On Calling Out Bigotry Within Our Families

Growing up in a middle-class household, my idea of ‘what really matters’ kept changing as I went on to discover the realities around me. I come from an upper-caste Hindu family. I understand the structured inequality and how I benefit from it unknowingly a bit better – I know that I’ll go through a lot of struggles, but it won’t be because of my caste and religious identity.

The most tragic thing about the difference in socio-political opinions within families is that it gives rise to an ongoing dilemma where you keep wondering if your own family members, who really love you, are morally correct or not. If you’re a doting parent but not a decent citizen, your kids may grow up to wonder whether you’re a good person. Your political opinion isn’t just an opinion, it reflects your moral compass, privilege, conditioning and mindset.

Being an introvert with social anxiety makes these conversations even more difficult, but I always try to call out the problematic behaviour of my family and peers. For a long time, we have been excusing our family members by saying things like, “They have grown up in a different generation with narrow-minded conditioning and things and priorities were different then.”

This cannot be an excuse. Our elders are a part of society, and can still self-analyse and introspect in order to be more conscious about how unsolicited comments and judgements hurt other people. The idea that older people can say whatever they like, however hurtful it may be, just because they are older is flawed. People have to be held accountable for their hateful statements.

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Today, I identify as an intersectional feminist. Reality has caught up with me. I realised that those harmless jokes, memes on reservation and comments made by my cousins and relatives were actually sexist and toxic. The hardest part about accepting that your own family holds problematic views is that you still have to live with them and bear it all because of family dynamics.

It all feels like a generational tragedy that has engulfed our society so deeply that people find it easier to deny that such problems exist, instead of accepting that they are the part of the problem.

As I read and unlearned more and more, I began to see it a bit more clearly – the patriarchy, gender roles, casually casteist and sexist comments, homophobic and transphobic slurs. I was shattered and felt disgusted and suffocated. Women in my family continued to exercise patriarchy on the younger girls while simultaneously being affected by it.

The women in my family don’t want to be identified as feminists because of bizarre misunderstandings and ignorance. I have gotten tired of explaining how feminism and misandry are two very different things. Their baseless arguments include cases of fake accusations and other senseless theories. It amazes me how people like to dismiss an entire movement that talks about giving equal human rights to all genders, by giving an example of the rare case in a sea of cases of assaults on women where a woman is at fault.

It is like saying women are already empowered enough because they have seen many “female army officers and pilots”. When you deny that a particular group of people is facing violence and oppression because of their gender identity and their surnames, you unknowingly become an ally of the oppressor.

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During this time, I also became more vocal about my political inclinations. I confess that as an adolescent, I was one of those people who boasted about being ‘apolitical’ and I literally thought politics would be the last thing of ‘interest’ for me. Now that I reflect on it, it is clear that it was my privilege that made it affordable for me to remain ‘neutral’.

Since then, I have learned a lot about the importance of inclusivity and equity. Bigotry is as deep-rooted as patriarchy. If you think about it, so many people that you know have spent their entire lives hating people that are different from them, which is why they are open vessels to drink in propaganda and fake news. Such bigots who think the tyrants will never come for them couldn’t be more wrong.

It is our collective responsibility to question the wrongdoings of those in power. And for those who are privileged to also take off the veil before their eyes and to find the courage to speak up – we can do it without being tortured, demonised and lynched.

The only thing that I feel content about, as of now, is the fact that I succeeded in breaking the chain of the problematic social conditioning. I feel horrified at the thought of me being similarly unaware, hateful, ignorant and sexist. I have learnt that loving our country and loving our government are two very different things and we have a long way to go in terms of progress.

Do not let people question your patriotism just because you see through the tyranny. Ask questions. What we need right now are rational minds that are open to the ideas of empathy and humanity.

Akanksha Thakar is studying computer engineering in Ahmedabad. She is an introvert and likes filmmaking, analysing movies and the psychology of characters. You can reach her on Instagram @filmsforart.

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