Me, a racist?

It was an afternoon like any other. In a busy, cosmopolitan city, life was buzzing past. The shopping arcade was full of shoppers, picking up odds and ends for the New Year. Many were strolling around aimlessly, waiting perhaps, for a friend. I was trying to buy myself a new pair of pyjamas and there were a few stalls just for this, offering bottoms and tees for prices as ridiculously low as Rs.75! As I browsed lazily, looking through a riot of colours, I heard a voice behind me.
“See, I told you there is someone strange here, didn’t I?”
It was a mother with a toddler in her arms. For a second, I thought they were referring to me. I was very soberly dressed, so I did not understand why they would classify me as ‘strange’. The mother started to rummage through the enormous pile of clothes, talking in a low voice to the baby in her arms. I realised that it was not about me, but an African woman, at the other side of the counter, looking through the wares.Their conversation reached my ears, and what I heard was not pleasant. Here it goes, snippets of ‘that‘ conversation-
“Do you see that lady there? Do you see her hair? So many little braids, no? Why do you think she has done that?”
At this point, I nurtured a small hope that the mother might go into how different cultures have different dressing styles, but what she said shocked me.
“She is mad, that is why. And if you do not behave, that strange woman will carry you away.That’s why she is sitting here. To carry away babies like you.”
Needless to say, the child did not utter a word for the rest of the spree. I was just speechless. Would the conversation have taken the same turn had it been a white person instead of the African? As Indians, we are subjected to discrimination too, why does it not make us more tolerant? Is brown better than black? And white better than brown? If someone had commented on the mother’s brightly coloured saree, would she have taken it?
Most important of all, should a two-year old be taught to be scared of people who just look different? Does that mean anyone ‘Indian’ looking can be trusted just by virtue of his/her looks or hairstyle? It was a very disturbing scene. I think we must teach our children to accept all kinds of people, more so this day and age, where the world is getting smaller and smaller. Let us not hide behind a hypocritical cloak of tolerance while setting a bad example in action for the little ones around us.
For under our black/brown/white/wheat/cocoa/chocolate/almond/olive skins, we are all one.

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2 thoughts on “Me, a racist?

  1. Wow! People never cease to amaze me! In order to change the world and the views that hurt our different cultures, we must raise our children to be open-minded and accepting of all race/cultures. This saddens me to think its almost 2012 and comments like this are still made. Thanks for sharing!

  2. True! I am seething with rage and sad at the same time. I think this would our first responsibility as parents-to help our child see through the external things into the person within.

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