We Indians are not just highly colour conscious, we are in many ways, downright racist. Much of the time, our racism and colourism are unconscious – we often don’t even know how offensive our words and behaviour can be. Most of the time, our racism is unacknowledged. We refuse to admit that we are racist because of some rather convoluted logic: we are often the victims of racism, so we cannot be racist ourselves! Consider whether you’ve used any of these, uncaringly or unconsciously:
They are all variations of the same word, kaala or black. Most Indians have no compunction describing Africans or even people from certain parts of India this way. Songs such as ‘Hum kaale hai to kya hua dilwale hai’ don’t help!
People use these words in India; but usually don’t have the barefaced gall to say them loudly. Most people who use these terms do so despite knowing that they are pejorative, offensive terms for people who can simply and accurately be referred to as ‘Africans’. This further brings out the Indian preoccupation with and preference for fair skin.
The word ‘habshi’ translates to ‘negro’; a slur word that was earlier used to describe people of African origin. It is no longer used elsewhere in the world, but can be heard in India; along with a racist mindset that makes criminals and drug smugglers of everyone who has a certain skin colour and facial features.
Sadly, many people seem to think that this is funny. How utterly distasteful this is, seems to completely escape those who either actually use these racial slurs or forward offensive images such as these.
Many Indians seem to think this is a ‘descriptive’ term; born mainly out of ignorance and don't think it is at all offensive. Heck, a lot of Indians have Chinky as a pet name! To be sure they don’t mean to demean or belittle people from the North East when they use a term that they imagine is OK to use – because they think it's fine to describe an entire person by one facial characteristic.
So many Indians think it is Ha-Ha amusing to describe a person from the North East by using names for Chinese food dishes – Chowmein, Hakka noodles, Manchurian… this is supposed to be comical?
This unthinking lumping together of diverse and varied groups of people is usually pejorative. It indicates that one doesn’t know much about regions, languages or the people of South India and that one cannot be bothered to find out either; ergo the careless use of one amorphous and inaccurate term!
This is a term used mostly in cities such as Mumbai, Ahmedabad and so on to describe Catholics. It probably came from the term ‘maka pao de’ or give me bread and from the stereotype that all Christians eat only bread all the time! To be sure, not too many Christians take offence at being called Maka Pao. Most will laugh good-naturedly. But must we use these insensitive, offensive and stupid terms? Can’t we be inoffensive, colour blind and free from racial biases?
Do you have something interesting you would like to share? Write to us at [email protected]