In March of 2017, 5 Nigerian students studying in greater Noida, close to Delhi, were attacked by a mob, and another Nigerian student was assaulted in a shopping mall. The death of an Indian student overdosing on drugs sparked this violence. The students' parents had blamed a 'black' student as being the one who sold him the drugs, leading to violence against Nigerian students.
Endurance Amalawa, the victim of beatings in the mall, described being attacked with bricks, rods, and knives. Later he told reporters, "I think Indians just hate black people."
For far too long, Indian people have claimed immunity to being racist as a virtue of our skin tone. How can we be racist when we are the victim of racism elsewhere? Has been a defense for decades now. However, this is anything but the truth.
In India, racism is not limited to prejudice against those with darker skin; it includes people of northeastern descent and even those of Indian origin who have darker skin colors.
Delhi, the nation's capital, has become one of the most prejudiced cities in the world, with almost 67% of people surveyed in a study reported being discriminated against, predominantly in sports, restaurants, or public places.
This begs the question, why are Indians racist?
It boils down to several factors that have affected the psyche of the population over the past centuries. The most obvious of which is the influence of our British colonizers. British perception of African people as criminals and cannibals had a significant impact on establishing the darker color skin as a lesser or virtueless one.
However, to attribute Indian racism to the British is an exaggeration. Racism, in many forms, had prevailed throughout the country centuries before the British took control. Before the stories of African 'demons', we had our own tales of demons. People of non-white skin and non-aryan heritage were associated with a lack of virtue or portrayed as evil. This can be very clearly seen in comics pertaining to history today as the villains predominantly feature people of black skin, and protagonists are often shown with lighter skin. Whether this is an accurate portrayal of an old racist text or the comics are racist is something that remains debated.
But this old racism isn't restricted to skin color either. Aborigines or people of tribal societies have faced blatant racism at the hands of Indians for centuries. Stemming from their apparent 'uncivilized' clothing and rituals and practices, many tribes have been mistreated and abused for centuries. Racism targets those who the broader community deems as different from them. By virtue of that difference, they are deemed as lesser, uncivilized, demonic, etc. essentially the most hated word describing evil in that era. Systemic racism in India isn't something most people think about, because it is hidden behind multiple veils of socio-economic inequalities. Marriages are forbidden not because the other person is of another caste but due to their financial condition. People are not hired due to their lack of skills or abilities.
Today in India, racism is hidden in plain sight, hidden so well that to a person standing outside, it does not exist. But as Indians, it becomes all the more critical to unveil this racism and to address it. Because if we don't, soon we all will wake up to see a clansman in the mirror.