Thursday, July 28, 2005

Pride and Prejudice!

Racial disharmony seems to have been the flavor of the times during these past few months. Sunil Laxman wrote about his personal experiences sometime ago. I wanted to post on it first, saying that in my four years here in the US, I haven't personally experienced anything like this (even at the height of the post 9/11 xenophobia), but for some reason the post did not materialize. However I did forget that I had been living in idyllic Athens for most of these four years.

My views started changing when a couple of weeks ago, Meghna and her roomies were yelled at by a passerby because they were "Indian". She also adds that a few days earlier, someone that she was talking about their used car, hung up the phone on her after she replied in the affirmative to the question - "Are you Indian?"! Apparently he mentioned that he wouldn't sell his car to an Indian. But like Sunil, she feels no anger. She says she just pities such people, perhaps on their misguided thoughts, I think.

And then, last week I joined the club too. Twice, I was subjected to a few choice slurs from people driving by as I was waiting to cross the road! I observed that in both incidents last week the parties dishing out the abuse seemed to be teenagers. Were they drunk? I don't think so, since they occured in the middle of the afternoon. Perhaps, the classic case of the devil inside an idle mind, with schools being still closed for the summer? I don't know..

But it would suffice to say that these has been one of those few moments of my life that I'd would rather forget and hope that in the broader sense, the world's much better than these few people.

12 comments:

Alpana said...

Actually even in Athens I do remember walking down the road with a couple of Indian friends and being shouted at by some guys in a car as they drove past. Wasnt that idyllic! But I felt the burden (?) of my brown face most keenly at the columbus airport. Maybe I was too sensitive, but it did seem to me that I would be singled out for a lot of extra checking.

Nilu said...

:))....

I have also done stuff quite similar. Though am brown faced myself ;)....seriously :))

dev2r said...

Nilu: It's racism only when you insult people of other ethnicities...

Leon said...

I've been living in the Boston area for a year now and haven't had any 'racial' experiences.. But I've heard a lot of my friends talk about such incidents. Maybe I'm just lucky..

RPM said...

Out here in the Silicon Valley, where Indians seem to be a majority, there is not a glimpse of such stuff.

But I've been on the receiving side of this nonsense 6-7 years ago in Los Angeles. Went to a shoe store with 'chappals' and shorts and the sales person started talking to his buddy saying things like 'No shoes in Calcutta' and 'Wonder what its like to walk barefoot' etc.

I almost spat at him, but I did walk out immediately. I was going to buy a couple of pairs of sports shoes and unfortunately for the owner, they lost my business.

visithra said...

I had a friend who was beaten up for just being indian in canada. It is sad how pitiful some people can be. But as your friend said it isnt worth the time. Just be careful some of them can go over board.

dev2r said...

Visithra: Where in Canada, do you know?

Venky Krishnamoorthy said...

Most the times, these are "teen agers" and un-educated individuals. We should learn to ignore and move forward.

WestEnder said...

There are many reasons why idiots like this are prevalent in American society: poor schools, broken families, poor media, etc.

But perhaps the most effective way would be to improve the educational system. It is the things that opens doors to opportunity and thus reduces crime and uncivilized behavior.

This can be done by supporting school levies, reading about school board meetings, etc. Just generally maintaining an awareness of issues as they arise.

Anonymous said...

I am a sikh and wear turban. I get the comments sometime and I yell back "Go back to russia you f***ing commie" It just confuses those guys. One even explained to me that he is not russian.

anantha said...

Anon: I am not sure whether reacting to such abuse with something of your own would solve the problem. Essentially in doing so, you are going down to their level as well and as much as you get the satisfaction of giving back some part of what you get, you are also giving THEM the satisfaction that they got under your skin, which probably was their intention anyway. But its funny that someone actually stopped to convince you of their ethinicity and ideology.

Westender: Good point. After interacting with my American class mates at school here, I find that what I initially thought was a very positive point about the American school system (the ability to choose what to study), is probably also a reason. Some of the students end up with a lot of free time on their hands as opposed to others. But this is probably an uneducated guess. That might be the reason. In anycase thanx for your comment and keep visiting, though I don't know how I'd keep satisfying your interests on this blog. However I can try :)

Hum do Harami do said...

Racism is an occupational hazard of living abroad. At least in your own country, you've earned the right to be there simply by virtue of having lived there generations - with vast lines of your ancestry having contributed in a (hopefully) productive manner to society. Which gives you the right, in turn, to tell people to STFU if they get unpleasant.
You can fool yourself into believing in the entire global village "we are the heal the worlllld!" stuff that sappy songs are made of, but you'll still be resented for the simple reason that some people believe you do not belong in their country. That does not make them moronic or worthy of your derision and sympathetic contempt -- they are just scared of the way of life they've been comfortable with being eroded away by waves of people who talk and act funny.

It also amazes me how people gloss over all the various sorts of racism Indians practise on each other - from reservations to comments on complexion but get so outraged at people in other countries being 'racist'. I'd have thought Bollywood with its North India as norm everything else as aberration and the many assholes we went to school with (am I the only person who had a sardar classmate get his turban pulled off by bullies or who witnessed really ugly scenes between the castes around 1990? I think not) would have made us totally racist proof.