#RACISM: Why That Word Gets Stuck in our Throat

I was struck by how for the first time the media in India called 19-year-old Nido Taniam’s brutal death on Jan 31 what it actually was: a racist, mob-lynching.

The only reason Nido was attacked and beaten with rods and sticks, was because of his oriental features.

There continue to be such extreme forms of discrimination and violence all over India against Indians from the seven states in India’s North-east who have oriental features.  North-eastern women in Delhi are often subject to sexual harassment and rape. 60% of Northeastern women in India’s major cities have been subject to one or another form of discrimination and abuse.

The media and much of the Indian public don’t like to acknowledge these as racist attacks.

But the fact is that there is blatant, in-your-face racism in India, reinforced with filthy racist slurs, against people with oriental and African features. 

These are often passed off as “cultural differences.”  However, all the states in India are culturally different with different language, foods, and customs.

But when the hatred spewed is based on racial features through the use of words like “chinky” and “Habsha” (the equivalant of ‘nigger’) it is a race-based hate crime.

Why is it so hard for Indians to acknowledge we are racist? 

north eastIs it because racism is a learnt attitude, something that we learn not just from society but from our own family?

Do we find it so hard to say aloud the word ‘Racist’ because we are terrified that we might find our closes ones to be bigots: our parents, grandparents and siblings?

Are we terrified that the darkness we deny in our society lives in our own homes, and we dare not confront it there?

Some time ago I was telling a friend of mine how in her native state of Punjab, the sex ratio for girls has dropped so low, that the men are marrying women (many of who are trafficked actually) from North-Eastern India.

She laughed and said that could be used in my anti-gendercide campaign.  “Just tell them, that if they don’t find fair, Punjabi girls to marry, they will have to marry Chinki women and have Chinki children. That will scare them!” 

I know that she knew she was being racist, because she would never repeat that statement to anyone with oriental features.  So what made her so comfortable with me?  I told her that she was racist.  She lived in the U.S. and I said “So if a white person said about your daughters, don’t marry those blackies because you will have black children, how would that make you feel?”

Maybe she did not want to think about that, because since then, we’ve not communicated much.  Perhaps this is what makes the word ‘Racism’ so hard to say?

Leave a comment


  1. Gerd

     /  February 6, 2014

    Maybe you should have told her that her statement was racist instead of calling her a racist. Leaves more room for further communication.

    • Well, if she was 5-years-old yes. But as an adult we know right from wrong, and we know who we can and cannot say these wrong things to. If I called the statement racist and not her, she would nod, and say yes its wrong, and then never say that to me again. But I guarantee you she’d find other similar minded racist Indians to repeat that to. Racism is a conspired wrong between knowing adults.

  2. Tapas Ray

     /  February 6, 2014

    No surprises here. The “varna” system, a fundamental characteristic of Hinduism, is based on racism, in the sense that the literal meaning of “varna” is colour. Some people say that the word originally referred to differences in skin colour between the so-called Aryans and the indigenous population.

    • Yes, Tapas. The Varnas were White, Brown, Yellow and Black in descending order of Caste. No guesses here that these were racially defined.

  3. This is very disturbing. It is shown slightly in the movie chak de India. I didn’t want to believe that it was a real life situation.

  4. I’m not surpised. We have learned nothing when it comes to respect for humanity.


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