RACISM AND DISCRIMINATION

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Suresh Kurl

Since so much talk about racism has been going around the nation, I thought I could also add my own say on this social evil, aka Racism. Racisms is an unhealthy state of mind. It delivers dislike towards specific races, especially about their physical attributes, such as, skin-tone or about the size of eyes. But its realm is not restricted to skin-tone or to the size of eyes alone. It could be against a person’s caste, or social status as well.

Racism encourages self-centered behaviour and discriminatory conduct.  Racism and discrimination go hand in hand. Where there is racism, discrimination exists.

Philosophically speaking, Racism creates obstacle to recognise ‘Self through the Self in all beings’ to help treat all beings equal. “He who thus recognises the Self through the Self in all beings, becomes equal towards all, and enters the highest state,  

Even after thousands of years of intensive efforts to uproot racism from society, parents, especially on the India sub-continent, which I am personally aware of, still go around hunting for fair skinned grooms and brides for their children. Thus, the plot to have fair skinned children in the family starts from the moment the parents go around searching for and putting together a fair skinned brides for a fair skinned grooms to produce fair-skinned babies. I call it skin tone engineering.

This kind of preference for light or lighter skin colour goes deep in our Indian families. I presume it started around 1500-1000 (BC), when the light-skinned Indo-European tribes of Central Asia invaded India. They defeated the dark-skinned natives of the country and started using them as their servants (Dasa), treating them as bandits (Dasyu) or killing them. Several Rig Vedic chants refer to looting their wealth, even killing their women. Readers of the Rig Veda also come across specific references to the words such as, aaryavarna — the Aryancomplexion (people of light complexion) vs. daasyavarna — the Non-Aryan complexion, (people of dark complexion, slaves). This was how racism came to India.

Later on, the portrayal of gods and goddesses being white skinned compounded racial discrimination. One of the names of Lord Shiva is “Gasuranga” or “Gaureesha” the one with white skinned body and Parvati, his consort as Gauri, the white skinned goddess.  In the 4th century BC India, in the royal court of Magadha (modern day province of Bihar), there was a well-known dancing girl. Her name was ‘Shweta” the white one.

A fifteen century Awadhi Saint-poet, Tulsi Das, while comparing the complexion of Lord Rama’s wife, Sita says, “Siiya badan sam himkar naahin;” the complexion of the snow white moon is nothing compared to Sita’s fair skinned face. Another Saint-poet of the same period wondered why his childhood hero, Krishna was not light skinned. He questioned Krishna, “gore Nand, Yashoda gori, tum kat shyaam sariir?” Your father, Nand was light skinned. Your mother, Yashoda was light skinned. How come you are dark skinned?”

I could not be more than six-years old, when I saw something so miraculous I could not resist my excitement and ran up to my mom to tell her about the miracle I had noticed in Sarla’s face. Sarla, was my neighbour’s daughter. She was a dark skinned girl, but that particular evening, when she was going to be married, she looked so white I could not believe my eyes. Mom looked at me and popped my curiosity-balloon in a split second, “They sell creams in the market that can make you look white.” 

Since that age, I have lived in four different countries — India, where I was born and grew up until I was twenty-six years old. In 1967, I moved to the United Kingdom, for a year. From there I moved to the United States of Americas, where I lived for two years, and then moved to Canada in 1970, and that is where I have lived ever since. In addition, I have travelled around the world. Thus, based on what I have experienced so far, I could safely say that pigmentation based prejudice is a universal phenomenon and it continues to flourish, all over

though efforts are being made to eliminate it.