Well, there is definitely a partiality in outlook. Fairer is considered better and superior.
Is it the influence of two centuries of Cololianism?
Let’s face it, we are pretty racist
As Indians, we take offence to even a sliver of racial slight. But let’s face up to some bitter truths.
We are pretty racist ourselves. Reports that two dark-skinned cheerleaders of the IPL’s Mohali team were allegedly asked to leave has brought this unfortunate fact back into focus. To be fair, the details of the matter are still unclear.
The women in question say officials of Wizcraft International Entertainment, the event management company hired by the franchisee, told them that their colour would not go down well with the crowds. Wizcraft denies this charge. Be that as it may, what we cannot deny is that as a people we carry a bagful of prejudices — racial, ethnic and sexist.
Take this quick test: When was the last time you cracked a Sardarji joke? Or, used the terms Bhaiyya, Maru or Madrasi? Chances are, it was not long ago. Who does not enjoy a good laugh at the expense of another’s — or for that matter one’s own — community? Stereotypes abound in our social milieu. Marwaris are miserly, Punjabis are pushy, Bengalis are lotuseaters and south Indians are dark and short.
Unthinkingly, we tend to paint all people of shared ethnicity with the same brush.
What’s wrong with that, you may ask. Is it not more or less true that people who fit in any of the many ethnic labels we have in India all share peculiar attributes? The problem is that these seemingly harmless generalisations are often prejudiced.
And, when articulated in the public sphere, can play themselves out in not-so-harmless ways. The propagation of pejorative stereotypes is often at the root of discrimination of one sort or another. And from words and attitudes trickle out the bile of racism.
At worst, they can nurture animosities, providing selfserving elements like Raj Thackeray fertile ground to undermine the republican principles on which our democracy thrives. It unfolds in other insidious ways as well. For instance, the stereotyping of people from the north-east as not being particularly bright could impede their chances of finding employment.
In the advanced world, racism has not disappeared. But articulation of racial slurs in public is strictly clamped down upon. There are institutional safeguards to ensure this.
And it’s unacceptable to crack ethnic jokes in public. India is a unique experiment in which people of various ethnicities and races have been brought together to think of themselves as one.
If we want to keep the experiment going, we must make racist behaviour unacceptable, through public education as well as legislation.