race, racism, racial prejudice

some of us are racists, all of us are racially prejudiced

it’s the simple truth brought home to me starkly by my marriage to a white Britisher. I thought that Indians with their multi-ethnic, multi-racial identities would be immune but nope I’m wrong. Politically correct Britian is as bad. The prejudice exists deep within us, a sign of the brokenness of humanity.

In India everyone expects my wife to be rich, American, and to have no family values. They also assume that she’s completely ignorant of Indian culture, but they know everything of hers. In England I’m always praised for my ‘good English’ and am slightly condescendingly treated.

Don’t get me wrong these people aren’t racists. They are good people trying to make conversation, and in some cases genuinely wishing to make a relationship. But the prejudice exists; fed by sensuous, prejudicial media, stirred up by right wing politicians, reinforced by racist jokes; and more scarily something that exists deep within us: the exclusion of the other.

People laugh this off. But Bosnia, Sri Lanka, London, Los Angeles, and Belfast are all signs of this horror at work. The book ‘Exclusion and Embrace’ by Miroslav Volf is the brilliant treatise on this, so I’m not saying anything new.

But for me the sad thing is when we Indians speak of all whites as colonisers, and whenever a band does Western music or something that is Western, they’re said to be ‘licking white arse.’ I was at an independence day celebration the other day and it was proudly announced that ‘our culture is superior to others’. Constantly the refrain was made to the British pillaging and raping our nation. It just shows the lack of maturity in our perception of our history. What about our own desi rapists and looters? The claim that one culture is superior than others is one that the Nazis used with devastating consequences.

Consistently newspapers report the ignorance, the silliness and the stupidness of ‘foreigners’. And consistently anything English and Western is considered anti-Indian. Our behaviour as a society shows otherwise. Surely India’s greatness doesn’t lie in rubbishing the West. Don’t we have something more intrinsic in our nation to subscribe to?

My thoughts and concerns arise not only from my marriage to a Westerner. My new baby daughter is going to face racial prejudice wherever she is. Probably a bit less in London though. We’ll just have to teach her to be strong and sure in who she is. Because I can’t change prejudice.

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the hopeful cynic

They say that St. Thomas introduced Christianity to Kerala, the small strip of green on India’s western coast. I come from a community which claims to be founded by him and whether it’s true or not I’ve inherited his cynicism! (John 21:24cf)

Now cynicism could be used well. Cynicism ruins superstition, it blunts crappy media hype, and it never puts all eggs in one basket. And yet it can be debilitating when you lie awake all night, sure that your baby is going to wake any minute (while she sleeps peacefully for 5 hours!) or completely burst your friend’s excited bubble when he wishes you happy birthday, by saying ‘didn’t find anything better to do?’

I would like to be a good cynic, hence the hopeful bit in the title. I would like to see through the deception but accept that there is actually something good and rosy out there somewhere. Cynicism is somewhere linked to seeing the truth and hope is… well… something that keeps us human