Discrimination in India

Discussion in 'Members Corner' started by Daredevil, Jun 22, 2009.

  1. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

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    Guys, I'm starting this thread based on articles in outlook this week on racism, discrimination etc based on color in India. I would like us to discuss this issue thoroughly instead of sweeping it under the carpet and going into denial that 'discrimination doesn't exist in India'.

    Here goes the first article

    'India Is Racist, And Happy About It'

    A Black American's first-hand experience of footpath India: no one even wants to change

    DIEPIRIYE KUKU

    In spite of friendship and love in private spaces, the Delhi public literally stops and stares. It is harrowing to constantly have children and adults tease, taunt, pick, poke and peer at you from the corner of their eyes, denying their own humanity as well as mine. Their aggressive, crude curiosity threatens to dominate unless disarmed by kindness, or met with equal aggression.

    Once I stood gazing at the giraffes at the Lucknow Zoo only to turn and see 50-odd families gawking at me rather than the exhibit. Parents abruptly withdrew infants that inquisitively wandered towards me. I felt like an exotic African creature-cum-spectacle, stirring fear and awe. Even my attempts to beguile the public through simple greetings or smiles are often not reciprocated. Instead, the look of wonder swells as if this were all part of the act and we were all playing our parts.

    Racism is never a personal experience. Racism in India is systematic and independent of the presence of foreigners of any hue. This climate permits and promotes this lawlessness and disdain for dark skin. Most Indian pop icons have light-damn-near-white skin. Several stars even promote skin-bleaching creams that promise to improve one’s popularity and career success. Matrimonial ads boast of fair, v. fair and v. very fair skin alongside foreign visas and advanced university degrees. Moreover, each time I visit one of Delhi’s clubhouses, I notice that I am the darkest person not wearing a work uniform. It’s unfair and ugly.

    Discrimination in Delhi surpasses the denial of courtesy. I have been denied visas, apartments, entrance to discos, attentiveness, kindness and the benefit of doubt. Further, the lack of neighbourliness exceeds what locals describe as normal for a capital already known for its coldness.

    My partner is white and I am black, facts of which the Indian public reminds us daily. Bank associates have denied me chai, while falling over to please my white friend. Mall shop attendants have denied me attentiveness, while mobbing my partner. Who knows what else is more quietly denied?

    "An African has come," a guard announced over the intercom as I showed up. Whites are afforded the luxury of their own names, but this careful attention to my presence was not new. ATM guards stand and salute my white friend, while one guard actually asked me why I had come to the bank machine as if I might have said that I was taking over his shift.

    It is shocking that people wear liberalism as a sign of modernity, yet revert to ultraconservatism when actually faced with difference. Cyberbullies have threatened my life on my YouTube videos that capture local gawking and eve-teasing. I was even fired from an international school for talking about homosociality in Africa on YouTube, and addressing a class about homophobia against kids after a student called me a ‘fag’.

    Outside of specific anchors of discourse such as Reservations, there is no consensus that discrimination is a redeemable social ill. This is the real issue with discrimination in India: her own citizens suffer and we are only encouraged to ignore situations that make us all feel powerless. Be it the mute-witnesses seeing racial difference for the first time, kids learning racism from their folks, or the blacks and northeasterners who feel victimised by the public, few operate from a position that believes in change.

    Living in India was a childhood dream that deepened with my growing understanding of India and America’s unique, shared history of non-violent revolution. Yet, in most nations, the path of ending gender, race and class discrimination is unpaved. In India, this path is still rural and rocky as if this nation has not decided the road even worthy.It is a footpath that we are left to tread individually.

    (The writer is a Black American PhD student at the Delhi School of Economics.)
     
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  3. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

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    Our True Colours

    Our True Colours

    Before we rush to castigate Australia, we need to examine our own prejudices of region and colour

    DEBARSHI DASGUPTA

    Humiliation for Yoyce Jones, a Black American fresh out of an Ivy League college, came bang in the middle of Delhi's booming satellite town Gurgaon. He was at a chemist's in one of its glittering malls to buy some face soap. The man at the counter handed him a fairness soap instead. Jones clarified what exactly he wanted but the man insisted on giving him that same product. That's what really raised Jones's hackles. "I thanked him for his fairness soap and told him that I was proud of my skin colour."

    [​IMG]
    Shades of intolerance: British cheergirls Ellesha Newton and Sherinne Anderson, who were racially discriminated by an event management company at an IPL match in Mohali

    Ask any African what it is like for him or her to be in India and you might perhaps think twice before calling Australia racist. It is indeed a very dark underbelly that India reveals when it comes to its treatment of the dark foreigner. Africans being called "kalia" or "habshi" is mild stuff. Bilyaminu Ibrahim, a Nigerian student at an engineering institute in Greater Noida, will tell you what it feels like to be spat on. Abdulmalik Ali Abdulmalik, another Nigerian student, will recount how much it hurts when one's beaten with cricket bats and wickets over a simple game. Across the country, landlords slam doors when they see a prospective African tenant but drool for money when a white walks in. Foreigners' Registration Offices cancel the visas of Africans arbitrarily and make paperwork easier for Americans and Europeans. Why, even in the film Fashion, Priyanka Chopra thinks she has hit rock-bottom because she finds herself sleeping with an African!

    Of course, the Indian prejudice against the "shyam varna" is as old as Hindu mythology itself. "When Krishna literally means dark," says Mumbai-based mythology expert Devdutt Pattanaik, "why is he always portrayed in blue rather than in natural black?" Comics and TV serials routinely depict evil (the demons) as dark and good (the gods) as fair. "It just reinforces our prejudices," says Pattanaik.

    The south Indian has long become accustomed to the northerner using the term 'Madrasi' as almost a pejorative for his darker skin tone."There is a certain dominance of north Indian aesthetics," says Delhi-based sociologist Patricia Uberoi, "where feminine beauty values a fair skin contrasted with dark hair and combined with soft features and big eyes. This goes with the global aspect where Indians are being exposed to international television that celebrates East Asian beauty with fair skin and dark hair."

    [​IMG]
    For fairness’s sake: A dark-skinned person getting a facial

    However, while the South may decry this attitude of the northerners, it is as guilty of placing a huge premium on fairness. Tamil cinema, in fact, is known for reinforcing the stigma against dark skin. Superhero Rajnikanth himself may be dark, but fair women all the way from Rajasthan are imported to star in Tamil films.

    Indian advertising too for long has courted fairness. You will never find a dark woman or man selling you a cosmetic brand in the Indian media. Or for that matter anything. After all, who can look better than a John Abraham peddling Garnier's new fairness cream? And in case you were beginning to forget the importance of fairness, Vogue India reminded us of it blatantly with its inaugural cover in October 2007. It flashed pale Australian model Gemma Ward as its centrepiece with the relatively darker Indian beauties Bipasha Basu and Priyanka Chopra as her sidekicks.

    Matrimonial ads, week after week, hammer this in unfailingly: dark is ugly, fair is lovely. The dark can sit on the marriage shelf, there is demand only for the fair or very fair. And it is not uncommon to find dark men marrying into poor families just so that they may have a fair bride.

    [​IMG]
    African tourists in Mumbai

    Sometimes this obsession with fair skin can be fatal. Like in the tragic 2008 incident, when a woman was driven to suicide after her husband constantly harassed her for being dark. The Madurai sessions court sentenced Farook Batcha, the husband, to rigorous imprisonment for two years. The judgement was later upheld by the Madras High Court and the Supreme Court following an appeal by Batcha that calling one's wife dark did not amount to torture.

    Doctor V.K. Sharma, president of the Indian Association of Dermatologists, Venereologists and Leprologists (IADVL), points to a harmful turn that the obsession with fair skin has taken. Across urban and rural India, illiterate and unaware women aspiring to be fair are being sold Betnovate, a skin steroid cream, to lighten their skin. Meant for certain skin rashes and inflammations, a fairer shade of skin is only its "side-effect". But that hasn't stopped this prescription drug from becoming sold widely as a fairness cosmetic. Repeated use of the cream leads to thinning of the skin, loss of elasticity and bacterial infections, among other harmful effects. It is for this that the IADVL is discouraging the use of fairness creams.

    What explains this Indian obsession with fair skin and disdain for the dark? Some argue that a fair skin indicates social superiority, but then even among, say, the fair-skinned Kashmiris, caste is a reality. Most point to a colonial hangover that ingrained in us the idea that the ruler is always white. Some like Bangalore-based sociologist G.K. Karanth say the reverence for white skin goes back even further. "Look at the ease with which the supremacy of Alexander over Porus was accepted," he says. But there is little doubt that the slave trade and colonialism instilled modern power equations into what was till then simply a matter of 'aesthetics'. "It then became a marker of people trying to be like the white (the one who dominated)," says sociologist Ashis Nandy.Like a tool to help climb up the social ladder. Adds D.K. Bhattacharya, a retired anthropology professor from Delhi University, "There are reports from Africa where indigenous people would smear their face with limestone during Christian ceremonies to resemble the white missionaries."

    Prakash C. Jain, a professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, who has studied the Indian diaspora, says there has also been an "undercurrent of racism" between people of Indian origin and Africans in Africa. Traditionally, most Indians limited social interaction with Africans and stayed in separate housing estates. Intermarriage was practically non-existent in South Africa, with just 57 instances from the pre-World War II era to the '60s, he points out.

    [​IMG]
    A liquor vend in Mumbai boycotts Foster’s

    For T.K. Oommen, emeritus professor of sociology at JNU, racism combines elements of "culturalism" and "ethnicism". So there is the broad, implicit and very prevalent idea that Africans are culturally and ethnically inferior to Indians. "Indians have always made such distinctions. Look at the Shiv Sena that targets non-Maharashtrians or the Lachit Sena that targeted non-Assamese," he says.

    [​IMG]
    Mumbaikars befriending whites


    This cultural chauvinism also explains why discrimination based on colour in India is limited not just to the blacks, but surfaces even against the whites sometimes. Julia Sullivan (name changed on request), an Australian postgraduate student at Pune University, feels it is because she represents a different culture. People from her apartment complex once came into her flat and accused her, point blank, of being a prostitute because she had many male friends and asked her to leave. "That's the assumption most Indians have of a western girl," she says, arguing that racism in India is "institutionalised" unlike in Australia where it is marginalised. "It's normal for people here to ask somebody their origin even before their name," she adds.

    The difference between black and white doesn't get as stark as it does for Diepiriye Kuku, a Black American doctoral student at the Delhi School of Economics who has a white partner. They were at a Nokia shop in Delhi once. As many as five store attendants fawned over his partner asking him what he needed, "but they completely ignored me," says Kuku. "Not once did they make eye contact with me." It is something that happens everyday to people like Kuku. They have to adapt their lives to either being denied an existence or being turned into objects of ridicule. So much so they have to look for ways to "hide". "I liken it to being a woman in South Asia who has to put on a veil to avoid drawing attention," adds Kuku. The 'veil', for him, is his iPod and sunglasses.

    It gets worse for African women on Indian streets who have to face the supposed indignity of not just being black but also female. Maria Cleophas, a Ugandan student at Delhi's Indraprastha College, just cannot get over how she is stared at so routinely and humiliatingly. "It's extraordinary, beyond understanding. There have been times when people have groped me and even spat in my direction." It's a sentiment Murtala Musa, a Nigerian who has just graduated from Delhi's Jamia Hamdard university, echoes. "People react as if I have suddenly sprung from the soil or have been dropped from the sky," he says. "There have been times when people have touched my hair, thinking it's either rubber or burnt.It's almost as if they were asking me if I was human at all."

    Many, however, feel that the way we treat dark-skinned people isn't racism but a reflection of how unaware a large section of Indians are about people from backgrounds different than theirs. Perhaps greater trade and cultural ties with Africa might change our attitude. At least that's what happened between East Asia and India. "Indians realised that Europe and North America are not the only beacons of desirable values," says Uberoi. And as Africa continues to develop in the next few years and India engages more proactively with the "dark continent", perhaps the African too would one day not be seen as a strange species. That might be a better world where the next generation will grow up accultured and where the Black American Obama becomes the world's most stylish man, naturally.
     
  4. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

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    Cornered At Home

    Cornered At Home

    The northeasterner is made to feel alien in his own country

    DEBARSHI DASGUPTA

    Jotham Ngade, a young professional of Manipuri origin, has been living in New Delhi for 10 years but the city still doesn't feel like home. "I am getting used to it, this sense of betrayal. It's as if I've been disowned by my country, as if I'm lost in India." That pretty much sums up how many people from India's Northeast who work or study in the national capital feel.
    Forced out of their home states because of poor job opportunities and incessant violence, these youngsters find themselves under renewed attack. This time for who they are. Helena Siine's is a typical case. A dispute with her landlady earlier this month seemed to be just another quarrel until it took a racial turn. "She started to call us Nepali prostitutes, gamblers and dog-eaters," Siine says. Their Indian identity negated, many northeasterners say, they are not even seen as a minority but treated as outsiders. Moreover, they have to deal with 'chinkie' taunts, lewd remarks and physical molestation.

    Mary Niang, who lived in Gurgaon, outside Delhi, knows it all too well. The first night she and her friend spent at their new flat turned out to be the last. Her landlord barged in at 2 am with other men and molested the two girls. What distinguishes sexual assaults on northeastern women, explain some of them, is the attitude that this is something that's "done and acceptable". Worse, something that they "deserve".

    Numerous instances of harassment of northeasterners spurred a group of them in Delhi to get together to form the Northeast Support Centre and Helpline in October 2007. Helping victims of harassment to pursue their complaints with the police and the courts, they have handled more than a hundred cases so far. It has also organised awareness camps in the Northeast to sensitise prospective students headed to Delhi. Asked why northeasterners are ill-treated, Lansinglu Rongmei, a lawyer with the centre, says she's not going to look for any explanations. "That question should be posed to the perpetrators. After all, we don't judge people by the way they look, what they wear or the traditions they follow," she says.
     
  5. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

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    Doubly Deprived

    Doubly Deprived

    Dark-skinned babies find few takers at adoption agencies

    ANURADHA RAMAN
    When it comes to adoption, fair is forever lovely and black is never beautiful. Social workers in charge of orphanages add this grim footnote to the many happy stories of orphans being rehabilitated—dark-skinned babies find it difficult to find parents willing to adopt them.

    While official figures are hard to come by, of the 3,000 adoptions that took place in the country last year, the demand for fair-skinned babies was estimated to be as high as 65 per cent. Interestingly, many of the dark-skinned children were adopted by westerners, most of whom, according to social workers, come to India with the sole aim of providing a family to a child. "It is a charitable act, done in the service of mankind," says J.K. Mittal, chairman, Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA), a nodal government agency which oversees adoptions in the country. Mittal feels the search for a fair child is part of the Indian psyche. His associate, Sunita, says very often the reason parents cite for rejecting a child is that it is dark-skinned.

    A social worker at the Grace Kennet Foundation, a foster home in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, says rigorous counselling helps. "We often get requests for a fair baby by mothers who themselves are darker complexioned," she says. "The mother very often says she wants a fair child so that he or she has a greater acceptance in society. We try to make such parents see sense." In fact, even among couples who go in for IVF (in-vitro fertilisation), there is a premium placed on fairness.

    However, social workers say that parents who prefer fair-skinned babies may not necessarily be racist. More often than not, they want a child whose complexion approximates that of the family. "There is a preference for fair-skinned babies but that does not necessarily mean the parents are racist. Fair-is-lovely is simply a widely prevalent syndrome here," says Leila Baig of the Delhi-based Adoption Coordination Agency.
     
  6. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

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    Brownian Notions

    Brownian Notions

    The prejudice NRIs exhibit is more complex than what they face

    SANJAY SURI

    "Our women don't drive BMWs," the Gujarati mum told me some time back. Meaning they're supposed not to go for men who may be "Black, Muslim or White". And of the few who do slip? She thought that would be a family calamity of varying shades. Going out with a black man would bring shame, but with a white chap also some embarrassment. We like fairness in our species, not the whiteness of the other; there's such a world of difference between the two, a whole other language of being. Whiteness works best for an Indian when it informs a lighter shade of your own kind.

    In home after home, the Indian in London loves to show off white friends, but never quite a white spouse. "Boab," the Patel will say, meaning Bob, who is of course white. There's nothing an Indian loves more than showing off an ease with white Brits, particularly in the presence of a visiting Indian from India. But he'd want for a daughter-in-law a fair Patel, not a white Brit. White in marriage is not quite a derailment, but it is off the approved track, which for a woman is to remain virgin until at 22 she marries her own sort of Indian with property, prospects and a BMW of the motoring kind.

    For the Indian male, for an overwhelming most at any rate, white is for friendship—and sex. For the Indian male, to sleep with a white woman—do it to a white woman rather, speaking of the feel of it—is a mandatory conquest without which the migration experience is never complete. This is desire that carries a political thrust. A way of coming to terms with the richer, ruling world that has looked down on us, that we think still does; the sexual act feels like a happy and relatively quick correction of that imbalance. White sex legitimises the male in the world he has feared or held in awe; it's the invisible stamp on our inner passport.

    Indians in the UK can be entirely unembarrassed or even unselfconscious in using racist language. "Dhoriyos" is what Gujaratis call white people. That doesn't exactly translate to 'white nigger', but it is only a lesser expression of contempt along the same lines. And blacks for the Gujaratis are 'kaaliyao', without the comparative neutrality of the word 'black' in English. The Punjabis who migrated over from East Africa call them 'nherey' (darkness). And still, there is no connection between accusing white people of racism towards Indians, and our own racism towards others.

    Towards blacks especially. And from none more than the Indians who came to Britain from East Africa. Visiting Uganda, I was far from sorry to see Kampala Road in the heart of the capital reclaimed by local people, who became coolies to Indians the way the early Indian migrants came as coolies in Britain. Except that Britain made space for Indians to move on, and they did; the East African Indians wouldn't give black people space in their own land. Had Idi Amin not been so evidently insane, he might just be a sympathetic figure.

    A reason to soften anger with fellow Indians over this can only be that black people are just as racist towards Indians. It's just that everyone says this sort of thing freely only among their own. I've never been racially abused in any upfront sort of way in Britain, but this is not to say that minds all around have been cleansed of colour, and views that fasten on to colour. But an Indian probably has less to fear by way of an attack from a white racist as from forms of exclusion from their own because the colour might not be light enough.

    It's crude, bizarre even, to speak of people as bearers of some skin colour. It passes because all around so much of political and personal living is coloured by it. It has been a matter of some relief to me these years in England that I've never had to be a dark Indian woman looking for a husband.I suspect darkness would not stand between me and either a black man or a white man. With an Indian it would; she might never get as far as meeting the fellow. This is short of a statistical disaster yet because most Punjabis and Gujaratis, who between them are most Indians in Britain, sit around the middle shades of the "wheatish" complexion that the police in India use to describe every missing person. In Britain, miss those shades, and you might miss out on an Indian sort of life. Better then with someone less racist than Indian, which might mean almost everyone else.

    (The writer is Outlook's London correspondent and has written Brideless in Wembley, a collection of non-fiction Indian stories set in Britain.)
     
  7. Pintu

    Pintu New Member

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    Thanks DD for starting a soul searching thread, my best wishes are with you, Please continue with this, and keep updating.

    Regards
     
  8. Arjak

    Arjak Respected Member

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    Thanks dd......this is a great thread,this can show us the lapses and malpractices of our society........this shall be a constructive discussion,from which we must not run away,but accept the reality.......and discuss the way of improvement and the way to do away with the evil......great job indeed
     
  9. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

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    There is no doubt that some or other form of discrimination exists in India, be it based on language, color of skin, social status or religion. In this globalized world, there is a lot of movement of people from one place to another, within country or to a foreign country. We need sensitize people to accept people for what they are but not based on their preconceived notions about such people. I feel that we lack such sensitiveness to this issue of discrimination and it has crept into our psyche and we subconsciously discriminate people even without us knowing that we are actually doing it.

    I give an example out of my own case. When I went to do my Masters in Gujarat, there were a majority of students in my class who were from UP and Bihar. When I first met them and started making acquaintance with them, in the beginning they have heckled me as a 'madrasi' as I come from south india. Though, they might not meant no harm to me in teasing me as 'madrasi', they did it, and they were not aware that they are actually discriminating me based on my origin of place. Though I was hurt in the beginning, I took it into my stride and eventually we were friends.

    Imagine this happening to people by the people who are highly educated, one can imagine how they would discriminate a foreigner especially when they are black or even northeastern people for their looks.

    I think, we should be more sensitive to people and not discriminate them on any basis. I hope, if we can educate even a small number of people within our circle of influence, I think we will make a very positive contribution to the society.
     
  10. Pintu

    Pintu New Member

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    Yes, DD, it is very sad to know, when especially Union of India gave her every citizen equal rights to settle anywhere, and work anywhere any parts of the Country, take my example, when I was in Bihar with my father , and I was 11 year old boy then, a shop keeper , first asked us, whether we belong to high cast, and in another incident pure Ganges water was thrown after this Fish eating Bengali, drank a glass of water from a sweet shop. Thanks to almighty we don't even think about this in Bengal. I've no regret or resentment or grudge nothing against people of Bihar, they are fellow Indians like us, but mindset, which prevails in many part of our country needed to be changed. I appreciate your effort and will help you in any form , and I am always beside you for this great cause.

    Regards


    PS: If my post breaks forum rule, respected Mods or Admins please delete my post.
     
  11. NikSha

    NikSha Regular Member

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    While it IS sad how Africans are treated (esp.) in India because of skin colour, I don't think most of the "treatment" comes because of racism.

    Also, while it is nice and all that Africans to South Indians have their own story to tell of discrimination by us northerners, did anyone ask the northerns why all this happens in the first place instead of making up random crap based on western accounts of racism? Everyone has a different story to tell when it comes to race or caste and how they treat them differently.

    But of course, generalisation wins the day. Label it as "ignorance of the northerns against dark skinned people" and drive the point that doesn't exist home. Bravo.



    PS: I do want to know in more detail on how the Africans here are treated by southerners. I mean according to others even they want fair skinned babies (completely ignoring the fact that "white preference" is a legacy of British raj) so are they saying that even dark skinned Indians are racist while dark skinned Indians say that fair skinned Indians here are racist at the same time? Confusing? Yeah. Most of it is just exaggeration. Makes for a good, sensational read.
     
  12. Flint

    Flint Senior Member Senior Member

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    Nice thread DD.
     
  13. peacecracker

    peacecracker Regular Member

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    By South indians ,what @niksha meant was tamilians? I have travelled across India and My notion is stereotyping south indians as dark skinned is wrong.

    you can find most dark people in Maharashtra,MP or even UP than say Kerala or West Coast Karnataka.So this is wrong.First of all ,India need to shredd the love for fair skin which occured due to the childhood itself appreciation of fair skin injected by parents ,society etc.

    IMHO ,Indians from north to south looks almost the same except for extreme west side and kashmir of India.
    --
    I think Cleanliness is an issue which Indian should take seriously.May be racism might be having made due to the notion of some castes lacks cleanliness and habits overall.I don't want to offend anyone.but this is the truth.
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    yes ,it is true. blacks and mongloids are seen as inferior while whites are seen as masters in some parts of India.sad ,but true.
     
  14. johnee

    johnee Elite Member Elite Member

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    Whites are seen as rich ppl(therefore, they are given some respect) while the africans are seen as poor. Thats the explanation.
    As for inherent discrimination within the Indians towards each other, then there is plenty to be found on all sides.
    Even the dark Indians are prejudiced towards other dark skinned ppl.
    Even the so-called low caste ppl have prejudice towards those that are lower caste than them.
    South Indians have prejudice towards North Indians(this is decreasing of late) and North Indians have prejudice towards South Indians(not decreasing IMO).
     

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