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Dark truth of racism

THE ASIAN AGE. | GARIMA ARORA
Published : Apr 9, 2017, 12:19 am IST
Updated : Apr 9, 2017, 12:21 am IST

BJP MP Tarun Vijay’s racist comment has sparked a storm of protest, with many expressing how it mirrors the fact that our country was.

Tarun Vijay’s comment on South Indian people has offended many.
 Tarun Vijay’s comment on South Indian people has offended many.

BJP MP Tarun Vijay has triggered a controversy and offended many with his racist remarks during an interview with news channel Al Jazeera on the attacks on African nationals in Greater Noida. When prominent personalities took to social media to vent their anger about his remarks, the politician issued an apology on twitter, which read: “My words perhaps were not enough to convey this. Feel bad, really feel sorry, my apologies to those who feel I said different than what I meant.”

While many have expressed anger and dismissed his apology, there are some who believe his comment was nothing more than a mere “joke”.

“This is not the first time that someone has said something racist. All these instances, I feel, should be taken in a humorous fashion because they have happened so many times,” comments author Anand Neelakantan.

Referring to AAP leader Kumar Vishwas’s racist comment on Keralite nurses during the poet-turned-politician’s stage performance a few years ago, Anand says it’s only “incidental” that Tarun is a BJP MP, and that racism is very common in India. “I feel India is the biggest racist country in the world. Just see our matrimonial ads and see how many people refer to skin colour. In the cinema industry, how many actors and actresses are dark complexioned? We are used to laughing at stereotypes and making fun of people, be they Sikhs or South Indians or Gujaratis,” adds Anand.

Kathak exponent Shovana Narayan agrees that the comment is beyond government and politics. “This isn’t about a BJP MP making a racist comment, it is something that concerns every individual. We should be respecting each other, irrespective of whoever we are. As Indians, we talk about becoming a developed country. How will we ever achieve that if we don’t accept each other as who we are? At the end of the day, if I want to be respected, I will have to respect others,” she says, adding, “Every human being is very, very important.”

Delhi-based designer Rina Dhaka feels in general, the North Indian mindset considers beauty being synonymous with fair complexion. According to her, while norms about beauty and looking fair are slowly changing, the older generation still equates fair with beautiful. “Politicians (despite being extremely well-guarded with their words) sometimes speak their minds and that is what has happened with Mr Tarun. He just thinks like a lot of other people — who sadly have similar views about South Indians,” says Rina.

New York-based writer and political analyst Suchitra Vijayan shares her personal experiences of facing racism. “Racism is not the exclusive privilege of the North. Ever since I was 10, every time I went to a salon, I used to be offered bleaching services. In high-end salons, they call it removing the ‘tan’.”

“South India is also a big market for fairness creams, our movies follow the same misogyny of casting fair-skinned women. Even our dark-skinned heroes prefer lighter-skinned, much younger nymphs. So, before we become all sanctimonious and cry black, can we acknowledge how messed up our society is? We are no more progressive than our northern counterparts,” states Suchitra.

Bengaluru-based branding guru Harish Bijoor took to Twitter to point out that the “Aryan-Dravidian divide has gone nowhere after all these centuries.” “The Black and White divide remains,” he said, further noting, “Tarun Vijay is neither tender, affectionate or victorious as his name suggests. His statement on blacks in South India reeks!”

This isn’t about a BJP MP making a racist comment, it is something that concerns every individual. We should be respecting each other, irrespective of whoever we are. We talk about becoming a developed country. How will we ever achieve that if we don’t accept each other as who we are?  
— Shovana Narayan, dancer

South India is also a big market for fairness creams, our movies follow the same misogyny of casting fair-skinned women. Even our dark-skinned heroes prefer lighter-skinned, much younger nymphs. Can we acknowledge how messed up our society is?
— Suchitra Vijayan, writer

This is not the first time that someone has said something racist. All these instances, I feel, should be taken in a humorous fashion because they have happened so many times.
— Anand Neelakantan, author

Tags: tarun vijay, racist, twitter, kumar vishwas