3rd January 2012
Are Indians the most racist people in the world?
I have mentioned on this blog in the past that I find Indians to be among the most racist people in the world.
They look at the world first through the prism of skin colour. Then caste, then parentage (who was your father), then your geographical coordinates (the state you “come from”, the town or village, and so on ….
Merit comes a distant tenth (or even fiftieth).
Such a deeply parochial and bigoted view of the world was perhaps appropriate for a static agricultural economy which needed to reproduce all necessary goods over hundreds of generations without a hiccup. Intensive stereotyping was perhaps useful, then.
But today it has become an extremely incorrect way of looking at the world. We can be very easily deceived if we assess the worth of people based on their skin colour.
I was reminded of this issue today because someone mentioned to me earlier in the day that he finds his Indian friends to be the most racist of all. They are “proud”, for instance, of the fact that they are not Africans or Aborigines.
I’m willing to believe this, for I have heard many stories about how badly African students are treated in Delhi. These people are also derogatively called “Kallus” – a term I first heard from one of my fellow Indian PhD students in USA.
It is necessary that we ask ourselves the harsh question: ARE WE COLOUR-CONSCIOUS? If so, we need to work hard to eliminate this false consciousness.
I was editing the ‘race’ section of DOF a moment ago. I’m providing the current draft below for your comment (and, hopefully not necessary, englightenment).
Evolution is unrelenting. It doesn’t stop – even for a single generation. Millions of mutations occur in each generation, as the life force engages in active experiment to prepare itself for contingencies. The overwhelming majority of these mutations die. Millions of unsuitable human foetuses are aborted by nature every year; and thousands of defective ones that are born, quickly disappear. Only ‘good’ mutations, that give (or can give) the species a competitive edge, survive. This evolutionary process allowed our ancestors to roam the earth, adapting to all its environments with relative ease. Only the children best adapted to the environment cold survive. In this process a number of cosmetic differences emerged.We all seem to have descended from dark skinned African forbears who were adapted to intense equatorial sunlight (to block out harmful wavelengths). As humans moved to the higher latitudes they found less sunlight, making it hard the dark-skinned to produce sufficient vitamin D. In the high latitudes, children with a mutation that helped them produce less melanin (lighter skin) had better odds of survival than their darker siblings. Over time, the so called ‘white race’ evolved, as a local environmental adaptation. Note that being a function of random chance, evolution doesn’t lead to exactly the same ‘solution’ or adaptation everywhere.Similarly, children with mutation for longer hair survived better in higher latitudes than those with Afro- (or short, curly) hair because long hair keeps the head warmer. Once these mutations had emerged, other factors such as their ‘popularity’ (sexual adaptation, which is often linked with fitness), would have come into play.A range of ‘hidden’ adaptations which are not cosmetic but otherwise crucial to survival, also emerged. For instance, those Europeans who had a mutation which protected them from bubonic plague survived the Black Death. Those without the mutation, died. As a result of this, the progeny of the survivors (being most of the Europeans living today) are also resistant to the plague.While such adaptations have led to many (minor) differences, overall, these differences account for less than 0.01 per cent of the variation in the human genome. We are identical in 99.99 per cent of our genes. Scientists tell us that ‘[i]t is impossible to look at people’s genetic code and deduce whether they are Black, Caucasian or Asian.’ Variation amongst individuals within a so-called ‘race’ is generally far greater than variation across so-called ‘races’. Thus, ‘modern human genetics … deliver[s] the salutary message that human populations share most of their genetic variation and that there is no scientific support for the concept that human populations are discrete, non-overlapping entities.’ The myth of ‘race’ had long ago been exploded (such as in Man’s Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race writtenby anthropologist Ashley Montagu in 1942), most people continue to believe in this concept. Our use of such a term is a really bad habit. It falsely creates categories where there are none, and distorts the social and political discourse.We are one big family and ought to learn to treat each other as such. Indeed, scientists are now beginning to ask the opposite question: Why are we so similar? William James Burroughs believes that ‘[g]iven the length of time humans have existed, there should be a wide range of genetic variation, yet DNA from people throughout the world is surprisingly similar.’ There are competing theories about why this is the case. One plausible explanation is that human population declined to just around 5 000 to 10 000 around eighty years ago, before clawing back from near extinction. If true, then all of us have potentially evolved from a single tribe, or a handful of closely associated tribes in North Africa just about 75 000 years ago, which explains our extremely low diversity as a species.
Racism simply has no legs to stand on. But this mis-conception won’t go away so easily since most humans have very a poor understanding of biology. Only the spread of education will eliminate this myth about ‘race’. E.g. Johan Moan, of Institute of Physics at the University of Oslo, said in a research paper: “In England, from 5500-5200 years ago the food changed rapidly away from fish as an important food source. This led to a rapid development of … light skin.” The Australian, 31 August 2009. [http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,,26004285-26040,00.html. Also, Nina Jablonski’s work.]
 Henderson, Mark, ‘Gene tests prove that we are all the same under the skin’, Times Online, October 27, 2004,[http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/health/article499598.ece]
 Lynn Jorde and Stephen Wooding of the University of Utah, cited in Henderson, Mark, ‘Gene tests prove that we are all the same under the skin’, Times Online, October 27, 2004. [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/health/article499598.ece] Burroughs, William James, Climate Change in Prehistory: The End of the Reign of Chaos, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005, p.138. Google books. Transcript of Cusack, Sinead, ‘Supervolcanoes’, BBC2 9:30pm Thursday 3rd February 2000.[http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/horizon/1999/supervolcanoes_script.shtml]
ADDENDUM 2 August 2013
From Sharad Bailur: My friend Baloo Gupte was an India test cricketer. His older brother Subhash Gupte was considered a genius among spinners in cricket and rated much higher than Baloo or anyone else. Subhash decided to marry a black woman from Jamaica. His family would not accept him in India – not becasue he married outside his community – that was bad enough, but because he married a black woman. Subhash gave up cricket and settled down in Jamaica. That is how racist India is. To test our attitude to racism I once invited a black friend out on a picnic organised by Aamchi families in Lucknow. The only person who spoke to him other than me was my grandmother. Not one, NOT ONE of the others did. That’s racism among highly educated Indians. [Aamchi = Konkani speaking Saraaswat Brahmins]
Racism map of the world (click for larger image).
“I hate the racism. Why is my team made up of 99% white girls? Why do Indians feel it’s ok to dress white girls up in skimpy outfits but they won’t let their fellow Indian women do it? It’s messed up.” [Source]
A nuanced article worth reading: Different Shades of White
ADDENDUM 10 April 2017