Sunday, April 01, 2007

Divide and Rule

Recently, a friend of mine messaged me at night asking for help. He had been out for dinner with his friends when they were approached by a friendly Afghani man who was in Delhi for his father’s treatment. They chatted with him for quite some time, and before leaving he asked them for their phone numbers. Silence. Nobody said a word. Perhaps feeling the awkwardness of the situation, or perhaps without any thought, my friend gave him his number. Later, all his friends kept telling him that he shouldn’t have. Now, a little disturbed, he asked me for my views. Did he do the right thing?

My first reaction – What??! Are you crazy????
After a few minutes – Well….you shouldn’t give your number to any stranger, let alone an afghani man.
And then – Oh relax, he can’t do much with your number you know. He probably just meant well.
Followed by a few Taliban and terrorist related jokes.

Later, I couldn’t help but imagine myself in that man’s shoes. Here he was in an unknown country, probably because he didn’t have a choice but to get his father here. Yet, everywhere he went instead of finding help or friends, he ended up getting suspicious looks and cold stares. What was his fault? He was from Afghanistan.

What struck me was that this was the condition in India – a country where Shilpa Shetty became a national hero for facing the so called racial discrimination at the hands of Jade Goody. My views? The comments weren’t even meant to be racist and were simply said because Shilpa was acting like a pompous bitch. But coming back to the point of this article, what right do we have of accusing others of discrimination, when we ourselves are no better? Be it the roadside Romeos hitting on the “Gori chhokri”, or the recent quota for OBCs, discrimination on the basis of race or caste, we are as much a party to it, if not more, than any other country.

No, you’re not a road side Romeo, nor did you implement the quota, so obviously you have nothing to do with discrimination, right? Think again. How many times have you used the term ‘Chinks’ for all the students prevailing from the East? Whether they’re from Assam, Nepal, China or Japan, they’re all Chinks. When I pointed this out, one of my friends said that he didn’t mean it in a derogatory way…in fact it was rather cute. Agreed. But I doubt if they find it cute. How is it any different from being called a Black? Its discrimination, pure and simple.

I’m not saying that I’m perfect and don’t engage in discriminating activities, the very beginning of this post shows that. But maybe, we do need to think a little more into ourselves, before pointing at others.


sahil said...
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sahil said...

discrimination aint that till its derogatory...its more of a set of stereotypes that you're talkin abt here than anything else...our preconceived notions...prejudices... n well they cant be done away with... coz humans are human coz of that...

PS- sry for the deleted comment

Richa Bhardwaj said...

I agree with what you are saying and I've also noticed that almost everyone at some level or the other, does it. Whether they mean to be derogatory or not is a different question. And I think, at the core of it, it happens because of the simple reason that someone or something different stands out. Say, for instance, if someone stands at Dayski and smokes...everybody will stare at him/her because he'd stand out. Not everyone would be judging him but they'll look.
Similarly, you were not judging that Afghan. That preconceived notion struck you that time.

I don't know if I'm able to convey what I am thinking but the point is that I think it is nearly impossible to completely erase such discrimination from the world. Sure, some amount of it can be and should be but basically, it will stay.

Dhruv said...

Leo Tolstoy once mentioned that 'Prejudices since birth stick onto you your entire life'

Considering that we see people around since an early age discriminating in what they consider to be 'subtle' and non insulting ways, we tend to acquire the same habit. And well, frankly speaking, it'll be really hard for each and any one of us to actually overcome and it and adopt what is truly meant by 'equality'

Hammy said...

I dont meant to sound cold and emotionless on this issue.

Two aspects:

a)The perspective of the target in question.

You rightly pointed out the target may not find being classified a "chink" cute. As he/she has better/and more knowledge about the local situation from the region they come from, they associate themselves more to a specific geographical area.

Lets consider a person [A] who hails from Assam. I am sure there will be several groups of people having different ideologies/beliefs who together constitute who we call the people of Assam.

Now this person may relate him/her self to a particular group in Assam, and may not like to be 'classified' even as an Assamese, but rather as a person belonging to that group.

(This is just an example)

Now what A needs to understand is that the person [B] who is referring to A may not know which group or even which state or for that matter which country A comes from.

This simple thought process should (hopefully) make A realize that B was not referring to A in a derogatory manner.

b)The perspective of the person[B} who is trying to point to a particular person in public.

Lets assume B is a local person of Delhi. B is used to meeting and associating with the local people only. He however has grown up seeing pictures/and obtaining info. about people from east and has some kind of image/notion of them fixed in their brains.

The human brain I think loves to keep all the information it acquires into neatly organized groups.

So when B saw A he immediately associated that person to the group containing information about people from east in his brain. (now maybe that group is called "chink" for him, and thats how the entire thing hits off)

Its simply a method of easy classification for B's brain.

Onto Discrimination: [refer to Wiki :]

*Its an act of distinguishing between things.
*In the more social sense it means having prejudices resulting in unfair treatment (which might be the case with the Afghani)

Your last para sums up the post quite nicely.

We've always got a choice to look at things by being in our shoes or by getting into the "targets" shoes. Its a decision that one has to make almost every single day of one's life.
Its these decisions that a person takes, that finally shape the character of the person.

In an idealistic world each person would step into the other person's shoes before committing his actions.

I dont even know how off topic I've gone with respect to your post, but well thats pretty much the thoughts that hit me when i read the post.

shreya said...

@ Sahil - Like I've mentioned in the post, we can discriminate without being derogatory, and that infact is something that we do everyday, whether its simply on the basis on people's looks or their dressing sense. that's discrimination as well. as for whether its a good thing or a bad thing, well, that's a matter of opinion.

And i agree, its part of human nature, but perhaps it wouldnt hurt to think about it and try and change some aspects of it.

@ Richa - I agree!! And I know that it can never be completely removed, cuz, like sahil keeps telling me, its part of our nature and something that comes very naturally to us. It's just important to realise tht when someone calls us a black or maybe doesnt trust us in the US or UK, we dont really have any right to complain about it and feel offended.

@ Dhruv - Wow... Dhruv the philosopher!!!!
Equality is something that can perhaps never be achieved. It's something like achieveing equilibruim, that v study about in all our eco textbooks. It's something that technically should be there, yet, there are so many simplifying assumptions in the model, that the economy never actually reaches equilibrium or stays at it!!! ;)

@ Hammy - Firstly, do u realise, that every time u do comment on my blog, it's usually a post in itself?!?!
I agree, it's just classification. but why should there be any classification in the first place? every person is an individual, and perhaps its better to try and increase our knowledge rather than just classify people blindly.
Remember when r school kids had gone on tht exchange trip to kentucky? the kids there actually asked them if there were tigers on the roads and whether the ppl roamed around with snakes around their necks. That was their classification of India. Classification is no excuse for lack of knowledge.
And if my post made u think for even a minute (even though writing that comment mustve taken way more than tht!!)...well...then i think it served its purpose!!!

Richa Bhardwaj said...

But don't you think that feeling offended will also come naturally to us?

sahil said...

well shreya...about yer reply to hemants again like to say....wat u r referin to are misconceptions as a result of widespread ignorance...

Jayant said...

Have you seen 'Crash'? I think that movie is the ultimate take on prejudices, preconceived notions, racism, inequality or whatever you may call it. Watch it if you haven't already. If you want people to give a thought to such issues, tell them to watch this movie too.

shreya said...

@ Richa - Yes...i will come naturally...n for once, i dont have an answer to it. it seems to be one of those problems which just doesnt have a solution, cuz its all too natural.

@ Sahil - Ok.... I'm a little tired of this argument by now.

@ Jayant - No, i havent seen it yet, but its on my list of movies to be seen this summer!!

cheeeeeeeeeeeeen said...
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cheeeeeeeeeeeeen said...

people from the north-east/ kashmir definitely don't have any problem with the term chinks... it's a part of the freaking culture - like being called asian, latin, or even punjabi, bengali etc .. and since my best friend at college is a ladakhi, and many other i know are hence i should know.

and i agree with the guy above, crash is a great movie, must-watch :) that is what discrimination on basis of race and all is all about, not just loosely used terms like "chink".

btw nice blog you got going here.

ps: i would have definitely given my phone number, no hesitation as long as the guy sound genuine

Anugoonj Ranjan said...

racism is somsthing thats been a bane to the society since ages..and it will perish gradually but that would be only on broader sense..i guess!!

@archie@ said...

agreed wid d overhyped shilpa shetty case thingie, i smhow feel it wsnt wt ws made out of it,much ado abt nuttin as they i smhow feel the analogy u giv hea doesnt really fit in,i mean callin a chink a chink is no different from calling a surd a surd,n wen one does dt(m nt generalisin dis one),tht isnt to show d oder one down,bt rather fr fun,u'd neva go n point it out to an SC/ST in ur class,cz u smhw feel dt'll cut the wrng msg across..!!
n at the end of it all,v cn b a lil selfish,i mean big deal if v'r doin smthin to others wich v find wrng ven v'r on the other side f d table,dts hw d world works,doesnt it..

shreya said... im gonna write a common answer... i guess, if im fat, at the end of the day il just accept being called fat and will stop minding it.

though i still disagree with the whole chink concept...the term itself is too broadly classifying. but then, that's my view.

And yes, the worlds not perfect, and we do a zillion things which are wrong...but we still end up doing them...

Aarbee said...

How about a new post?