Thoughts on economics and liberty

Is India the world’s last great bastion of racism?

Because Sir Isaac Newton was superior to others in understanding, he was not therefore lord of the property or person of others. – Henri Grégoire, 1809 (i.e., alleged superior mental capacity does not give anyone the right to enslave others.)

The Freedom Team heartily congratulates Barak Obama on his election as the next President of USA. His electoral victory is a historical step forward for mankind in its journey towards equal freedom and equal opportunity. We must not forget, however, that Obama is the beneficiary, not the creator, of this victory. The credit for equalising opportunity in the West must go to liberals like Voltaire, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Modern racism started relatively recently. As Charles Hirschman notes: ‘race and racism are not ancient or tribal beliefs but have developed apace with modernity over the last 400 years and reached their apogee in the late nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth century.’ Modern racism is a consequence of the economic power of post-Renaissance Europeans over commercial slaves who were ‘black’. This power made the ‘whites’ think they were specially blessed by God!
Science tells us unambiguously that ‘race’ has no genetic basis beyond the most superficial. Humans started out with a dark skin as they left Africa 60,000 years ago. Paler skin colours in higher latitudes then arose because babies with a lighter skin survived better, being able to absorb more Vitamin D. Yet, as Hirschman has noted, ‘Even in modern societies, which have exposed the myth of racism, race remains a widely used term for socially defined groups in popular discourse – and, in some countries, also in scholarly research, and public policy.’
Until 1967 ‘interracial’ marriages were banned in many parts of USA and till 1973 Australia had a ‘White Australia’ policy. But over the work of the great liberals has finally started showing results. By 2007, when Obama arrived on the national stage in USA, the vast majority of the Americans were no longer racist. By electing Obama, America has sent a strong signal to the world about its firm belief in equal freedom. Liberty has had a great victory, with Obama as a messenger.
Despite this victory, roughly 5-7 per cent of the US population (‘white’ and ‘black’) continues to discriminate even today on the basis of skin colour. Obama’s victory will hopefully deal the final blow to this residual racism. That is good news for Indians in the West who have often complained in the past about racial prejudice.
Now for us – India – the last bastion of racism in the world. Even as the West buries its 400 year history of racism, India continues with its 5000 year history of caste and colour based discrimination, a consciousness not just Hindu but also found among Indian Christians and Indian Muslims. Racism of this type, based on caste and skin colour, poses a great challenge for social reformers in India.
The Freedom Team of India, as a voice of reason and freedom, is totally committed to equal opportunity and equal freedom. It is committed to treating each Indian equally. That means abolishing all laws which deal with religion or caste. All kinds of false practices such as reservations, and interventions in or subsidies for religions, must go. The recognition of someone’s caste or religion by a government is totally unacceptable to a free society. The state needs only know that we are Indians. That will be enough in the future great country called India.
(From my editorial in Towards a Great India, 15 November 2008)


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4 thoughts on “Is India the world’s last great bastion of racism?
  1. raj

    This needs to be read by more Indians. I think reservations everywhere must be abolished. Have you read Lok Satta's policy on discrimination? I remember something like…students from poor background must be given 10% extra marks/grades so they can gain admission in an institution. I don't understand how people think reservations and gimmicks like these promote unity! Time for all reservations to be scrapped, they contradict promoting equality.

  2. Ravi

    If Govt stops recognising caste and tribes in India than probably people from the so called higher caste will be the most happiest. They will at least be able to get the Govt jobs and admission in colleges on merit basis.

  3. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Ravi

    I fully support your views on reservations – with a slightly more nuanced approach (read my blog post on reservations).

    Re: Lok Satta's approach, I can't disagree with it more. What JP is trying to introduce is TOTALLY indefensible. And he claims to be a liberal. I don't quite understand that.



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