Lifestyle Viral and Trending 07 Jun 2017 Racism: are Indians ...

Racism: are Indians victims or culprits?

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | SOMUDRA BANERJEE
Published Jun 7, 2017, 12:00 am IST
Updated Jun 7, 2017, 12:00 am IST
No matter how many accomplishments Indians make, people in the West are not yet ready to let go of certain stereotypes.
Priyanka and Deepika.
 Priyanka and Deepika.

The land of snake charmers and elephants, India has been centre of much intrigue for the culture and indeed the stereotypes. However, even in 2017, the West has found it hard to let go of these stereotypes. For example, 12-year-old Ananya Vinay, winner of the National Spelling Bee in the US this week was casually told by a news anchor that she was ‘probably used to Sanskrit,’ as she was made to spell out the Donald Trump typo, ‘cofveve’. Deepika Padukone too had been confused as Priyanka Chopra by the US paparazzi, and that didn’t go down well with either actresses.

However, while many think the incident has been blown out of proportion, there are many others who argue that Indians are quite racist as well. Former BJP Parliamentarian Tarun Vijay drew flak when he tried to defend Indians as non-racists. ‘The most being If we were racist, why would we have all the entire south…Tamil, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra…why do we live with them? We have black people around us,’ he was heard saying in a video.

 

“A person from the West associating and linking Sanskrit with India is only a common thing and I don’t think there is anything wrong about that,” says writer and social commentator Charu Nivedita. “One should not expect everyone to speak and act in a rational or intellectual way all the time. This is blown out of proportion,” he remarks.

“We should learn to loosen up a little,” concurs actor Dalip Tahil. “Especially today, since when we are globally merging in various spheres and coming into the forefront,” he says. Interestingly, he says, most often the actor has faced a unique ‘reverse racism’. “For me it has been reverse racism because of my light skin colour and my English diction. It would often confuse them. I was nothing like what they expected. I would have to go out of my way to convince them that I am Indian,” he adds.

 

Such stereotypes, according to Dalip, are prevalent everywhere and India should lighten up. “We have stereotyped Chinese, African, and so many others including Americans. There is nothing to be ashamed of and we need not over defend ourselves,” he says.

Professor Avatthi Ramaiah from Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) has another interesting perspective to the narrative. He says, “Since this question was asked in the US, it’s actually taken for granted to some extent — but if it had been asked here in India, it would altogether have been a different perspective.” He is pointing at the casteism interlaced in the traditional learning of Sanskrit. “I say this because there is a dominant stereotype — that Indian, who knows Sanskrit, is capable of doing anything. But those who are associated with Sanskrit, by and large, are Brahmins. So this would also mean that Brahmins are capable of doing anything and not others — this is where the controversy starts. And most of the NRIs in the US, probably prior to this decade, were either Brahmins or the upper castes — so the West are more familiar with Sanskrit.”

 

While the professor’s theory certainly adds the subaltern layer to the argument, social commentator Pritish Nandy admits that he himself never encountered racism aboard, he has witnessed some in his own country. “Much of it (racism) I have witnessed in India, for example, against dark skinned people, especially Africans.” He says the entire issue is a reflection of the world we are living in.

“Today the whole world has become aggressive. And to understand that you have to look at the stand-up comics — most often the jokes are mean and impolite. Today, politeness is almost an anachronism. So, if there are these racial comments, this is how we live and function, and not just in a specific country but everywhere,” he says.

 

While Dalip counsels his countrymen to “loosen up” he also points out at the “interesting phase” that India is going through. “Today, the hypernationalism that our country is going through is an interesting phase because in a country as young as ours, it is a process to come to terms with who we are and who should we be,” he concludes.

(Inputs from Balajee CR)

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