Oh, as a nation we have been such a crusading force against racism. And that’s only natural, considering we’ve historically tasted such ugly discrimination. Colonial and post-colonial India has held aloft the anti-racism flag and the world recognises us as a forefront nation in multi-cultural, multi-religious and multi-racial tolerance. After all, didn’t we react in loud unison against the ‘racistic remarks’ made against Shilpa Shetty in the British reality show, Celebrity Big Brother, last year? We also shook our heads furiously when race-laced remarks were hurled against one of our sons, Lakshmi Mittal, when the steel baron was making his bid to acquire a European company. But do our anti-racist gestures only come out of the woodwork when we are perceived as targets? And, more gravely, are we racists ourselves hoping to be insured by the fact that we are stereotyped as ‘victims’?
Coming not too long after the ‘Harbhajan Singh-remarks-against-Andrew Sym-ond’ issue — in which nearly the whole nation took it for granted that no Indian could even theoretically make racist remarks — now we have another shocker tumbling out of the cupboard. A news report has it that two British cheerleaders at the Indian Premier League (IPL) were told in April to leave the Mohali grounds before a match as they had the ‘wrong skin colour’. One of the Black cheerleaders, Ellesha Newton, is on record stating that members of the event management company hired by the Punjab IPL team, Wizcraft International Entertainment, told two of them that “people don’t like dark girls here”. The humiliated two were later allowed back on the Mohali grounds but they refused. Subsequently, their contracts were terminated. If this incident doesn’t rank as racism, what does?
But should it come as a big surprise to us that we are notoriously prejudicial when it comes to skin colour? One doesn’t have to go through the reams of matrimonial advertisements to know that we are one of the most racially discriminating societies in the world. What we usually ‘pass off’ as casteism, regionalism and blatant ‘class-ism’ are extensions of our prejudicial nature. Add to that our fascination for fair skin and our uncomfortable relationship with racially or otherwise darker tones, and the incident at Mohali last month becomes as shocking as it is unsurprising. Who needs White supremacists when we have us?