Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The New Racism

An Indian friend reports that he's been facing discrimination while on a house hunt. He works for a well-heeled Australian multinational company and has recently been looking for a place to stay. The landlords to whom he speaks on the phone sound very enthusiastic. When he goes over to meet them and they see that he's Indian, they turn him down without a blush. He's been told in so many words, "We don't rent to Indians."

And where is this happening? In our glorious capital city, New Delhi.

So the next time you hear some recently returned NRI complaining about Westerners being so racist, help them wake up to the realities of their motherland by telling them this story. Me, I believe Indians can out-racist anyone, when we put our five-thousand-years-of-civilization-selves to the task. Sure I get "raced" at when I am abroad -- but it's hardly very different to the various forms of discrimination I am exposed to right here, in Delhirium. Reading the International Women's Day posts at Zigzackly's place in reference to so-called "Eve-Teasing" I am reminded of the years for which merely being a woman resulted in virulent gender discrimination.

I don't face that stuff any more, but on the rare occasions I go walking to the local market, I feel uncomfortable just because I can sense that for the street elements, I am "different". It's no longer anything very specific -- I'm not a bimbette, I'm not obviously rich, I'm not a foreigner -- but my hair's very short and I don't dress in the manner expected of middle-aged middle-class women. This is enuff to cause the local fauna to react in subtle ways -- it's nothing very obvious, just a slight flinching and clearing of throats, often accompanied by a release of spit, a bit like dogs scent-marking territory. It's not racism, so much as an instinctive dislike of anyone who doesn't conform to received notions of "normal".

By contrast, when I am away from these fabled streets, I am merely a brown-skinned "other", who is accorded a neutral space, neither fond nor unfond. Most of the time, I pass unnoticed and am often, I believe, mistaken for Latino. I find this neutrality very comfortable to live with. Sometimes I can see a clear-cut race-based reaction. On such occasions, I just remind myself of what it's like back in the motherland and feel ... well ... the familiar DIScomforts of home!

Meanwhile, on the COMMENTS front, I am enjoying the relief from spam. I hadn't realized how annoying it was until I turned it off. Like having an infestation cyber-lice. Yech. I am also finally getting around to clearing the unwanted posts out of the various little pockets into which they've inserted themselves. I am going to experiment with turning comment "moderation" on now.

6 comments:

SloganMurugan said...

There are some hotels and lodges that do the same across india:

Indians and dogs not allowed: http://spaces.msn.com/gopalms/blog/cns!51D5A2013B339648!1010.entry?_c11_blogpart_blogpart=blogview&_c=blogpart#permalink

Marginalien said...

... further to posting comments: I think I accidentally moderated "answer-man"'s comment out of existence! Ah the joys of immoderate moderation!

But thanks for trying. Sloganmurugan, I haven't been to your link, but I know it's true. A sad commentary on our times.

Marginalien said...

anangbhai -- your comment got fried, sorry! But thanks for posting. About the type-size, it's got to do with different servers and browsers, I think. If I change the size for me, it becomes like kindergarten script. If you can alter the "view" on your browser, you should be able to see a larger type size. Should...

Vivified Visage said...

I can definitely relate to that! I'm an NRI, and I've noticed that they treat you a differently. I look Indian and speak the language, so people don't know unless you actually tell them...but they treat Indians who pay in Dollars instead of Rupees.

Another reason why I'm glad i don't live there.

Marginalien said...

Here anangbhai's comment, rescued from the void: anangbhai
That looking like a latin person only lasts until a mexican comes up to you and rapid fires a series of questions at you.

Could you increase the font size btw, its really really hard to see.

We indians all got our ghetto on when we're in India, but it takes a special kind of indian to bring that racism to america and live his life by it.

Anonymous said...

I think we should hold the Indian urbane middle-class prosperous and upwardly-mobile responsible for this pathetic state of affairs. Im just sick and tired of their ineptitude in dealing with belligerent white foreigners who descend on Bangalore...and we call progress this deluge of bigoted people. Bangalore's urabnait clink glasses and speak in borrowed accents in trendy bars with unemployed Europeans ..bravo India