India Is Racist and Nobody Wants to Change
An African American’s first-hand experience of India should make all of us think about this silent crime
There’s much friendship and love in private spaces, but the Delhi public literally stops and stares. It is harrowing to constantly have children and adults tease, taunt, pick, poke and peer at you from the corner of their eyes, denying their own humanity as well as mine. Their crude, aggressive curiosity threatens to dominate unless disarmed by kindness, or met with equal aggression.
In Lucknow, I once stood gazing at giraffes at the zoo only to turn and see some 50 families gawking at me rather than at the giraffes. Parents abruptly withdrew infants that inquisitively wandered towards me. I felt like an exotic African creature-cum-spectacle, stirring fear and awe. Even my attempts to beguile the public through simple greetings or smiles are often not reciprocated. Instead, the look of wonder swells as if this were all part of the act and we were all playing our parts.
Racism anywhere is never a personal experience. Racism in India is systematic and independent of the presence of foreigners of any hue. This permits and promotes a lawlessness and disdain for dark skin. Each time I visit one of Delhi’s clubhouses, I notice that I am the darkest person not wearing a work uniform. Most Indian pop icons have light, damn-near-white skin. Several filmstars even promote skinwhitening creams that promise to improve one’s popularity and career prospects. Such consumerism masks the internalized racism underlying those fast-action TV advertisements