At the new dawn of civilization, in Bengaluru, the India’s city of the twenty-first century, a mob assaulted, stripped and paraded a 21-year-old Tanzanian student. The rage refused to cool down and they set fire to her car as well. Her only fault was that she was passing through the same neighborhood where, an hour before, a Sudanese student had run over and killed a resident. The enraged mob simply picked on the poor Tanzanian woman because she was of the same race as the Sudanese driver.
And believe me, I’s was surprised NOT at all!
In my country the people worship Krishna, Shiva and Kali as divine and they as depicted endowed with dark complexion. Still, it is puzzling that we’re so obsessed with fair or lighter skin. We have the school of thoughts which are the victim of this fairness bias. Some call it ‘Noor’ while others prefer to term it as ‘Tej or Sunderta.’
Way back in early 70s, Unilever had launched a commercial skin lightening cream called “Fair and Lovely” to encash the fairness bias among Indians. Since then many companies promised us look like Gori. They knew that it is important for the Indian women to be fair. I believe this prejudice is intrinsic and not deliberate. However, the famous Indian actor Nandita Das – a woman with a dusky complex, believes that the bias against dark skin has taken on new forms in the modern world. An African poet Abdel Meeropol had once composed a lyric against the back ground of Apartheid.
Blood on leaves and blood at the root,
“Black body swinging in the Southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.
Pastoral scene of the gallant South,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of the burning flesh.
Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
From the rain to gather, from the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.”
The so-called civilized people and their literature high flown literature reflect that prejudice against blacks. The famous novelist Margret Mitchell writes in her magnum opus, ‘Gone With the Wind’ – Negros were always so proud of being the bearers of evil tidings.” In the Indian context, we are quite used to the words- Kallo, Kalloti, Kalia etc. We are mute spectators to the regular insults and frustrations of an innocent girl rejected in marriage just because she didn’t posses a lighter skin.
Hearing the speech delivered by Lupita Nyongo on the subject ‘Racism and Western Perceptions of Beauty’ I was moved to my roots. She was speaking at the annual Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon– hosted by Essence magazine as she accepted her award for Best Breakthrough Performance. She is a Kenyan girl who had lived her childhood in Mexico City. Here are some salient quotes:
“I too remember a time when I would turn on the TV and only see pale skin. I got teased and taunted about my night shaded skin. And my one prayer to God, the miracle worker, was that I would wake up lighter skinned. The morning would come and I would be so excited about seeing my new skin that I would refuse to look down at myself before I was in front of a mirror, because I wanted to see my fair face first. And every day I experienced just the same disappointment at being just as dark as I had been the day before. I tried to negotiate with God. I told him I would stop steeling sugar cubes at night if he gave me what I wanted. I would listen to my mother’s every word and never lose my school sweater again if he just made me a little lighter. But, I guess God was unimpressed with my bargaining chips because I never woke up lighter.” ….End of quote.
It is reported that when the Tanzanian woman approached the police station to register a complaint, she was turned away. They told her to come back when she could have the name of the driver. According to Bosco Kaweesi, Legal Adviser to the All African Students Union in Bengaluru said, in exasperation, “She’s Tanzanian, the man who caused the accident comes from Sudan, they didn’t even know each other.”
I don’t think the mob would have ever dared to touch a European or American white in that cruel irresponsible way. Africans are the finest of human beings and their moral values and etiquette are at par or superior to that most of the advanced nationals. They are humble, polite and friendly. Still the Indian public often sneers at them and treat them badly. It is the fact of our everyday cosmopolitan life. This attitude could be seen quite often in day light of social movements. In India, the ‘Collective Mob’ had frequently behaved madly, brutally and in uncontrolled way. Mob justice is a pervasive feature of Indian society. Religion and Caste, Color and Complexion have been the prime factors of this horrible hate and political parties have used it the full advantage.
It is so pathetic that the significant numbers of Africans who move to India for work or education often go back with bitter memories. We, the Indians, who behave meekly with obeisance before the White Men, treat the Africans with contempt. Earlier in 2013, in Goa, Nigerians had suffered racist attacks. The state Minister Dayanand Mandrekar had called those attacks as cancer. The Nigerian diplomats had warned of a backlash back in Nigeria against Indians working there. In 2014, a mob had attacked two Africans at a Metro station in Delhi. The vigilante justice against the city’s African residents undertaken by a state minister is too fresh to forget.
Not all but many of us, the Indians, are dump Bigots and victim of complexes. Whites are often treated as superior and Blacks who have a darker shade than average Indian are looked down upon. We are still simulating the dead racism of South Africa and Wild West. We do already have the serious problems of MAJORITARIANISM and RACISM is another stigma that blots our face.
By Naim Naqvi