have arrived at his conclusions about discrimination towards African students with such a broad stroke.
The fact is we discriminate against our own people who are dark skinned. It’s got less to do with race itself but with what we perceive of them physically although the race factor contributes an extra level of discrimination. In other words, we might be willing to say our dark skinned Indians are Indian after all and therefore treat them better. We are a society that is hell bent on looks (although I’d have to argue humans as a whole are) but there must be laws on the books to prevent systematic discrimination simply because one doesn’t fit the bill of what is acceptable lookswise.
And trust me, I grew up in Africa so I know how we Indians treat and think of African people. Whether we live there or they come to India it wouldn’t make a difference to our perceptions of them! In a world where the people in India struggle to survive on a day to day basis, there is little incentive to make political correctness part of their daily routine. Living in the US I know the far reaching positive impact political correctness has had on the lives of African Americans. You may not like African Americans or think highly of them but you better not let your biased thoughts wreak of discrimination lest you face being branded labeled a “racist” that can bring even a high flying career to a screeching halt!
This comment is pretty interesting:
When the Independence movement was an agitation against racism and descent based discrimination, I fail to see how it got magnified AFTER Independence.
The Independence movement was not an agitation against racism, though we could read it that way. It was an agitation for transfer of power from British to Indians. Though we opposed whiteness politically (as it served us), we embraced it culturally. We don’t have to look hard for proof. I am sure you have seen how Indians swoon over whites. Flash some white skin and presto, Indians go out of their way to help “foreigners.”
I am sure you have watched Rang De Basanti. Imagine now replacing the white actress with a black one. Will any Bollywood producer/director think about it? I am sure they know what’s at stake. Which goes on to prove how invested we are in whiteness. White is normalized and accepted; blackess is not.
On the other argument that landlords cannot be termed racist just because they don’t rent houses to Africans, its the same argument you hear in the U.S. over and over again: “We don’t stay with Blacks but that is not because of race. There are so many other things to it.” You have heard one, you have heard them all. Anyways, how amazing that Indians have taken on the white man’s burden (and his prejudices).
And as an aside let me point out that we continue to call Johny, the yesteryear actor of Kannada cinema, “Negro” Johny when much of the world has woken up to the history and horror associated with that word.
Gatekeeper, well written. Prejudice by way of caste and later religion seems to be deeply ingrained in us.
Check out this interesting experiment where children were asked to choose dolls – black and white. The results are very interesting – and so too is the conclusion by the psychologist who conducted the experiment:
‘Clark concluded that “prejudice, discrimination and segregation” caused black children to develop a sense of inferiority and self-hatred. ‘
Gatekeeper – BTW just saying negro johny makes me want to laugh. Cant change these deep rooted things I guess…
We can change things. But that demands a complete reorientation and unlearning of all our acculturization. Overproblematizing things (such as claiming that landlords cannot be called racist just because they do not rent houses to Africans) does not help either. We need to recognize things for what they are. If someone is getting a raw deal because of his(her) skin color, what is the problem in accepting that it is racism? That, probably, is the first step toward changing things.
Our bewigged leader, S. M. Krishna, once said that he was discriminated against on a train ride when he was a student in the U. S. I think his claim was that he was not allowed to eat in the dining car with them whities.
Does anybody remember how the Indian media crowed about Sanjay Gandhi’s wedding? They said two branches of fair skinned Aryans had come together in our Bharathavarsha.
S. L. Bhyrappa has provided many good insights into the issue of race in “Tabbaliyu Neenaade Magane” just as he has illuminated the issue of jaathi in “Daatu.” He is not a padmashri, is he?
Teach North Indians not to call us humble citizens in the south “Darkies,” “Southies,” or “Madrasis.”
Also please convince them that not to speak Hindi is not the same thing as being not-Indian.
I think depending on the setting and circumstances, many many Indians can be proved guilty of racism, apartheid and casteism. Landlords rejecting foreigners as tenants, hotels and pubs having different yardsticks for foreigners, the search for a fair bride (just glance at the matrimonials), and of course the umpteen number of caste atrocities — all point to this. I have not lived in an american/ european or african society, but I suspect one would come across an equal number of discriminatory language and practices everywhere. None of this is right…and I can’t think of any other solution but “reservations” to stop this. But everyone has strong reservations about that as well. It is a BIG, BAD, UNFAIR (pun intended) WORLD.
@ HB , reading ur blog name , I was expecting something more positive than a ‘…It is a BIG, BAD, UNFAIR (pun intended) WORLD.’
A house owner has every right to refuse to rent his house to people he does not want to rent it to…and he is fully entitled not to reveal the reason for it. Why is this Sanghvi guy making a big issue of it.
Most of the minority education institutions do not employ any majority community teachers, inspite of getting grants/aid from the government to run the institution. Can this be termed racial discrimination…believers v/s non-believers thing.
Moreover, what is with the bollywood crowd employing eastern european chicks to dance behind the hero as extras. Once in a way you also see african extras gyrating behind the heoroes.
I would like to know what Vir Sanghvi’s thoughts on this are?
Is this not the same guy who wrote that the victims of Godhra carnage deserved what they got, because they were returning from a piligrimage to Ayodhya.
What is this idiot ranting about?
Sometimes accepting the truth is illuminating, anon.
guys – preferring to be of particular is not racist… it is trying to fit into a group, which is defined by the colour of the skin of people belonging to that group. While Indian may be spending money on making their skin fairer, europeans and north-americans spend money to get their skin tanned. We have to look why one group wants to look tanned and the tanned group (indians) want to be fairer. For whites, appearing tanned means they indicate to other they have a healthy life style (outdoor), they travel and do outdoor sports… Tanning is associated with having money to travel to nice beaches and affording a holiday. In India, rich class and desk-job class always had fair skin (i am talking about 50 years back) and farmers and people that worked outdoor were associated with tanned skin. Even now people that live in a/c apartments and have a/c cars have fairer skin than people that do not have… People trying to be fairer are wanting to associate themselves with rich and white-collar families… This does not mean race. We have the right to look how we want to look, problem starts only when we deny rights to people based on colour.