The unprovoked and dastardly killing of George Floyd on 25th May, 2020 has prompted a wave of awareness regarding the rampant prevalence of systemic racism throughout the world, with its echoes reverberating in India as well. As a display of solidarity, thousands of Indians posted tweets and stories on Instagram and Twitter condemning the act. We all came together to support the #BlackLivesMatter movement, rightly understanding the fact that it is significantly important to actively seek justice for the unjust happenings taking place internationally as well.
However, we became so preoccupied with ensuring the elimination of bias in America, that we completely lost sight of what was happening in our home. It is no news that the poverty-
stricken migrants have been persistently facing their own set of challenges, inclusive of
police brutality, due to COVID-19. Thousands and lakhs of these workers have been
struggling to get back home and to provide their families with one square meal a day.
I must have seen no less than a hundred posts demanding justice and accountability for
George Floyd, but only a handful concerning the deteriorating migrant situation of our own
country. I came across a thousand posts denouncing police brutality in relation to the West
and Floyd, but sadly, only a handful in relation to Faizan, a 23-year-old young man, who was
unsparingly beaten up by a police officer in Delhi and was then left for dead.
The most distressing factor about this whole situation is that Indians, who never bothered to raise their voice regarding the ongoing migrant crisis and/or the numerous instances of
police brutality in India are actively posting about the problems of the West. A number of
Bollywood stars are guilty of this particular act too -- speaking up about #BlackLivesMatter
but paying no heed to the challenges that our own country is facing. Given the amount of
influence these celebrities hold, even if one of them dared enough to speak up about any of
the mishappenings of India, it would’ve made a significant difference.
Another incident which unmasks the hypocrisy of the Indian youth and the celebrities likewise, is how people who were empathetic towards George Floyd and were posting stories and tweets about the same are silent today and are not posting a single post seeking justice for the custodial deaths of Jayaraj and Bennicks, on 23rd June, 2020 by a bunch of ruthless cops in Tamil Nadu. One thing that these people need to realise that our anger and activism cannot be selective and to our convenience. That is just pseudo-activism.
However, this is definitely not to say that police brutality and/or issues of India and the problems of the West are mutually exclusive. Bigoted happenings of India doesn’t make the killing of George Floyd any more right or justified and therefore, the solution is not
prioritisation. It is a concurrence. Every Indian who is speaking up about #BlackLivesMatter should consider it their responsibility to speak up about issues concerning our country as well. The core point here is that everything that is happening in our country AND the West is wrong in every respect and are standalone issues that need to be talked about for their own merit too. Turning a blind eye to one incident and advocating how wrong the other one is will not help in bringing about any substantial change.
Another factor that makes me question the credibility of this movement in India is that how
the same people who are guilty of exhibiting intolerable and discriminatory behaviour
towards dark-skinned people of their own country are advocating against systemic racism in other countries, on an online platform. This displays the sheer hypocrisy with which some people here choose to function.
Being a dark-skinned woman in India myself, I can say this without a hitch -- colourism here is a huge problem. It is a deep-rooted prejudice, ingrained in the minds of young girls and boys across India. A lot of teenage kids in India believe that ‘fair is beautiful’ because that’s what they are led to believe. Colourism in India continues to be an issue fuelled by our film industry, which tends to leave an impact on a lot of impressionable minds. Another aspect that adds to the prejudice is the role of the beauty industry and the ever growing stream of so-called fairness products that bombard our TVs via advertisements. Therefore, it feels unsettling to me how the same teenagers who continue to recommend me products that would help me “get a fairer skin,” are talking about abolishing racism solely because it is trending and not because they truly have a regard for any facet of it.
Therefore, systemic and institutionalized racism is not only a problem in the West. Hints of it exist in India as well and it is time that we stand together to fight this prejudice. None of us are born racist. We learn to be – from uneducated and chauvinist people around us. This
also means that we can ‘un-learn’ it. So let us all begin by doing our research, stepping
outside our boxes, and learning what it means to be human. To love and care for each
other, despite the pigment in our skin. And let us never forget what Kofi Annan, a Ghanian Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, once said, “Ignorance and prejudice are the handmaidens of propaganda. Our mission, therefore, is to confront ignorance with knowledge, bigotry with tolerance, and isolation with the outstretched hand of generosity. Racism can, will, and must be defeated.”