25 September, 2020

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‘India Is Racist, And Happy About It’

By Diepiriye Kuku   –

Diepiriye Kuku

A Black American’s first-hand experience of footpath India: no one even wants to change

In spite of friendship and love in private spaces, the Delhi public literally stops and stares. It is harrowing to constantly have children and adults tease, taunt, pick, poke and peer at you from the corner of their eyes, denying their own humanity as well as mine. Their aggressive, crude curiosity threatens to dominate unless disarmed by kindness, or met with equal aggression.

Once I stood gazing at the giraffes at the Lucknow Zoo only to turn and see 50-odd families gawking at me rather than the exhibit.

Parents abruptly withdrew infants that inquisitively wandered towards me. I felt like an exotic African creature-cum-spectacle, stirring fear and awe. Even my attempts to beguile the public through simple greetings or smiles are often not reciprocated. Instead, the look of wonder swells as if this were all part of the act and we were all playing our parts.

Racism is never a personal experience. Racism in India is systematic and independent of the presence of foreigners of any hue. This climate permits and promotes this lawlessness and disdain for dark skin. Most Indian pop icons have light-damn-near-white skin. Several stars even promote skin-bleaching creams that promise to improve one’s popularity and career success. Matrimonial ads boast of fair, v. fair and v. very fair skin alongside foreign visas and advanced university degrees. Moreover, each time I visit one of Delhi’s clubhouses, I notice that I am the darkest person not wearing a work uniform. It’s unfair and ugly.

Discrimination in Delhi surpasses the denial of courtesy. I have been denied visas, apartments, entrance to discos, attentiveness, kindness and the benefit of doubt. Further, the lack of neighbourliness exceeds what locals describe as normal for a capital already known for its coldness.

My partner is white and I am black, facts of which the Indian public reminds us daily. Bank associates have denied me chai, while falling over to please my white friend. Mall shop attendants have denied me attentiveness, while mobbing my partner. Who knows what else is more quietly denied?

“An African has come,” a guard announced over the intercom as I showed up. Whites are afforded the luxury of their own names, but this careful attention to my presence was not new. ATM guards stand and salute my white friend, while one guard actually asked me why I had come to the bank machine as if I might have said that I was taking over his shift.

It is shocking that people wear liberalism as a sign of modernity, yet revert to ultraconservatism when actually faced with difference. Cyberbullies have threatened my life on my YouTube videos that capture local gawking and eve-teasing. I was even fired from an international school for talking about homosociality in Africa on YouTube, and addressing a class about homophobia against kids after a student called me a ‘fag’.

Outside of specific anchors of discourse such as Reservations, there is no consensus that discrimination is a redeemable social ill. This is the real issue with discrimination in India: her own citizens suffer and we are only encouraged to ignore situations that make us all feel powerless. Be it the mute-witnesses seeing racial difference for the first time, kids learning racism from their folks, or the blacks and northeasterners who feel victimised by the public, few operate from a position that believes in change.

Living in India was a childhood dream that deepened with my growing understanding of India and America’s unique, shared history of non-violent revolution. Yet, in most nations, the path of ending gender, race and class discrimination is unpaved. In India, this path is still rural and rocky as if this nation has not decided the road even worthy. It is a footpath that we are left to tread individually.

(The writer is a Black American PhD student at the Delhi School of Economics. Courtesy Outlook India )

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Latest comments

  • 0
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    Dear Mr.Diepiriye Kuku, the simple reason for that kind of treatment you get in India is simply because there are lots BLACKS and perhaps the majority of them are involved in illegal activities such as Nigerian Scam, SMS fraud, Lottery Scam, Selling Drugs and Extortion. If you dont like a country just leave the place. Very simple. Before writing this article you should do a little homework to find out why indians dont like blacks, After all many South Indians have the same DNA as same as the Africans

    • 1
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      @Silva.. I dont know what pus Infected womb you have crawled out from.. But the one that you have did not teach you the humanity and respect for others.. now reading your stupid and ignorant comment you seem to be worse then many of those uneducated and backward miniority of indians and people…… NOW.. saying this this article has some worong facts.. many West Indian Cricket player are worshipped as Gods in India.. thanks to the IPL…

      • 0
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        iam a very dark skin perhaps people do think iam a black. but iam welcomed where ever i go. in china. in india. coz i DONT DO ANY ILLEGAL activities. Iam not racist. Just think practical. We can TALK. Can we DO IT ?. To all those people who would reply to my coloumn, i want to ask, are you willing to invite an African Black to your your home for food ?

      • 0
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        Iam sorry you being so ignorant. iam a very black as you. what i said is we need to be very practial. In china i hear chinese openly say that iam a black,. But i dont care. iam very proud about my colour. I dont complain.

    • 1
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      To all people who wants to reply, just image that you is Diepiriye Kuku. What made him to write this article. Yoy are not in his shoes

  • 0
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    Great article! Superbly riten and underscores a reality in SL as well as in India! Congrats!

  • 0
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    Forgot to mention about china. have you been to China ?. If not go to Beijing and see what kind of treatment you get in China

  • 1
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    @Silva – [Edited out] Kudos to the writer of presenting such an amazing article about his experience in racisim. Silva useless idiot go to a doctor and get a medication call “Propranolol”. People like you should not live in this world….u [Edited out].

  • 0
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    … Hey KUKU… While some may well be prejudiced,,, others are probably expecting you to move to ya beat,… I mean the song in ya head… they expect you to entertain ’em with ya rap … and move like dancing to ya natural beat… you know what I’m saying ? ….. smile with those who stare at ya and make a move as if you wanna dance ma..an…. don’t take ’em too serious … they are usually uneducated …. though the meanest dude may well be a computer geek …. so keep rappin… ma..an…. and move like ya dancing… they surely gonna love it, as they do love the Black Cricketers ….

  • 3
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    I am sure that Silva is a very dark skinned retard who imagines he’s white. A typical coconut; brown outside and white inside.

    • 0
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      Iam a dark guy living in a world where they look colours. i dot care, Because iam what IAM

  • 3
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    Its pretty much the same in Bangladesh… Like you said, the media and everyone else encourages being fair skinned and stuff. As for Silva, are you f****** retarded?

  • 2
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    Wow! I am so happy you wrote the article. The problem of skin colour fairness is deep rooted in India and other south asian/asiatic countries. It may stem from colonial roots when Indians who identified and obeyed their lighter skinned master colonizers, and were afforded more luxuries than Indians who worked outside as labourers, agriculturers etc due to their caste or social background.
    Indian people are Transnational, many times they discuss the issue of discrimination and racism they face when they have migrated to the west. I believe we need to tackle this issue of skin colour or as I have seen referred to in other articles as ‘Shadeism’ in India in our beauraucracies, our systems of education and begin with our own children by showing them beauty and success depends on one’s nature and hardwork not on one’s skin colour.
    Thank you Diepireye for bringing this matter up, As someone who is Indian, I am hoping the present and future India will represent all people as the democracy that it is…and take issues of racism and discrimination very seriously.

  • 4
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    Dear Diepiriye Kuku,

    I apologize for the discrimation caused by Indians eventhough I am not an Indian, but a Sri Lankan. In Sri Lanka it could happen in the same manner. We are not better

    We have to fight against these kind of discrimination and I know some Indian origins who fought against racism in Black Consciousness Movement in South Africa. But they are few as the majority of Indians and Sri Lankans feel like something special than Africans

    This is our bicycle principle, to whites we say I´m your obedient servant sir, to people darker than us we behave like whites.

    We are sick, sorry to tell you that! We´ll join you in your struggle and we will fight

  • 0
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    This cant be true if many are aware that there are also indians whose skin is perhaps darker than that of afros. Why they were gawking at you can have dozens of reasons.

  • 2
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    I visited Sri Lanka years ago and found the spirit of the people to be quite different from what I later experienced in Northern India. THere is Colombo, for examples, people stared, but then they would smile, greet me or even speak to me. The reticence for strangers to engage with me there in Northern India felt like so much more than prejudices directed exclusively at me- or who people imagined me to be- but also a part of a wider context of hesitation towards unknown people. This aspect of Sri Lanka very quickly ingratiated me to the few cities I visited. I am forever grateful to dear Lanka for the reception I received over the few months I spent there as a young man.

  • 1
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    As per my experiences, we are the smiling nation of the world.
    WE SRI LANKAN ARE CULTURED AND ACCEPTED/ACCEPT EVERY BODY EQUALLY.ANY RACE ANY RELIGION,
    BUT SOME HAS TAKEN THAT POINT, AS AN ADVANTAGE TO MANIPULATE ACCORDING TO THEIR AGENDAS.

  • 2
    0

    Thank you for sharing your experience and writing this article. It takes a lot of courage and self-respect/self-love to be this honest when the truth is so very wrong. I am first generation Indian, born in the US. I grew up seeing that my family always believed they were better than hispanic and black people. They have shared openly that they are intimidated by white people but have more respect for white people. They also have shared openly that they know all hispanic and black people are bad. It hurts to hear this from people that you love and raised you when you have grown to realize that we are all people. In every community there are bad people and good people. But it is wrong to make generalizations about a group of people based on a few actions made by some. Even recently, I know people who are saying that Indian men are dangerous because of the very publicized gang rape in Delhi. Sex, gender, sexuality, class and race discrimination is very much alive in ALL communities. I haven’t traveled much outside of the US and India so I can’t speak for how people of color are treated in other countries. I do know that the image of being white is seen in Indian culture as being pure, beautiful, successful, intelligent, wealthy etc. Being light-skinned is a privilege.

    Honestly, I wouldn’t know where to start with how to change this thinking until more dialogue about stereotypes and discrimination begins.

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