Racism has been getting a shade too controversial these days. No one doubts the brutal reality of it. Yes, the colour of your skin does have a lot to do with how your life pans out, at the very least it is a conscious part of your daily life. Red lipstick, black dress, gold/silver jewellery—deep inside we are convinced this does or does not suit us based on our ‘colour’. ‘She is dark but...’ is oft-heard prefix for female praise. Indians, however ‘fair’ here, end up feeling ‘dark’ abroad. By and large we get by, aware as we go along that racism is a ticking bomb that can go off in any back alley we happen to be.
And while this reality stares us in the face, there is also the lobby of the easily offended. The psyche of the affected party of course is understandable; they have had too much to deal with. But those determined to take offence on behalf of all victims, sometimes—just sometimes—end up perpetuating racism some more. Nothing like the instant attention one gets by crying ‘racism’.
A recent comment by Hollywood actor Liam Neeson, that he roamed the streets looking to kill a ‘black ba***rd’ in the wake of a rape, has created a global storm. Only Neeson knows what he meant but by creating an atmosphere of suspicion, he is now bereft of a platform to explain or even backtrack.
When it comes to conversations on colour, context is everything. Apart from the point that the prejudiced are victims of conditioning too, it could just be that such comments stem from a confessional moment in what could be seen as a part of a larger dialogue on the subject, an acknowledging of a past prejudice.
Here in India our very own racism concerns our domestic help. The upper the class, the higher their consciousness of generosity towards the ‘lower class’. Yet it is not strictly a class thing—we reserve this special status only for those who work for us inside our homes. While houses have smaller gates and back-doors for servants to use, flats have inbuilt loos for them. We keep aside plates for them to eat in. Where do they sleep? On makeshift beddings, that’s where. The poor take on the lesser skin. The moneyed are ‘fair-skinned’.
If a raped woman wants to kill a man, any man, we empathise. If a murdered victim’s family hates all murderers, we get it. But what Neeson said, we decided, has nothing to do with the crime or his angst, but everything to do with the word ‘black’. It could well be that his haters are absolutely right; maybe we should not have an iota of tolerance for such comments. In the long run, however, this readiness to flare up may whitewash the issue concerned; the only hue left that of hatred. Better it is to take the one-odd regressive comment in stride while we head towards a more colour-blind email@example.com