The Other Part of Racism

I remember last summer, when my family was having the usual union at our home in Ahmedabad, when one of my neighbors found time to indicate to my mom the absence of curves on my body. I have had other incidents when people have indicated that I was either too fat (contradicts the absence-of-curves statement), too brown, too liberal and open with too many male friends (read as “whore”). But there is a second part to it as well, about traditions that were so internal to life that I never thought of questioning them until I came here. I remember the plans in my family that indicated that I would get operated to remove the “issues” from my eyes, since wearing glasses was directly proportional to a disaster in finding a suitable mate. I happily went through the torture of getting braces for my teeth and occasionally took the pain to control my diet under what was a popular festival to please some deities to offer me good fertile man to produce children who would be doctors or engineers like (hopefully) my fertile man. Now I am not going to talk much about these local “diet festivals” that basically torture adolescent girls to go through inhuman rituals, all in the name of future opportunity costs.

Racism is as present in India as in Lebanon, except in a different form. Now let us just call it discrimination, linked with false racist theories! We have the very famous case of the caste system that has let to marginalization of not just the dalits but of the people belonging to the minority religions as well. I remember a very famous theory that was popular in my childhood and still is – that the people of the lower castes converted to either Christianity or Islam as a way of achieving social mobility. Now considering that the manipulated textbooks under the “Saffronisation” movement has indeed painted a very wrong image through portraying non-established theories as facts, there is very limited space left to discuss a history based on objective empirical data. Coming back to the theory that the lowest class were the converts to the “alien” religions (that is how many call them, both Islam and Christianity) – that story is true in part but does not present the entire story. This is because conversions took place through all the social and caste-based classes and did not remain confined to the lowest of the classes in the caste-structure. And the reasons for conversion were varied, ranging from being out of pure belief to being a part of the normal spread of the religion of the ruler in power (like under the Mughals for example). These false theories have flooded the intellectual scene of India and hence curbed the rise of any objective movement to understand history. And again, how much ever objective the history we write is, it still will always remain a collection of perspectives rather than the whole truth.

I bring up this topic since I will be leaving for home in a month, where I predict myself to be faced with discrimination directed not only to myself but to other minority groups as well. Gender and religion are just some of them. Somehow, with the rise of the great and grand “Modern with traditional values” movement in India, we will sadly only see the rise and popularization of movements that can catch up with the “cool-meter”, objectivity being absolutely absent from any of these “cool and intellectual” discussions.

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About Shreya Parikh

I am Shreya. Project Rethought is my attempt to rethink my own observations as a brown woman of Indian origin. I currently live in Paris where I teach at Sciences Po Paris and Parsons Paris-The New School.
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