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Racist remarks really hurt

December 5, 2006

A BBC global survey of ten cities all over the world (Delhi was the Indian city) says that 81 % of Indian youth want to immigrate to the west, but all of these people felt that it was not necessary to adapt to the ways of the foreign lands. That it was okay to lead separate lives.
If this survey is accurate then it’s cause for worry. These people will not even try to integrate and they will face increased racism. If even those who integrate face racism because of the colour of their skin, what will be the plight of these people? Not only will they face racism, their children will grow up torn between two cultures.
In the long run if a group of people have to live without racism they have to attempt to integrate…and definitely encourage their children to do so. I am not talking of changing one’s religion or deep issues like this…I am speaking of outward symbols of differences. Tell me, will we appreciate a westerner who comes to India and dresses in skimpy clothes? Why, we start getting hysterical even if we see such images on television.
I think those starry-eyed youngsters who are longing to go abroad should be aware of the kind of racism one can face. I want to give some examples of racist remarks that I faced even though I was not in the US or the UK.
We lived in Tanzania for a short while, but unfortunately did not come into contact with the local people. My kids studied at an international school and I taught there as a substitute teacher. The teachers I worked with were from the US, UK or from Western Europe. I had never ever been exposed to racist remarks before (so cocooned was I in my beloved India) until I entered this school. These are just a few of the remarks received by me directly from teachers themselves, the so-called educationists. These were the middle and upper classes from their country, but they thought nothing of speaking what they did directly to my face.

“We get kids here from the Indian school system, we have to teach them how to think,” said one teacher.

“Oh gawd, isn’t India very hot and crowded? Can you find decent hotels there? And don’t people try to cheat you all the time? And isn’t it a dangerous place?” was the response when I asked whether they have ever travelled to India. And “Oh, India is safe? Really? Tanzania isn’t. One can’t go out in the evenings.”

“Tell me, how is it that you have all these people from what’s that place called, Bangalore who know computers? It doesn’t fit in. Where are these people coming from?” said another.

And the clincher:
“Why are so many of you leaving your country? Aren’t there any universities in India….aren’t there any jobs in India? You must be all leading a very poor quality of life there.”

This is one comment I overheard:
“Oh gwad, they are all flocking to our universities. What’s going to happen now?”

17 Comments leave one →
  1. December 5, 2006 12:59 pm

    I just came back from India, and I found your blog purely by chance. However, I don’t get your point. What do you find racist about their comments? I can consider myself from the west, and what they were saying seems to me average thoughts about a third world country. If you think India is not a 3rd world country is another matter, but that’s not racism.

    And about that of emmigrating… hmmm, IMHO it’s a very complicated question. It’s about values and traditions, and I feel it’s not easy to change them. I am living out of my country myself, and I think I am lucky for being in another country somewhat similar to mine. If, as you say, you raise children in a foreign country, I think you might face the dilemma of them being strange to their environment, or them being strange to you.

    Random thoughts though. And BTW, in the description of your blog, you say “there will be information here on India, it’s people and it’s business, there will also be other things…”. Shouldn’t it be “its people and its business”? You are the writer here 🙂

  2. December 5, 2006 1:19 pm

    For me those remarks smacked of racism, but then I had never lived outside India before. Perhaps that’s the way all Indians are spoken to and it’s normal. Maybe it’s not racism to some.
    Ofcourse India is a poor country, call it the third world if you wish, but I would not speak like that to a person from a place which is poorer than mine. I would be sensitive. There is something called manners. But then we only keep our manners for those we respect, don’t we? If you go to a person’s house which is poorer than yours, will you make it a point to point it out?
    About the grammar, I shall look into it. Now that you pointed it out, I think it should be her, not it.

  3. December 5, 2006 4:44 pm

    I’ve come across people who ask me why so many Indian students go to foreign universities – I just retailiate saying that these foreign universities dont find good enough students from their own countries so have to admit Indian students *with a what-to-do shrug*

    I dont think these comments are racist but they sure are ignorant and tinged with a false sense of superiority. Dont worry…in 5 years they wont know what hit them:)

  4. December 5, 2006 5:40 pm

    First, I doubt about the survey (yes, even it is from BBC),as much I doubt all surveys. The survey probably have covered a few hundereds youths to get the result. One cannot survey India, it is impossible. Probably the survey is conducted to get the ‘desired’ results to publish.

    As an Indian I would find the comments hurting, but if I change the table, I am worried about the invasion.

  5. December 5, 2006 6:16 pm

    You have made a very valid point JV. The survey was carried out in urban India (ten cities globally). What researchers from other countries don’t understand is that India is far too diverse for sample sizes to work. However even if one does take into account just the urban college going youth in Delhi, even then it’s a high percentage, don’t you think?
    And yes, I see the other side too…in fact we Indians are the most equipped to see this. Indians from the less developed parts of India flock to the developed states and I know that this makes a certain section of the local populace very insecure, but I think people from other states are coming in because they have talent and they will help the state develop.

  6. December 5, 2006 8:12 pm

    Invaders always have to face bitter experience, may be international,national or interstate.

    What is/was the view of Shiv Sena towards outstate population in Mumbai?(I am just citing as an example, no hard feeling is intended)

    It is principle of economics that a person would be attracted to the location where ecnomic growth and reward is higher than where s/he is situated. When s/he arrives on the location he is to face bitternest from the local, as the newcomer will share their pie. But generally the newcomer brings some skill/quality with him which benefit everyone, .

  7. December 5, 2006 8:27 pm

    No hard feelings at all JV. I am against the sectarian and narrow minded policies of the Shiv Sena.

  8. December 6, 2006 9:55 am

    I am glad for that.

  9. December 6, 2006 10:10 am

    Racism is distinct from finding differences, integrated in some extent to other forms of distinguishing people and their enterprises.
    The comments that you mention may not be strictly racism. It could be socialism, nationalism, plain belonging -‘our’ stuff, which exists everywhere to some extent.
    That Indians are able to think mathematically and objectively is being accepted these days, in dynamic western countries. Many indians live well, particularly in US. There are strong issues in subjective areas, which is the part that needs assimilation.
    Indian dresses are not that unpalatable, but unfortunately they are associated with race, curry and violence. I think sincerity (with or without distinctive assertion ) should be the key in using them in foreign places.
    There is an issue about so many people uncomfortable here in delhi, and people talk of villages! Weren’t the delhi people supposed to be ideal for rest of india, in terms of facility and devlopment ? May be something is wrong there. I think people of Pune and Mumbai were quite contented about their places. Are they now to the same extent ? Or are there more people planning to leave these parts when there are more oppurtinities ? These are tough questions.

  10. December 6, 2006 10:23 am

    Why, we start getting hysterical even if we see such images on television.
    This is verymuch true. I get hysterical, when all one finds creativity for liberal indians rests with titillation – Check the verity of bollywood films for this aspect, compared to hollywood. India could be far more subtle, but due to some reason they are fixated with ‘love’ and deception between hero and heroine. Many film makers have found new avenues to make it multple ! What imagination! The right not to see these channels and movies should remain available.

    These days I get bored with insenstive channels, and instead opt for discovery and cartoon network and that gozilla gulping useful time – cricket. Often a regional channel would dish out 5 violenet and cheating scenes and 3 subtle abuses for natives to change in less than 5 mins. Hope the kyunki seriels are less sadistic. If one accepts that dating, temporary marriage and divorce of eternal marriage in 2-10 years are integral part of the familly union in west, all the western channels are not that insensitive. This is the sad part.

  11. yasiyalow permalink
    August 19, 2007 12:51 am

    Ask any NE student studying in Delhi or anywhere in India who who lives with racism day in and day out…..in their own very country?

  12. August 19, 2007 9:40 am

    Yasiyalow, Yes, I do believe that people from NE face racism. I guess I have a broad definition of racism, which to me means people who paint complete cultures with one brush. In the west people use a much narrower definition. In fact after the Shilpa Shetty episode I found that one pretty famous writer said, is she calling this racism? Why I was beaten up by a gang of whites for dancing with a white woman! So its really what you have experienced. And in the west because the racism is so common, they have arrived a police definition of racism!

    vivek, I did not publish your comment here as it was about grammar. 🙂 but no offence meant. Yes, point taken. Thanks.

  13. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    August 19, 2007 10:06 am

    Nita,

    No offence taken. In fact I should have sent it as a mail, but the context was in this thread, and the pedant in me could not resist the temptation.

    Incidentally, you don’t seem to have looked at my last post under “violent crime…” and the corrigendum I added. I am very keen to have your feedback (and of course anyone else’s) on that.

  14. August 19, 2007 1:39 pm

    Vivek, I admit I have not looked at it indepth…it needs some deep thinking! Will surely respond in a few days.

  15. Phantom permalink
    August 19, 2007 6:12 pm

    I think we need to define what racism or racial prejucice truly means. A white person or someone from a first world country commenting on the poverty, corruption or any such defeciency about India……this is NOT racism. Yea, it might be politically incorrect, insensitive or a lop sided view of india, but it is an objective assessment of some grim realities of life in a developing nation that is India. Indians who take offence to such sentiments from non-indians are more hurt by being reminded by the harsh reality of things, rather than by any genuine sense of racial discrimination, I feel.

    Racism is the subjective and judgemental prejudice and pre-medidated bias that is developed on the grounds of one’s race/ethnicity/religion/commiunity….or any such social characteristic that defines people. To say that africa is wraught with tribal corruption is NOT racism…but to say that africans are inherenty corrupt or incapable…..THAT is a racist statement. Similarly, to say that india has corruption, poverty, dirt, etc etc is not racist, but to judge an indian for those defeciencies, or to deny an indian what is his/her due on account of a pre-medidated subjective biasd against indians…..that is racism.

    Am not trying to delve on semantics here….its important for us all to realise what truly constitutes prejudice. We have enough of prejudice in our own country, so we hardly have much right to point fingers at the west. The caste system, religions and regional sentiments….all of these have brought in enough prejudice and insensitive biases within modern middle class indian mindsets.

    Sure, it hurts my indian pride too when I hear non-indians talk about the abject poverty or any such defeciency regarding india…but to be honest….y deny it….there IS that side to our country too. At least we in India have a bright future to look forward to…what about the peolpe in countries like bangladesh, africa (most of it anyway)?????

    • March 9, 2009 7:53 am

      Phantom,
      I think your argument began on a very cohesive and robust note. I liked how you distinguished between “political correctness.” and “racism.” It really is laudable since the two are often superficially intricate and one finds it difficult to decipher one from the other. So, nice keen eye there.
      All seemed well with your argument, until you digressed at the end, making remarks that were synonymous with some of the ideologies you were trying to dispel. To elaborate, I am referring to the comments about Bangladesh and Africa. Who tells you that the 2 are not on the same path to stabilization like India is? I think you came off as condescending there since this smacks of arrogance. Hence you ruined the flow of your argument

  16. no name permalink
    August 3, 2008 4:07 pm

    First off beware the comments that could be perceived as being just as racist as any of the ones mentioned in the article i.e. Pranav. I think it is very true the sentence made about about the westerner coming to India dressing in skimpy clothes and the Indian moving elsewhere and not thinking it necessary to adapt or integrate or be socially considerate in a similar way also. Making an attempt is always appreciated by others and by some extremely appreciated, just being courteous will make great leaps. The lack of integrating will, and saying this because I have seen it, create bias or stereotypes and generalizations about others which are not necessarily accurate. It can create anxieties and prejudices that then need prejudiced ideologies to validate their excuse for racism, which can lead to bigger things. This will come from both sides. India is not free of racism or biases at all either as we know and have stated. I worry sometimes about blogs like this that they may perpetuate our own, innocent and unintended, assumptions of how some foreigners may be towards Indians, and their reasons behind why some may say the things they do. Assume nothing. You will make some of the best friends and meet some of the most interesting and compassionate people if you keep an open mind and realize that people are just as curious, unsure, inexperienced, unknowledgeable about customs or etiquette, or shy as you may be. They may have grown up in a different culture or family which teaches them how to interact or interpret things differently but that is to do with conditioning, it’s not even that different if we ourselves look at it differently too. They want to give and receive the same respect as you they’ve just been taught different things on what is or isn’t appropriate or respectful. They want to reach out and talk to you and understand you just as much as you do them and they as well also want to be accepted. Don’t let misunderstandings or preconceived notions spoil that.

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