Racism in America, The Truth

Race Relationships
From The Editor's Desk

(Hinduwebsite Editorial - Exploring Truth Amidst Illusions and Distortions)

The recent developments in the USA regarding law enforcement should be a cause of concern for all people since it may eventually effect the mindset of the cops when they have to deal with regular crimes in the streets and public places.

The developments and the constant criticism directed at them is bound to affect their judgment and the split second decisions they have to make frequently to deal with some of the worst criminals in the world, whether they are black, brown, yellow, mixed, or white. It is not that only criminals die in a confrontation between them and cops. Many cops are killed in the USA each year during shootouts and their families have to go through the grief forever. Presently, the law abiding people feel safe in the streets of the major metropolitan cities of America because they can be sure that cops respond to 911 calls very quickly. Whether you are male or female, you can still drive your car safely in many parts of the USA even in the middle of the night and reach home safely without having to worry whether someone will stop you and rob you.

One of the media persons recently argued on television that the cop in Ferguson should have backed off when he was attacked and gone away. In fact it is what many cops do in several other countries. They would leave the victims to face the criminals alone, or take no action at all unless they are promised some payment. In many countries, they usually come to the crime scene after the crime has happened, and they rarely prefer engaging the criminals in a direct fight. It is not uncommon for the police force in those countries harassing innocent people instead of the criminals and the culprits. Unless you are worth something, they may not even register the case. In the USA we have yet to hear an incident where a cop demanded money to deal with a crime, or refused to register a crime.

Some people here are complaining that cops patrol the streets in cars and it is a nuisance. In many countries in Africa and Latin America, the streets are ruled by drug peddlers and crime gangs both day and night. Cops do not touch them, unless there is a major problem. If your car is stuck in a traffic jam, the gangs can clear the traffic for you for a fee or they can hold you for a ransom until you pay them what you have. Day or night, you cannot pass through the streets without paying your dues to the goons who patrol those areas. Is it not strange that in the downtown areas of several cities in those countries criminals patrol the streets, instead of the cops, and those who have to walk to their offices and businesses through those streets have to pay them?

Those who are blaming the cops in the USA for racism and making it a race issue, despite the evidence to the contrary, ought to remember that racism, whether perceived or otherwise, is an inherent human trait, and part of our survival instinct. It is a common behavior among animals, since it provides camouflage to the individuals to mix with the group and avoid attention from the predators.

Racism implies prejudice and discrimination. Racism also arises when some groups claim moral, racial or cultural superiority. Ethnic stereotyping and cultural biases are part of racial prejudice and attitude. Discrimination and mutual animosity tend to intensify among groups when they compete aggressively for limited resources and when certain groups have better access to them. Human groups tend to discriminate when they enjoy the support of larger and powerful communities.

Racism arises from our group identities. Apart from individual identities, human beings tend to develop group identities, which become part of their behavior and relationships. Sometimes we give them glorifying names like patriotism and nationalism, and sometimes we denigrate them as racism, and casteism. We have many institutions, political parties, and ideologies almost everywhere which tend to idealize and glorify these divisions. No one bats an eyelid for such divisive politics because we do not equate them with racism whereas they tend to serve the same purpose only.

This is not an excuse for any racial behavior, but to suggest that racism exists in all groups and communities in various forms and we cannot single out only the white community and dub them as racists. When you form a group to blame another group, you become part of the problem. Racism is practiced by almost every community and group in the world in one form or another. If you have any doubts, please go through the following few examples.

1. Racism exists in almost every country of Africa in the form of nationalism and tribalism. People may still remember the worst kind of genocides that happened in countries like Rwanda, Uganda, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, in which millions of people died in tribal and religious conflicts. African continent is riddled with the worst form of tribalism. It is rampant in social and political life, and exists very noticeably even in the corporate sector. Many managements tend to recruit people of their tribe, unless no qualified person is available for a position.

2. Black people who migrate to other countries within Africa are discriminated, ill-treated and sometimes even killed. For example the Nigerians who live in South Africa, the Congo people who live in Uganda, the people from Sierra Leone and Niger who live in Nigeria, or the people who live in Kenya from adjacent countries suffer from many social and economic disabilities. Few decades ago all the immigrant Indians were driven out of Uganda by an executive order by the then dictator, Idi Amin,. He was so worse that he allowed the soldiers and agents of his tribe's men to literally club men of other tribes to death. Many land owing white families were either killed or driven out of their farms by the people in Zimbabwe in the name of socialism after there was a transfer of power from the white ruled Rhodesia to the native Zimbabweans.

3. Racism and discrimination exist within the African community in the USA. The mainstream Africans do not treat the recent migrants from Ethiopia, Somalia, or West Africa with the same respect and attitude. Some of them even do not like the Indians, Chinese, Mexicans and other Latin American groups who live in the USA. Such ethnic divisions extend all the way from school children to criminal gangs that infest the metropolitan cities and downtown areas and make some places practically unapproachable.

4. Rampant racism exists in most Latin American countries. The Mexican authorities do not kindly treat the people who migrate from the surrounding countries. People who enter Mexico from other places with the final intent to enter the USA face harrowing treatment from cops, criminals and drug dealers. Most of them end up dead, tortured or thrown into brothel rings. There is a nexus between cops and criminal gangs in most of these countries.

5. Racism exists in many Far Eastern countries on the basis of the ethnicity, religion and nationality. People of Indian, or Chinese origin, are discriminated by the locals, and among the locals also one can see divisions based upon whether they are of Indian or Chinese origin and what religion they practice.

6. Racism exists in India in the form of castes, tribes, communities, linguistic groups, color and region. African Americans are openly made fun of in the Indian movies for their appearance or color, and referred derogatorily in the local dialects as "Kalas" "Kalus," meaning the black ones. People also do not prefer to give the Africans their houses for rent. In Pakistan and Bangladesh, Hindu minorities are regularly attacked, their properties and religious places are destroyed, while their children and women are raped or converted to Islam. In Sri Lanka, Tamils are subject to mass killings by the Sinhala army few years and the discrimination still continues.

7. Racism exists in all Islamic countries on the basis of color, nationality, religion, gender, and language. Shias are discriminated in Sunni dominated countries and vice versa. Muslims from India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan are treated as inferior Muslims by the natives in the Gulf. In most countries Muslims from these countries are not allowed to marry local women. We do not have to say much about how the non-Muslims are treated in those countries, and how they are discriminated in every aspect of social and political life.

It is therefore incorrect to single out a particular community and ascribe to them this common human behavior which goes by several names such as racism, regionalism, communalism, casteism, tribalism, etc. Every group that is in majority practices some form of group think or discrimination against other groups based upon the traits that bind the group. Such divisions will exist as long as the humanity exists, because human beings tend to feel safe and comfortable in the presence of those with whom they share many common features. If you live in a foreign country, you tend to be more social and friendly with those who come from a similar background.

It is not that racism does not exist in the USA. You can see racism at play in many areas. You can feel it as a minority person when you talk to a customer service person on the phone who happens to be white, or when you visit a shop or a restaurant owned by white people. You can see it when you listen to radio talk show hosts on television channels, when they either ignore you totally as if you do not exist at all or speak about you patronizingly as if you need their sympathy and support to stand up on your own.

However, to be fair, such discriminatory behavior is not confined to white people alone. USA is one nation under the constitution, but divided into several ethnic groups by virtue of the freedom it grants to them. The unity exists on the surface, while racism is subterfuge, mainly because of the enforcement of law and the provisions of the constitution. (Hence, the danger if we weaken the law and the justice system). Each group practices racism of some kind against other groups, without being overtly obvious or obnoxious. Therefore, when you point a finger at only the white people for their racism, remember that three fingers are also pointing towards you.

Racism cannot be eradicated anytime soon, or the group dynamics that govern our social lives. It is in our blood. If you belong to a majority community, you would not like to lose the status, and your identity will not leave you even if you want to. People of same color will tend to aggregate when they are in a minority or feel segregated when they are discriminated. In a pluralistic society, communities cannot earn respect by aggression or anger. It is possible only when each community upholds the best of human values, takes responsibility for its own welfare, take care of its suffering brethren, treats other communities with respect and dignity and contributes to the overall progress of the country or society in which they live. Thankfully, the American Indian community in the USA is steadily moving in that direction.

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