As Indians, we are no strangers to discrimination. Each and every Indian is either on the receiving end of discrimination or practises it with impunity. With the #BlackLivesMatter protests in the US and across the world, thousands of Indians too jumped on the bandwagon. I would use another word for it, but this is how we’re treating it. A social media trend, something to sound cool about.
Indians used #blackouttuesday to show solidarity with the movement, to feel good about themselves after putting a black screen on their Instagram. Some of us gleefully posted #AllLivesMatter in all caps on stories and posts, because hey, what about us, right? We’re not black, but hum bhi toh hain. These are the same people who also believe feminism should be replaced with “humanism”. Who cares that movements need to be centred around the oppressed to make any difference? The oppressor must never feel left out, right?
Who’s to tell us urban Indians though? All we want to do is look cool and appropriate Black culture when a rapper breaks the charts with their new single. We think nothing of the everyday discrimination we practise without a second thought. It’s great to support movements like these in other countries, but before we do, we need to do some hard introspection. So, stare at your black screen and wait for your likes and followers to go up because of it. While you do, think about this.
Do you keep separate bartans for your domestic help?
If you tell yourself that’s not discrimination but hygiene, stop lying to yourself. What makes you think your domestic help is not as, or more, hygienic than you? What makes you believe that they carry every disease known to humankind and will pass it on to you if they use your precious plates?
Do you think every African in India is a drug dealer?
Have you ever clutched your bag a little tighter if you cross an African person? Have you watched them closely waiting for them to surreptitiously approach someone for drugs? Do you think they’re all criminals just waiting to pounce on innocent Indians? Where is your #BlackLivesMatter post then?
Is beauty = fairness for you?
Fairness creams do well for a reason in this country. We’re obsessed with white skin and think that’s the epitome of beauty. We use makeup that lightens our skin tones, and we look up to celebrities who think nothing of promoting fairness creams. Dusky women are still given home remedies to make them fairer, because varna shaadi kaun karega?
Do you proclaim in parties how Muslims just want to ruin India?
Apart from all the vicious atrocities Muslims face in India, here’s one form of discrimination we’re all guilty of. Most of us think Muslims should go above and beyond to prove their patriotism, right? They should vocally and loudly denounce any criminal activity by a Muslim person, because they need to make their stance clear. We look accusingly at anyone from a religious minority when someone from “their community” is in the news for the wrong reasons. Have you ever demanded the same accountability from people of the majority religion?
Have you never seen examples of caste discrimination?
If you haven’t, you know why that is? It’s because you’ve been born into an upper caste. If a white person says they don’t see race, it’s because they’ve never faced discrimination because of the colour of their skin. Similarly, if an upper caste person in India says they don’t see caste, it’s because they’ve never been made aware of it. They’ve never been denied anything on the basis of their surname or been told to leave places of worship because they’re “impure”.
And you know those slurs you use on the regular? Bhangi, churha, chamaar – they’re all horrific casteist slurs which are synonymous with violent discrimination in India.
Do you turn your vegetarian noses up at meat eaters?
Everyone is entitled to their own food choices – vegetarian or not. But you’re not entitled to judge someone for their choices based on some skewed sense of superiority rooted in caste discrimination. Vegetarian superiority is a direct descendant of Brahmin superiority over other, “lower” castes. So when you want to shout #BlackLivesMatter while wearing your #ThugLife t-shirt “in solidarity”, also think of confronting your relatives who won’t eat with a non-vegetarian person.
#BlackLivesMatter, but not the lives of workers: Have you paid your domestic help since March?
This is how our biases really come to the forefront. We sympathise with our friends and relatives who got laid off during the COVID-19 crisis, and with those who have had to take pay cuts. But we hold absolutely none of that sentiment for our household staff who could not come to work during the lockdown. They didn’t do the work, so they don’t get paid, right? Would we tolerate this attitude from our employers? Would you not take it up with HR? You would cry yourself hoarse about being helpless in a global crisis, but you didn’t think of your domestic help’s survival when you chose to not pay them for two months. And then we ask why the migrant labour in the country couldn’t just stay where they were.
Take down those #BlackLivesMatter and #blackouttuesday posts, urban Indians. And do some thinking about the state of affairs in your own home first.
Featured Image Source: Salvage