Sunday, May 29, 2016

We have a problem

A lot of news has been devoted of late to the treatment of African students in India - primarily in and around Delhi - particularly after the brutal mob-backed murder of a student from Congo that led to a major diplomatic standoff. India's ties with Africa go back far, from the days when Gandhi led movements in South Africa and developed his theory of satyagraha, to the post-colonial age when India backed Independence movements on the continents in the age of decolonization, and then supported their development through training young people in the skills needed for a modern nation. Indeed, the latter continues today, with India supporting the human resources of many countries on the continent.

However, that is largely the Indian government. Indians, the people, have a problem. It's racism, which is rampant in India and, when mixed with inherent caste prejudices, makes for a deadly cocktail. You don't really realize it in the country - fairness creams are all over the place, while it is very common to expect so-called lower castes to clean up after you. Both of these are ingrained at a very young age. Clearly caste-ridden slurs are told without a care: it is just normal. The idea that dark-skinned people are inferior, like monkeys, becomes ingrained without ever meaning to. It takes a few years of living outside to realize all that. Of course, not all of the country is bad, and the Delhi-Punjab-Haryana belt probably represents the worst, but it is a problem nonetheless.

It is not just Africans who face trouble. White people get mobbed, though for opposite reasons, while those from the Northeast are regularly ill-treated especially in the North. Clearly, we have a problem, and while perpetual self-deprecation does no good, it is time to change. We must change. Not because the West tells us to, but because it is necessary to learn to treat other human beings with respect if we expect them to treat us with respect. Today it is Africans, yesterday it was Dalits. How long will the prejudice go on?

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