The Selective Woke-ness of Indians

In the wake of George Floyd’s inexcusable death, demonstrations and protests rapidly sprang up in more than 100 cities in the US. As the protests intensified, the international community also pledged its support for the black community and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Adding to this global solidarity, a growing number of Indians took to social media to make an impassioned plea to put a stop to systematic racism and police brutality in the US.

As an Indian, I was glad to see such outpouring of support, but I was in for a rude awakening.

Please don’t get me wrong. It’s honestly remarkable that the entire world is standing in full solidarity with the BLM movement, and it’s certainly commendable that Indian people recognise their obligation as members of the global community. However, some of these Indian activists’ paradoxical nature renders the whole championing of the movement as mere virtual signalling, and the very same nature explains why similar issues at home can’t find the same voice.

For decades, India has been plagued by colourism, casteism and racism, but many millennial activists seldom voice their concerns. I can’t help but wonder whether these people live in the same India as I.

It’s an India where casteism is so pervasive that lower cast names are often used as pejorative, where police brutality is exceedingly normalised, and where an overwhelming majority of the population identify light skin with higher beauty standards while dark skin is brazenly frowned upon. The same India, where even leading celebrities blatantly perpetrate colourism by endorsing skin-lightening products, attesting to the extent of racism and ubiquity of obsession with fairness.

Apart from India’s racism towards its own people, there’s also a deep-seated distaste for black people ensuing from the prevailing notion that light skin is superior to dark skin. If you’re still uncertain, here’s a litmus test for you: Ask your parents how pleased they would be if you were to date a black person? All of these facts beg a simple question: Are Indian people, ostensibly one of the most ardent supporter groups of black people, insulated from such exposures? To answer the question, it’s essential to explore the genesis of the racist elements.

Also read: #BlackLivesMatter: Let’s Not Forget India’s Closeted Racism

The reason why racism is inherent in so many Indians is that they grow up being inadvertently exposed to racist sentiments and narratives, and without proactively identifying and eradicating such notions, these severely damaging views are carried forth to the next generation. Other derivatives of racism, such as colourism, stem from casteism, as exemplified by the Mahabharata, India’s ancient epic, which designates the colour white to Brahmins, the upper caste, and dark or black to the untouchables, the lowest caste. British colonialism reasserted these beliefs by positing the light-skin superiority mindset, and the western media’s dominance of the cultural landscape has further cemented it.

The aforementioned analysis illustrates that racism in India is widespread and deeply embedded, so to answer the original question, No, the Indian people can’t possibly be unaware of the actualities. It’s palpably evident that the people have simply decided to be blissfully ignorant and only engage in selective activism, which is just a euphemism for utter posturing. Retweeting and sharing posts blindly for the sole purpose of jumping on a trend serves no purpose besides feeding one’s pseudo-moral correctness.

To end entrenched racism, casteism, and colourism in our own backyard, it’s imperative that we, the Indian people, first educate ourselves better and then educate others. Activists need to address the grave and exigent issues of racial inequality and police violence in our own country with the same fervour they support the black lives matter movement and move beyond the tempting online trends to translate the activism to the real world.

It’s our shared obligation to ensure that the next generation is liberated from toxic racial prejudice and colour bias, to hold our contemporaries accountable, and to eliminate all the extremely dangerous notions that are rampant in Indian societies.

Recently, one of my peers recognised how she looked up to her older cousins while growing up, and the profound effect elder siblings and cousins can have on their younger counterparts. Employing this insightful rationale, she has been making conscious efforts to dismantle their preconceived notions and better educate her little cousins on a variety of racism-related problems in society. It’s just one of the many ways to break off the perennial cycle of racism, and I firmly believe that everyone can make a meaningful difference through innumerable avenues at our disposal.

So, please stop posturing, and if you truly care about racism, start at home!

Featured image credit: Larm Rmah/Unsplash