14 July 2009

Funny, funny racist us

I'm really sick of reading about racial issues! It's almost like everywhere I go, people have new things to say about it every day - be it the racist abuse Indian students are being subjected to in Australia, or the Mizoram Chief Minister's comment about being a victim of racism in his own home country (and his rather disappointing subsequent backtracking).

But I still feel compelled to put my two cents in just for the heck of it and add some funny to the morbidness of this overdone topic.

First, our Chief Minister's comment - some guy (Mizo guy) was talking about that the other night. He was really angry about it, which stumped me initially because I didn't think he said anything wrong. But I found out that his dissension rose from the fact that he thought it was not the CM's place to say what he did because he probably never actually faced any of those abuse himself. But personally, I don't think he has to personally face any of it. His speaking for the people he leads is justified totally.

Anyway, as a person who've spent years living both in North and South India, and also considerable time traveling in those areas that are neither North nor South :), and also as a person who spends every day interacting with Australians, and also physically spent some months there, I think I can be excused for writing about things like this even though they are actually way beyond my area of expertise.

AUSTRALIA

I spent over 2 months in Sydney, and at work, because I only deal with the Australian market, I have long meetings - casual talks, important video conferences with Australians every single working day. And I loved my time in Australia, I ate out every day, exploring all the little cafes and restaurants, pubs and bars around where I stayed, went walking in every park I found, had long talks with random strangers...

In some places, I was taught how to eat my pork ribs (with my bare hands), or how to order my pancakes (with bacon!), I was taught that I shouldn't order a Victoria Bitter if I don't want to go home smelling like a certified bum, and that a nice young lady like me shouldn't be smoking like the others around me :) - all by perfect Aussie strangers.

I have a lot of good memories but I truthfully can't think of one single time that people weren't nice to me because I was Indian. People I met that I spoke with long enough usually just wanted to know stuff like how many languages I speak, what I studied in college etc after learning of my Indian-ness. I thought it was pretty cool to be Indian, it was amazing how people just expected you to be smart if you're one. That was the only thing I felt about being Indian - maybe it's my shallowness but I felt you were automatically expected to be a whiz at something - Math, Science, computers..one of those, and you had to bring them down to Earth, and that was a bit sad, and that was all.

And that's all I have to say about Australia and its people.

INDIA

Our beloved India. Home. Mother ship. Now when was the last time someone hurled racial abuses at me here in my own home country? Hmm, let's see...Hey it was just yesterday! I and a whole bunch of colleagues had gone out for lunch to a nearby restaurant, and while we were walking back, one guy shouted 'Chinky!' at me, and then a second guy 'Nepali!' (Nothing wrong with being Nepali, just the way the shouter meant it - derogatory).

Not a big deal right? Why should it? Happens ALL the time, even kids that can barely utter words will garble 'Chinky' at you. (The way I see it, there are two ways to look at situations like these - be glad you're not that kid, imagine what kind of adult human being you're going to turn into! OR be glad that you're not the parent that raised that kid. What an explanation you're going to have to have before God for your crappy stint at parenting).

When I was just out of college and looking for a job, I was often asked for my work permit, and one time on a telephonic interview I was politely dismissed because 'they didn't hire foreigners.' Some well-meaning friends have tried to help me avoid such problems - "Why isn't your Hindi more fluent? Why isn't your accent more Indian? You're not trying hard enough to fit in" - All of that makes logical sense. But the constitution of India never stated that speaking Hindi fluently, or speaking Hinglish is a prerequisite to being an Indian citizen. Why should I work to worsen my English speaking accent when it's not good enough as it is just to 'fit in'?! :P

Remember that line from the national pledge? "...I am proud of its rich and varied culture." Proud of its rich and varied culture my ass! We like to make fun of any uncommon 'variety' out here (unless it's white skin). Any sort of anomaly is noticed, and made fun of given a chance. Maybe it's ignorance because some of them (what in the world were they taught in school??) don't even know where Mizoram is, some of them even believe with every fibre of their being that the currency of the obscure Mizos is...of all curencies...the famed 'Dollar'!

So who can blame me when I always feel a certain sense of funniness creeping through my marrow every time I hear a passionate speech about Australians treating Indians unfairly, a look-downer complaining about being looked down upon. So I take sneaky glances to make sure I'm not watched and then I laugh. Evilly. I can't help it.

Oh and before I forget, I have to add that my two closest friends here (Tamil and Mallu) agree with me. They say they are abused more in India than in Australia. On this ratio -

Time range of 60 days
India: Australia = 10 (avg) racial slurs: 0 racial slurs

MIZORAM

Aah! Our own personal tiny little sea of unadulterated racist and bigoted heaven! The problem (pretty much like overall India) is that we vehemently deny that we have an inch of racist bone in our bodies. Maybe because we really believe that we don't have an inch of racist bone in our bodies.

But the thing is, we are. We sang songs in schools that made us believe that we're particularly gifted and blessed - praising our looks, our goals, our land. We take pride in our Mizo-ness...although I have to admit, there's a lot to be proud of :P (darn it, old habits die hard!).

(On a side note, this is why I really feel for Michael Jackson. People accusing him of being ashamed of his race and trying to remove all traces of it from himself. If people accused me of being ashamed of being Mizo, I would get my Ninja gear out IMMEDIATELY!)

In school, we made it really hard for non-Mizo students to fit in (with very few exceptions). How many of us didn't make fun of the red-ribboned, braided hair of the non-Mizos? Or the smell of heavily oiled hair? We made fun of all those because they were foreign to us.

Comparatively, while it was very, very, very difficult for a non-Mizo kid to be popular in an otherwise all Mizo school, it's not as difficult for a Mizo kid in a non-Mizo school/college/group to fit in. Even though strangers may shout 'Chinky,' 'Momo,' etc in the streets, in my own personal environment - classroom, work, I'm accepted, part of the group, member of anything I wish to be a member of. I'm often the person who starts and wins arguments, often the person who talks and laughs the most, and the loudest, who gets all the right invitations to all the right events. Because they unbiasedly let me.

To be honest, I can't see us Mizos being that open to a non-Mizo that they would ever get a chance to take centre stage.

And here's another example, if a 'Vai' got into some minor problem in Mizoram (eg. unfair taxi fare?), would they dare approach the local police? And if they did, unless they got lucky and found an evangelical policeman filled with the Spirit to assist them, I think it would be quite futile for them. Alternatively, if I do that out here, I know the police will listen to me. Thankfully, I haven't required police intervention too often but I have done it twice, both for rickshaw fares, and on both occasions walked away with the problem resolved - in the Chinky's favour.

As for the screamers, the ones that like to shout the nasty racial words, again out here, I have countless times approached and confronted them. They always back away, or apologise profusely, or meekly deny that they said anything bad. In Mizoram, if you scream 'Vai chhia' and that person is stupid enough to come challenging you for it, I'm pretty sure they would be sent away wishing they'd kept their mouths shut.

So that's it, in my opinion, we're equally bad. I think they're horrid out here, I think we're horrid back home. In the same way that they're wonderful out here, and we're wonderful back home. There are people with warm, open hearts here, and back home too. But racism is such a tricky topic because in our heart of hearts, I believe we're all racist assholes.

But you know, with all that's said and done, I am really, really glad that I'm Mizo because in Mizoram, a poor kid can go to the same school as the rich kids, get the same quality of education, a poor person can marry a rich person, a poor person is as welcome anywhere as a rich person is...

And no Mizo will ever deem another Mizo untouchable...

And your skin colour doesn't describe the quality of who you are, and the person you are, not your caste or skin color, still defines your class.

And I know my neighbors will care about me enough to feed and clothe me if I ever find myself destitute.

We're not any better, but I think we're at least pretty good to members of our own race, unlike other races. And that's really something to think about......

So I don't know who the winner is. But oh, the funniness of it all! We human beings are such weird creatures.

But do we all really even care that much? Me, I'm really concerned about the fact that a strap on my shoe broke this morning - at work, and I already made dinner plans for tonight, and for now my only option is to go with my gym shoes. That worries me more than racial issues.

Sometimes I worry about my silliness, then I read the news and realise that I need not worry about being silly because mankind is with me on this one.

37 comments:

mnowluck said...

Couldn't agree with you more

http://twitter.com/mnowluck/statuses/2631272927

illusionaire said...

Well written. We are all a racist lot. Problem arises when we try to compare and see who is more racist... no you are more racist than us... no YOU are... no you you you.... I mean, is there a point? If we are going to fight against injustice or discrimination, we have to fight it from every point of view, and not just from what we face.

Well written. And oh, I thought you said you were never going to write anything on this topic? :-) But I'm sure glad you did. Kudos, dear. Big Hugz.

The longer we try to defend or deny that we are not racist, the deeper we are plunging the knife within.

Joseph L said...

Well said... *applause*

I just love being called "chinky".. Lol. And i fall for their angelic choir singing the "Ching chong ching" song.. (fingrs crossed).

Zaia said...

Hi-hi-hi
Tha kher mai. Agree emaw, disagree emaw lam a lang lo. Ka tan chuan chhiar a nuam a, beng a tivar a ni ber mai.

Zaia said...

Eh, ka tweet zeuh :D

mnowluck said...

My tweet status doesn't show correctly. Let me post it here again http://twitter.com/mnowluck/statuses/2631351725

VaiVa said...

Oh... I just realized that your writing skills just got better when you are ready to jump out with your ninja suit! Lolzz


My math is not so good especially when comparing! So, let me refrain assessing my experience during my 5 days stays in Australia and the rest here back home. But, I really did not feel at home during those 5 days! :D

Sekibuhchhuak said...

Hotunu, i blog ka comment thei lo renga. hei tunah chuan theih leh tawh ang chu.

I sawi zawng zawng hi ka pawm khawp mai. Engmaw chang chuan keimahni (Mizo)racist vena hmu lemlo te hian, ka awm thin hian ka hria.

Very good post!

Jerusha said...

mnow - haha nice to see because I actually expected some negative comments :)

kims - I know I said I wasn't going to, but like I said, it was PUSHED into my face! I was forced to. I had to get it out. And thank you!

Father - haha they call you 'chinky' with so much warmth and love it's amazing isn't it!

Jerusha said...

zaia - Ka lawm e min lo chhiar sak ve peih thin avangin :)


Vaiva - I wish I can wear my Nija suit everyday. I feel so much confident in it, probably explains why I write better with it around too :)

My first 5 days in Australia I hardly even remember because I was so freaking jetlagged :) I think for me it helped that I went feeling like I already knew the people well. colleagues picking me up from the airport to taking me to my apartment to ..everything. Just made the fitting in a little easier.

Jerusha said...

Seki - Mizo hi kan ni nasa ve tho a, kei ngei pawh hian vai pawngpaw puh vak hi ka ching thin a. Mahse kan dik lo ani tih hi accept ve chua ngai. Thil 'fix' tur chuan, problem kha a awm ani tih accept phawt a ngai..

virgochhas said...

hear...hear...

a dik lubuxx...i feel Mizo hi kan racist ber zok...

st. pauls kan luh lai a kan teacher pakhat soi kha ka la hrereng thrin...Mizo chu sunday ah biakin ah in kal a "Lalpa, Lalpa" in ti a...monday ah "vaipa, vaipa" in ti leh a...

Macabreday said...

probably one of your best posts...
i have been in the USA for 4 years, and in four years, the number of times i have experienced some racial abuse = zero
and in India....ive lost count.. one for being mallu... and oh, many times in kerala itself, for not being mallu enough...!

blackestred said...

Finally!! Its been quite a while since I've read a really good and long post on your blog. This one reminded me once again why I visit your blog.
I've been meaning to make a similar post, specially about how we feel we are the only victims of racism overlooking our racists acts back home, but you've written it so elaborately that I don't need to anymore. I'll just make a post linking to this one.. :P

"Racism is the gravest threat to man.. the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason."

Jerusha said...

virg - he he tunge a sawitu chu, KJ-a anih duh hmel :P

mac - I felt pretty much the same way too about America even though I was there for only a couple of weeks. I liked it that strangers on the streets didn't think twice about bumping a ciggy off off you and then hanging around to chat :P

blakestred - thank you, but you really should do a post of yours too. I'd love to read something you wrote (okay I lied in the post when I said I'm sick of seeing it written about everywhere, apparently I'm not!) :)

claytonia vices said...

I came to know from people who knew Indians living down under that there is actually very little or no 'racist' attacks happening... it is our media who seems to be desperate to create some fear (it is the media's formula it seems, 'create fear, gain viewership')... every time a routine mugging (heard it increased with recession) happens to an Indian there it would most probably be a white who mugged him and it is very easy to paint it as 'racist'...

Yeah, I find it very hilarious to see our casteist, sexist, regionalist, 'languagist' (linguist would mean something else!!) racist countrymen and women crying themselves hoarse over this!!

mesjay said...

Hmmm, quite a mindful this! Each group is a mixture of good and bad. At the end, all we can say is that we're only human, and we'd better try and see things in better lights and improve our behaviour as much as we can.

ruolngulworld said...

Very well written. In fact, the best post/article I've read on the subject.
Simple fact is, we are all racists. Its only a question of who is more (or less) racist. I suppose it is something we are all born with, as normal human beings.

duhawma said...

I also agreed with we the Mizos are also racist. But i think this will happen more and more in the near future not only in India but in other contries as well. I feel it because there is a limit resources interms of food,materials etc. so there is a tendency to the owner by keeping the resources for themselves.

Jerusha said...

clay - I know, most of it seems to be brewed by the media. I wonder why my dream job is still media-related! I'm also impressed by your 'etymological' skills haha

mes, ruol, and Duhawma - C'mon guys! Disagree with me, I feel like some heated verbal fight! :P

On a more serious note, I'm glad that most of us are not denying the fact we Mizos are indeed racist. I don't think we're any worse than anyone else, but I don't think we're any better, but I think the important thing before we can see any sort of change is for us to accept this fact. Sadly, I don't think we do on a major scale.

illusionaire said...

On a more serious note, I'm glad that most of us are not denying the fact we Mizos are indeed racist. Sadly, I don't think we do on a major scale.

Well darling, for starters, your platform is wrong, if you are looking forward to a debate or somebody to disagree with you. Most of the Mizo bloggers here are open about this and wholeheartedly accept our flaws.

For a debate on this, you must write this article at misual.com etc and other Mizo centric discussion forums where you will find the chunk of Mizos not agreeing to your view.

But then of course, if you post it at such sites, you stand the risk of encountering the language mafia: "You are a Mizo, you should write this in Mizo, why are you writing in English?" blah blah blah :-) So its your call. I can post this for you at misual.com if you want. Just give me the word.

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luliana said...

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post.. :)

Well, out here in my hostel we 'chinkies' are known as 'lympha' (dunno what it exactly means till now :D). Our assamese friend who likes hanging out with us 'lympha' guys is popularly known an 'assamese lympha'. Nepali guys are all 'nips' (short for 'nipples'), and all the guys from the mainland (Bihar, UP, MP etc) are all 'Biharis'. But at the end of the day we all live peacefully, coz' nobody gives a shit!!

Amitabh said...

This is the most stupid analysis I have ever come across.

In India, most of the people never ever gone out of their birth place. Interaction with out world is either through t.v. or if somebody comes from outside. O.k. its true, it is very irritating if somebody continuously looking at you or smiles at you but that is not because of racism. You waana check then talk to them you will find out yourself.


And all those nick-names are being used everywhere in the world.

illusionaire said...

And all those nick-names are being used everywhere in the world.

lolzzzzzzzz @ Amitabh. So that makes it suddenly okhay to utter racial slurs at anyone??? Just because other people are also doing it? Haha. Well, last time I checked, rape is happening all over the world too. So who are you going to rape tonight?

Jerusha said...

Kim - I believe the post is too long. Takes longer than the attention span of average most readers. Wouldn't work. But thanks.

Lulian - Ni vel mai mai e. That's why I say - do we really even care as much as we seem to say we do?

Jerusha said...

Amitabh's comment I think Illusionaire's response has more than sufficed so I'll spare myself the trauma of having to address the use of "nick-names" (UGH!) in different parts of the world. LOL

Blind Dayze said...

Thumbs up to this post ... and like Illusionaire suggested it would be nice to see this post up on misual.com

....and i'd say dont worry about the post being too long.. maybe a slight "modification" in the Post title would surely make regulars on misual.com read the full post...

faka said...

Very well written! Being the only Indian where I'm working, I have never come across any racial remarks or acts against me for being an Indian. I rather found it hard to make people believe that I'm Indian:)

I had been in Kolkata and Chennai for two years each, and have visited all the metros. Sadly, there is a different story to tell... I accept that we all are racist in one way or the other. But there's no denying the fact that we Indians still have a longer way to go!

OpaHmar said...

As usual, ur energy and enthusiasm which is on-the-other-hand-so-cool in the way u write is appreciated here.

My frens affectionately call me Chinky and I- Mallu, Golti, Tam, Bihari,Nepali(or even kanchha) Bong-ed them accordingly...I believe it bonds us...but, luckily, I happen to be in one of the most cosmopolitan establishment in India (CMC,Vellore)
That we Mizo are racists is nothing new, but I do believe and notice changes of late, for good; and we can encourage and sensitize youngsters and the less educated (read unexposed) mass in this regard

Tawia Pachuau said...

well done....

Its not only vai, we are racist to even our brothers, I wonder if they will like it when we call ppl :-

Vaipa, vaichhia, nghapih, Mizo2, Gurkhalibawngpu, ramramchho, paihtesumdawng,

mang buhril said...

Jeru, very well written, indeed it's not only the mizos who are rascists but the nagas, assamese, manipuris etc. i've been to those places in NE where i've encountered/seen how rascists we are.
But on our CM calling the shots on that issue, i really think it's pretty unfair on his part to call South Indians as rascists. Other than the regular chingchongs, jackie chans etc. being hurled at us initially(attributed to their lack of exposure to the outside world), there is absolutely nothing to complain against these Southies. This same problem do exists there in North...

Jerusha said...

Blind Dayze (nice username) - Maybe Kim should collect stuff from different blogs and post that up on misual, wuld be much more 'comprehensive' as opposed to posting an article that just composes of what one insignificant person thinks :)

Faka - haha I know. When I say this about Australia, my friends would joke that it's probabl;y because they didn't know I was Indian that they didn't attack me. I agree completely abut us having a longer way to go, I ciovered that more extensively in my original post but decided to cut it out after I saw the post was too long :(


OPa - yeah I have no issues with well meaning friends calling me 'chinky' - pretty much like how 'Nigger' is fine if it's a black person calling another black nigger lol

Jerusha said...

tawia - A dik lutuk! Ngaihtuah chian chuan a 'slur' meaning nen, entirnan 'Ching chong' in tih ai chuan 'Vaichhia' tih chu a la vicious zawk hrim hrim bawk a. Mizo leh Mizo pawh 'Zo' lutuk te kan la inti hram ania. Nih loh leh in ti sap, inti vairam awm, kan ti leh a, buaithlak tak chu ni.

Mang - I didn't know he specifically meant South Indians. I love South India, personally I think we're better 'accepted' here as compared to the North. So if he said that, I would agree with you and say that that was unfair of him to focus on just a certain part of India. It's more widespread than that.

Peer Gynt said...

wonderful post! and written with such good humour too...even as you don your ninja suit :) you balance both sides with such ease and self-deprecation, it makes your point irresistible and sound. a valuable lesson and the best among the ones 've come across on this subject. Bravo!

Jerusha said...

peer g - Thank you for making my day :)

Vikram said...

Well, Jerusha this was a very well written piece. A truly educated person is one who can reflect and self-criticize. That is why it is important to study social science and humanities in addition to all the math and science Indians tend to focus on.