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Are you racist?

It’s well and good to stand up for our own rights. But we have to also open our eyes to the fact that we don’t always offer that same equality to everyone else, writes Anoushka Shankar.

india Updated: May 15, 2009 20:29 IST
Anoushka Shankar

Recently there was an incident on Air France involving about 60 Indian passengers who filed a complaint of racism against the airline after being treated badly at the Paris airport. Apparently, non-Indian passengers were put up in hotels when a technical mishap occurred, but the Indians were made to wait in the airport lounge without access to water or food for quite some time. I’m so proud of these people for filing a complaint!

I’ve seen similar things happen myself while travelling. People from India, especially who don’t speak English, have been ignored or snubbed while others were well taken care of, and I’m so glad that people are standing up against this kind of racism, so hopefully airlines won’t be able to do it again.

But it got me thinking. It’s so easy to take note of something like racism when it happens to you. But do you notice it as quickly when you do it to others? As Indians, I have to say that on the whole, we’re a fairly racist group of people!
Give these examples a thought:

* Most of your parents would rather you bring home a nice Indian boy or girl than a foreigner, right? But in the event that you do fall in love with a foreigner, would it be easier for you if that person were white, rather than black?

* Where else in the world do matrimonial ads place so much importance on the shade of a prospective partner’s skin?

* In India, foreigners have to pay a higher ticket price to enter monuments and other places of interest. How would you feel if you were stopped at the Eiffel Tower or Statue of Liberty and asked to pay more money because your skin was brown?

* We may have a few Bollywood beauties that can be termed “dusky”. But in a country of shades ranging from palest cream to absolute ebony, why is there not one prominent actor or actress with truly dark skin?

* Our media is constantly propagating this concept of white women as easy or loose. Female tourists, especially blondes, are constantly faced with men who assume they can be taken advantage of, just because they’re white.

* Why do so many people in north India constantly make fun of people in the south, and have so little understanding of the culture, language and customs of their neighbours?

* Need I mention fairness creams? It’s great that John Abraham recently mentioned how they’re also useful for blemishes and the like, but the fact remains that throughout India and Asia, fairness and whitening cream usage is rampant among people desperately trying to make themselves several shades lighter than they are, in a society that considers that more attractive.

It’s well and good to stand up for our own rights of equality. But we have to also open our eyes to the fact that we don’t always offer that same equality to everyone else.