Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Heck, who are we really….

Everybody who is a nobody is tracing back his or her genealogy nowadays. It has thrown up many interesting facts, there is a large group of Europeans(and the English who are standing tethered at the periphery) related to Genghis Khan, and an American black civil leader is the great-great grand son of a famous separatist and a slave. It seems many a white “massa” had children with their black slaves…while screaming for separation between the colors. Dark dots on a pristine white bed sheet…

Stretch the idea of searching for our roots a little further – we are all the sons and daughters of that African mother and father, or go back a few millions of years– we are children of apes, measurably more decent than us. Or we could be the children of Adam and Eve, but that is immaterial.

There is one fact that we seem to forget, the search for genealogy is to prove “my blood is better than yours”. You see, racism is still alive and kicking. In India it gets more confused between the several bills that grant reservation in education and jobs to the apparently “lower castes”, while the actual poor untouchables in the villages never seems to be getting the benefits of it. The upper caste, on the other hand, can never quite leave their lineage behind, even when they convert to another religion. Ask an Indian Christian or Muslim in Kerala or Bengal his or her name, and if they are from the upper creeds, you’d know the sub caste that they belong to, to the last disgusting detail. The purity of the caste would even make any Nazi proud. You can almost see the Fuhrer nod in agreement and delight.

India is one of the most racist countries in the world and it is based on factors as marginalized as caste and creed. Your surname matters here, because you slotted immediately in your groove…people can narrow you down to your sub-sub-caste, once removed.

Women are in any case lesser in status here. In between the whitening cream, matrimonial columns that insist on “fair beauties” and the bevy of rather unrealistic European looking actresses, jostling for space with their dark colleagues, color brews a nasty concoction of inferiorities and dowry. Of course, many a woman rise above it all, and do darned well for themselves, on their own terms... And have a lot of fun in the bargain.

In the west, in spite of its apparent liberalism, the divisions, between the “natives” who feel disadvantaged, Asians and Muslims get deeper. This now goes beyond the surface of mere color; in fact it boils down to pure economics. England is poised to throw out the Indian doctors, even at the cost of ruining their own health care system. Of course the scars between “us and them” deepen further, if even the whiff of a bomb scare surfaces, so fragile is the system. And Germans keep chucking out the poor Turkish, whose country has now been reluctantly admitted into the European Union. Though they will ever be accepted in the cultural one. The French throw out the Algerians they once conquered, who riot when they can’t take it anymore. In America, the land of braves, the elegant native Indian has been ghettoized in a country that was once theirs. The African American fights it out in harder in poorer neighborhoods.

If you want to know more about racism feels, ask the poor small sized Indian boy, in a school in the western world, whacked on his head by the bigger compatriots and can do precious little about it. Or an untouchable in a village, who is raped and burnt because of her caste. Paradoxically also ask the young students who feels disadvantaged because of the caste reservation, and the affirmative action bill when suddenly many avenues of education or jobs seem closed. Some are enraged enough to set himself on fire before the Parliament building.

Or ask the man with a Muslim surname how it feels to be stopped in European and American airports and treated like a potential terrorist. This even if he is one of the most prestigious names in the country he comes from. Or the African American Executive, suspected for shop-lifting in a posh store, when all he wants to do is check out ties.

But then I guess racism and hate of the fellow human being, is what the social fabric is made of. Anyone who is not exactly like us….is surely against us….and that’s how the racism cookie crumbles. And it is not going to go away…rearing its ugly head every single day….

And no, Shilpa Shetty, the beautiful Indian film star, is not the symbol of Asian hope in the racist world…she had to make a buck, and she made it well. I actually sometimes wonder how she treats the maid who works for her.


Arun said...

People who labor to trace their roots do so because of a deep-seated inferiority complex. Like - "I'm a nobody and I KNOW I'm a nobody, no matter what my bank book says. But gather round and be astounded, folks - my great-granduncle was the inventor of reusale toilet paper! That means that I'm at least a Somebody by default!!"

Subir said...

Its not always like Arun says. There has always been an urge in humans to track their origins. Most people who trace ancestry through DNA and other means, do not advertise the fact.

I agree with the fact that the Indian subcontinent is a very racial place.

Uma said...

I agree Indians are as racist as anyone can be anywhere in the world. We do it to ourselves when we treat our own less than humans.

However we do have to be careful about seeing all injustices through the lens of racism. Unless issues are identified accurately effective solutions will not appear.