A great deal of energy goes into strenuously denying that racism exists in India, or upon recognizing that it may exist, stressing that it is not as bad as in other countries. Yet in recent years, there has been an increased willingness to debate race and racism within India. There has been a shift among politicians and the media from denial to acknowledgement and attempts to ‘fix’ racism.
There is a strong consensus that racism generally exists to segregate the northeastern communities as they tend to look “non-Indian” as well as the fact that a majority of them belong to tribal or indigenous communities. The racism against them has peaked due to the recent coronavirus outbreak and the fact that they look similar to the east Asians they share the country’s borders with. There is also a perception that northeastern women are “easy” and only know how to dress up and nothing else. Racial slurs are commonly used against them and include “ching-chong”, “moshi moshi” among others. Children and even teachers at school actively mock these students despite how problematic it is, and when asked to stop, they will proceed to bully the people standing up for them as well.
The northeastern people are not the only ones affected by ignorance. Most Indians also show apparent ignorance about the practice of exclusion and discrimination based on the skin tone of a person, although it is a deep-rooted problematic practice embraced by both the oppressor and the victim. Despite being a very diverse country with people that have a variety of skin tones, Indians extensively practice segregation against darker-skinned people (this is true whether they are Indian or of another race). Fair-skinned Indians and races that have fair skin (generally Caucasian) are generally seen to be more desirable. This is especially the case when fixing marriages (people prefer fair-skinned grooms or brides), casting actors (the south barely has dark-skinned actors despite being a society with more dark-skinned people) etc. They go so far as to cast European models for ads that showcase traditional Indian clothing or jewelry despite the obvious issue that they are European and not Indian.
Despite all this, however, Indians are slowly starting to recognize the problems in their society and trying to fix them. A lot of people have proved that ancient India had no segregation on the basis of color and those mythological heroes were almost all dark-skinned. The complex that fair-skinned people are superior arose and became prominent with the British colonizing India. Knowing this helps us realize that hatred towards our own people is not justified by any means and that no one deserves to be discriminated against or bullied just because they have more melanin or have different features.
The media has and is currently debating the use of the famous “Fair and Lovely” - what is essentially bleach sold as a “whitening cream”. A lot of young girls have ruined their faces by smothering this all over their faces in an attempt to become more “beautiful”. Actresses like Priyanka Chopra who have previously promoted such brands are under fire and movies like “Axone” help us understand the plight of the northeastern population in metropolitan areas.
What is interesting, is that this colorism or racism was never institutionalized like in the United States. There was and is no legal basis for discriminating against them. There has also never been explicit evidence that jobs are denied to dark-skinned people, a problem that is rampant in the United States as well as countries like South Korea, or that healthcare is denied to dark-skinned people. These stereotypes have somehow just spread through word of mouth, ads on television and the fact that poorer people tend to be of dark skin color. That said, a lot of people in the police/ legal system trivialize abuse and rape that these people face because they are different and hence “they asked for it”.
It is extremely regrettable that a country so vast and diverse still has judgments when it comes to how people should look. Academia, the media, politicians and even the general populace need to engage in more conversations regarding the subject. Schools should have lessons on such topics to sensitize children and teens to the problems. These would be steps in the right direction.
While efforts are definitely being made to curb these forms of discrimination, there is still a very long way to go before we become part of an India that fully accepts dark-skinned people, our northeastern communities and people who just look different from us in general.
S. N., By, -, Sadhana Nadathur JayakumarSadhana is a second year MA student who is an old soul trapped inside a young person. She’s obsessed with finding sociological explanations in seemingly common cultural practices and is interested in gender studies, Jayakumar, S. N., Sadhana is a second year MA student who is an old soul trapped inside a young person. She’s obsessed with finding sociological explanations in seemingly common cultural practices and is interested in gender studies, . . . -, S. M. (2020, June 09). A Racist India & How Its Racism Is Different For North-Eastern Women. Retrieved from https://feminisminindia.com/2020/06/08/racist-indi...
McDuie-Ra, D. (1970, January 01). Introduction: 'Let's Stop Pretending There's No Racism in India. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1057/97811375...