Shame, disgust, shock: Indians react to everyday racial prejudice in the country

Updated on May 25, 2017 07:39 AM IST

This is what our readers had to say to HT’s Let’s Talk About Racism campaign.

Hindustan Times | By

Hindustan Times’s series Let’s Talk About Racism laid bare the skin prejudice of our country: A Nigerian student’s account of being a black man in India; a Northeastern woman’s story of being called ‘chinky’; and a film actor’s criticism of the fairness products industry shocked and disgusted people.

People wrote to us inviting Ezeugo Nnamdi Lawrence to their homes, narrating the racism they had faced because of their skin colour, and suggesting how India could be made more tolerant. Here are some letters we got--edited for space and clarity.

Vartika Mehrotra

Dear Ezeugo Nnamdi Lawrence,

I’m ashamed at the treatment you’ve had in India. It’s ironic that we Indians are known for our hospitality, yet we cannot rise above skin prejudice. It hurts me even more that our government has failed you too.

That is ironic because we’ve suffered the most severe forms of racism at the hands of British for two centuries. Your suggestions to end racism are valid, provided the government is up for it. I want to tell you on behalf of all Indians that I’m truly sorry for what you’ve gone through. I can only hope for this racism to stop.

Jyoti Sharma

Please convey to Ezeugo Lawrence that not all Indians think of Africans as “kallu”. As proof, I would like to invite Mr Lawrence to meet my family at our home. I want him to take at least one good memory of Indian hospitality with him when he returns home.

Taran Maan

I read Mr Lawrence’s article ‘I am tired of being a black man in India’ and was shocked at the extent of racism in India. It is sad that no Indian has befriended him and things have been so harsh rather. Please convey to Mr Lawrence that my family and I would love to have him over for tea. My family and friends have never judged any human being by the colour of their skin or their ethnicity.

Dr Supriya Singh

Racism is reflected in the way Indians perceive beauty. As a child I was told that I am not as good looking as my mother because I was not fair. The women in our village lamented that I had not inherited my mother’s complexion. Aunts feared that I will not get a good partner because of my dark skin. As a child I was obsessed with the feeling that beauty means being fair and I had to get rid of my skin colour. I remember making childish efforts to make my skin fair and being attracted to advertisements for fairness creams. Being a girl child in India is not easy and it’s a double burden if you have a dark skin. It’s not about being educated or uneducated, rather skin prejudice is inculcated deeply in the minds of both rural and urban people. It shows how in India racism is rooted in our day-to-day behavior.

Shagun Katoch

Hindustan Times’s ‘Let’s Talk About Racism’ campaign is praiseworthy. As I read Abhay Deol’s article, I could not help agreeing to his views. We Indians are keen followers of anything and everything that is said or shown to us. Fairness creams--advertised on TV channels every now and then--are popular because celebrities endorse them. Celebrities must stop endorsing products which create disparity among people and giving them false notions. They should endorse things that preach respect and love irrespective of caste, creed, colour or physical appearance.

Dr S Chandrashekar

I am an Indian in that I was born here, but I have spent my adolescence and adulthood in the West. I have lived in England, Zambia, Dubai, Europe and my home Australia for more than four decades. I have no hesitation in stating that the most racist country I have lived in is India. Also, racism is not covert here, it’s in your face, crude and unmistakable. I have heard horror stories of how difficult it is for people from Africa to get accommodation or any kind of services in India. Even in this day and age when people are used to seeing every colour, nationality and creed on TV and internet, Indians stare at black people, whisper, giggle, and make comments loudly. I have witnessed it.

Ramesh Joshi

Yes, the Indian immigrants of all shades have resisted marrying into the blacks , not only here in the USA but very definitely in the African continent.

One can see inter-racial couples in the USA and even in the UK and France. Rarely one will see any couple of Indian and African American in the USA.

I believe it is because of the culture we have all been brought up...It comes from education . We are an illiterate to semi-illiterate society so far. We still believe in myths and superiority of religions in our daily life. We know little about our history which has colored our thoughts and actions with racial bias and class as well as system. Only education and time will solve our inferiority complex.

Ninan Koshi

My grandson who is brown skinned, is routinely called ‘kala’ by his schoolmates in a top school in Gurgaon. He puts up a brave front on this, but i know that mentally he is wounded by these jibes. The Punjabis are notorious for flaunting the superiority of their white skins, but the people of Kerala (from where i come), arenot far behind. You will not find a single dark skinned actress in Malayam movies or TV shows. In one movie that I remember, a young girl chides her father for being dark skinned and tells her younger brother that he will never get a bride because he is not fair. In my view, 95% (may be more?) of Indians are stuck with this mindset that white is beautiful and black is inferior.

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