Saturday, June 21, 2008


Around the globe the western world is often criticized for racism. Some part of it is history. It is a tough legacy to overcome. It is a slow process and needs a lot of policy and social changes to eliminate and still there will continue to be pockets of traditional racism in the social fabric.

What is alarming is the failure to notice the micro-racism around the world. This is the attitude of exclusion and discrimination amongst narrower segments of the society. I have found the most appalling examples of this behaviour in India. You can call it protectionism or remnants of the caste system but it is just another flavor of racism and I call it micro-racism.

Attempts in Bangalore to ban non-Kannada movies; places of worship have been destroyed causing riots in the whole country; fanatical bias toward Tamil language in Tamil Nadu; Preferential treatment given to local people purely based on their last names, which in India reveals a whole lot about your origins. These are all examples of micro-racism. I say this not because I don't believe in keeping the local culture and traditional alive, but because of the chosen means to the end. Take for example the Tamil language. I personally find it one of the most poetic languages I have known, very much like the Urdu language. But it still doesn't justify forcing it on people.

The recent incidents in Maharashtra is an example of an age old political agenda of treating people from other states as outsiders. Believe it or not these are the same people who are reaping the benefits of their own children and grand-children bringing in the riches from immigrating to other countries.

Destroying the present and future to make up for the past is not right. I am a fervent supporter of local economies and keeping age old traditions and culture alive. But banning new change to keep old culture alive is not the right approach. Often the policy decisions made by government and religious organizations are based on emotions and not based on well thought through rational frameworks. I am surprised to see that having a good education alone doesn't equip us to leave emotions out of policy making.

I believe that the cause of micro-racism is that the local culture and people feel threatened and usually have an inferiority complex against the alternative. The philosophy of forcing ideas and culture on people is always easier than promoting it through free will. But it is not the best approach to nurture local culture.

Bringing out interest in local culture in innovative and interesting ways is the best way to keep them alive. The new generation has a crucial role to play in discovering the past and keeping it alive for generations to come through free will. You have to create a framework for people to discover and enjoy the treasures in the diversity of India.