Monday, February 8, 2016


Racism and bigotry become a much greater problem when they attain a platform

Although racism and racists continue to thrive, there has been a struggle and things have improved somewhat. Racism is now frowned upon, at least officially.
It is only a recent improvement. The last permit to shoot a ‘native’ was issued in Namibia as late as 1936. The person who used that permit could well be alive today.
Native Americans did not get the vote in the United States till the 1920s, African Americans in the 1960s, and persons of Latin origin in the 1970s. There is a chance that Americans who were not allowed to vote in the country of their ancestors may still be alive, and there are many Americans living today who could not once vote simply because of the colour of their skin.
In Australia, the White Australia Policy was dismantled as late as 1966, which means there are people living now who were unable to visit an entire continent because they were not white. In Queensland in Australia, Aborigines could be forced to live on reserves till 1971 and could not own property till 1975. The legal right of the Australian State to forcibly remove children from their parents’ custody was not taken away until 1969. The Australian government has apologised to its Aboriginal community for having wrested countless of its members away from their parents, and for having restricted their right to movement, and to ownership of a land which was once all their own.
In many places such changes are yet to occur. In the Punjab in Pakistan, the infamous question requiring details of a person’s caste still exists on tax forms. Being Ahmadi bars you virtually from life, the blasphemy law thrives, and all minorities are routinely discriminated against. Naturally, given such conditions, political correctness is a far cry for this country. People who clean houses and other places for a living are often called ‘chooras’ and ‘Oye! Lame guy!’ is still a common way to hail a physically disabled person.
Political correctness (PC) means that certain terms have been dropped because of their hurtful and abhorrent connotations.  In English, for example, ‘nigger’ is one such word instead of which ‘black’ or ‘African American’ are now used. ‘Native American’ or ‘American Indian’ are used instead of ‘Native Indian’ or ‘Red Indian’. PC applies to physical disability as well, so its ‘disabled’ instead of ‘handicapped’, and ‘visually impaired’ instead of ‘blind’.
The above may appear to be mere words but each of these words is burdened with a past. Behind the word ‘choora’, for instance, lies a history of contempt and humiliation, and the loathsome principles of untouchability and caste. Behind the word ‘natives’ are ranged all those aboriginal people killed just because they existed, the children taken away from their parents and men and women who could never own the land they lived on. Behind ‘negro’ are lives spent in slavery and untold tragedy, marginalisation, ghettos, poverty, a search for roots and a fight for human and political rights. You think of Nelson Mandela and Rosa Parks, of Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X… rich lives. The impact of words associated with such lives should not be underestimated.
The politically correct words used as alternatives recall and reinforce values of justice, equality and tolerance that may be limited to politically correct terminology for some people, but given time these values become part of the fabric of an entire society. People like Donald Trump or religious bigots when they come into prominence threaten any move towards a just, more compassionate society because they possess a platform from which to air their views. From that platform they endorse racism and bigotry among their followers, and even others, and undermine the effects of those ‘mere words’ on people’s minds, turning years of valuable but as yet fragile improvement into dust.
Having said that, there is a flip side to the situation. It is not as bad as it may seem for that bald spot behind the comb-over to be exposed, because it never hurts to re-examine values, even good ones. Why do we do what we do, think the way we think? Is race equality a good thing, and if so, why, and what can be done to further it? Re-examination may bring to light unexpected progress or shortcomings, and provide suggestions for further improvement. Should migrants be encouraged to integrate? If so, how can they be helped to do so? Should their places of worship be expected to change in the new environment? Should their dress remain as is or should a change be encouraged? How about the curriculum taught in mainstream schools, versus schools run for and by these minorities, such as American schools outside of America, and Islamic schools in countries with a non-Muslim majority? What should their curriculum consist of? Do either or both need to stress diversity and tolerance to a greater extent than at present? How can change be brought about if it is required?
The recent migrant crisis, tragic as it is, has brought to the forefront questions that needed to be brought into the open, such as questions relating to the exclusivity of nations. Do richer countries have a responsibility towards the less fortunate? Should they be forced to shoulder it, to acknowledge their share in creating the problem? Colonialism, and in present times the quest for oil and the massive weapons industry have all caused havoc in the world. The Dutch, the British and the French in South Africa, India, Australia, the Americas… these once colonial nations thrive today at the expense of indigenous people; the Indian people of the subcontinent were luckier than others. At least they survived.
Pauline Hanson formed the One Nation party that won a number of seats in Australia between the years 1998-2002, but now has no seats at all. In 2006, Ms Hanson famously said that Africans bring disease into the country and should not be allowed in. Similar gems have issued from the mouth of Trump, the American Hanson, on numerous occasions. The reason one gives him any importance is that he has much more support than Ms Hanson ever did and therefore more influence. Hopefully, he too will go the way of Pauline Hanson. Yet his views will continue to bite non-white citizens and visitors to the United States for some time to come. A good question to ask now would be: ‘What went wrong there and how can we prevent it from taking place elsewhere?’ Most importantly, how can we remove the curse of racism in Pakistan, the country that we like to call our own?

No comments:

Post a Comment

If you have any comments, please leave them here. They will be published after moderation. Automated comments will be deleted.To contact me please leave a comment. If you do not wish that comment to be published please say so within the message. Thank you.