Last month, a teen died, by way of a drug overdose – an overdose that led to the arrest of five Nigerian students – the blame as well as the arrest rooted in sparse evidence. The death also result in 300 people participating in the beating of African residents, in the Greater Noida area, with sticks and with metal chairs.
The racist attack is not isolated.
October of 2014 witnessed three African students from Burkina Faso and Gabon attacked on the Delhi Metro, for allegedly harassing a female commuter — an accusation that turned to hold minimal evidence. The year before saw a Nigerian national stabbed to death in Panaji, Goa. January of 2016 saw the naked parading of a Tanzanian woman, who had been formerly beaten and subsequently stripped, in the same city and following a road accident.
In a majority of the above incidents, police had been nearby and chose not to intervene.
The Heads of African Mission, in response to the Greater Noida violence, wrote, “The Heads of African Mission…reviewed the previous instances taken place and concluded that no known, sufficient and visible deterring measures were taken by the Government of India.”
Undeniably, India is a nation that hates black people.
Anti-black racism is a deep rooted sentiment in India – the intensity of which can be traced to the distaste associated with darker skinned persons. Who are seen as “lower,” in each regard – socially, economically, and religiously. The perception of dark skinned as backward, as below has also transferred to how an African individual can come to be viewed.
Each incident of violence described above can be tied to preexisting stereotypes of African men and women in the Indian psyche. African men are viewed as drug dealers, while African women are seen as prostitutes. Some of the stereotypes can be regarded as original, while others have been internalized and are derived from movies and music, predominantly from the United States and from Europe. There is the element of a cultural hangover, as well.
The Indian psyche, furthermore, has been tremendously influenced by the colonial system of Great Britain, where light-skinned Indians were afforded a greater freedom in comparison to their dark skinned counterparts. This has then resulted in the established a hierarchy, based on skin colour, which exists systemically in the present day.
The same hierarchy was also witnessed in apartheid South Africa, where Indians were imported as slaves or as indentured servants. In that, Indians, again, were seen with a superiority – having been provided an independence that had not been allocated to dark skinned South Africans who were segregated.
Having been favoured by the colonizer, Indians have moulded into the role of a “model minority”, a term which stretches past the experience of Indian Americans in the United States. The role has resulted in a certain benefit – a social and economic privilege – and therefore, it has been occupied with ease, with a sense of immunity from the prevailing social mores and crises. It was and is not questioned, due to the perceptions of safeguards it has generated.
Even the much revered pillar of peace and of equality in our society, Mahatma Gandhi, was an anti black racist – explaining that Africans lead lives of “indolence and nakedness” (according to a book titled, “The South African Gandhi,” by Ashwin Desai and Goolam Vehad). The same sentiment has been echoed, time in and time out, by Winston Churchill – the infamous anti-Indian politician who caused the Great Famine of West Bengal. Examples of such racism are frequent and are overlooked in the history of our nation.
The role of the model minority, as internally racist as it is, has also formed external racist behaviour – against Africans, specifically and violently.
The external racism can be found in housing, where African tenants are denied lodging due to the colour of their skin. It is found in the legal system, where Africans are treated barring basic humanity. It is present in society, where they are treated with disdain at the least and with violence at its worst.
Little legislation is in place to combat racism in India, moreover.
Nana Kofi Yalley, an Ghanian national and the Public Relations Officer of the Federation Of International Students Associations in Bangalore, Karnataka, made a compelling statement on Facebook, following the Greater Noida violence.
“They will call an attack on blacks non-racial but will attack anybody with a dark skin irrespective of the difference in the 54 countries there in the continent of Africa. But are we all the same? Is that not racial? Just because we look same don’t make us same people because behind the dark skin we all have different identities,” he expressed.
Yalley moved on to say that the government of India will wait for issue to leave the headlines, but “will not pass laws to condemn racial violence.”
Being a person of colour does not exclude us, as active aggravators of racism. We are a nation that hates Africans. We are nation that is racist against Africans. We are a nation that has managed to whitewash our own skin colour.
This piece could not have been written without the valuable input of Shruti S.