The Racist in Me

Against the backdrop of an African-American losing his life in the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, US, being an Indian, I decided to look at my own inherent biases when it comes to color and what living in the US has taught me about them.

Photo credit: Abhijit Das

This is my confession, a peep into how the society we live in, needs to be questioned time and again if one wants to grow and evolve as a human being.

To know what has happened over the last few days in the United States of America, you can check this out:

George Floyd

When an African-American man died because of a white police officer on May 25, 2020, nobody would have thought it’ll lead to protests all across the country and will put into limelight, the blatant racism that has for ages, defined America and its people.

I am nobody to comment on what happened, what is happening or what’s going to happen in days and months to come.

But I can definitely talk about the conversations I’ve had around this incident within my own circle. The conversation that I’ve had with myself in accepting how racist we brown Indians, inherently are.

Living in the US, whenever I would come across a black homeless person, my first instinct would be fear. Yes, I am being too honest here. Or maybe I am not.

I would unconsciously go back in time to my growing up years in Delhi, India, when any black person in my surrounding was to be afraid of.

The general idea was that they were mostly drug addicts/peddlers or people that were related to crime, one way or the other.

I could never fathom how that could be and yet, the fear was inculcated in me forever. I lived with it and did nothing about it. Maybe because I didn’t have to face my own prejudice yet.

Well, that was until I landed in the US. The first year I spent there, I wasn’t sure about my feelings whenever I saw African-Americans in the streets or at the stores.

The few homeless people I saw were mostly African-Americans and my fear only took new roots.

And then…

I met and interacted with an African-American. He wasn’t my friend but when he came home, I found him so warm and friendly. He was one of the nicest guys I had met in a country that was still unknown to me.

I had started to question my own biases.

Then on one of those beautiful sunny days in summer, at the park with my 2-year-old daughter, I saw a father with his 7-month-old daughter. He was black.

I surprised myself when I found a little reluctance on my part to enter the park on seeing him from afar.

As my daughter was untouched by any kind of prejudice, she instinctively went to the man and the baby to play with them. They were the only people there.

I was still hesitant. And yet, I decided to approach him. I guess I didn’t have an option. We ended up having a long conversation and after 40 minutes of it, I was filled with shame.

This man was a professor at San Jose University and had taken his baby out so that his wife, who was still managing the Baby Blues, could take a break.

He was a scholar, an intelligent person, who was also into literature. We talked about Christianity and Buddhism. He said he might come to one of my Buddhist meetings as he didn’t know much about it.

We talked about books and babies and postpartum depression.

Eight months later, he attended my daughter’s birthday with his family, even though we couldn’t attend his baby’s first one.

The moment in the park, when I left for home with my daughter after those 40 minutes with him, was an eye opener.

It has taken many documentaries and a lot of reading on the history of African Americans for me to finally question all that I have been taught about them.

There’s so much to unlearn and relearn and question when it comes to the society we live in. It’s time to look deep within and confront our own biases.

It’s simply ironical how as brown people, we have internalized racism of all sorts in India. Be it our brothers and sisters from the north-eastern part of our country or anybody who’s a shade darker than us, we are the first ones to judge them and show our prejudices (sometimes unconsciously) in our behavior towards them.

It’ll be tough and there’ll be times when we won’t like ourselves but let’s not worry about that.

We will surely end up being better people. We will also help create a more just and kind society for the future generations.

Let’s reevaluate and keep a check on our deep-rooted racism to finally end it in the 21st century.

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Writer. Buddhist. Feminist. Looking for freelance projects.