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Colour and caste

A mural painted by artist Kenny Altidor depicting George Floyd is unveiled on a sidewall of CTown Supermarket on July 13, 2020 in the Brooklyn borough New York City.   | Photo Credit: AFP

As an Indian living in the U.S., I found that one could not be dismissive of the protests against the killing of George Floyd by a police officer. Caricaturing the protests as an excuse for violence and suggesting that there is no evidence of “systemic racism” in the U.S. is like saying India never had a caste system. Blacks have been systematically oppressed, from the very conception of the U.S. That methodical oppression has become a systemic problem today.

Many Indians are relatively more privileged in the U.S., though it is a fact that they too face racism here. Many of them moved to America leaving behind discrimination in their home country. It is not always comfortable for them to deal with the social issues of this country that resonates with the caste system in India. I find that my role as a relatively privileged brown Indian American is to acknowledge the problems of this country and help elevate the voices of blacks. That means setting aside my opinions and biases, having uncomfortable conversations, and admitting mistakes.

People like me have a head start on my black peers simply because of the colour of the skin. These issues are deeply rooted in the American system and need to be addressed head-on, no matter how uncomfortable change can be. The people who report these events play a pivotal role in presenting the right facts and in helping all of us find our roles in society. Much like caste in India, race is a deeply rooted and complex issue in American culture. Both countries have to eliminate these ugly realities, and the role of the media becomes critical to help address them appropriately.

The legal system has de-funded black communities with disturbing regularity. Hence, blacks are deprived of opportunities and resources. Another aspect of systematic racial discrimination in America is that blacks arrested for much smaller crimes such as possession of marijuana and shoplifting are given prison sentences for up to 15 years.

The Black Lives Matter protests, as the news coverage shows, were largely peaceful. The peaceful protesters outnumbered rioters 10 to one. No one condones violence, but the riots had a reason: blacks have reached a breaking point after years of oppression and persecution.

In 2014, Eric Garner, another black man, was killed in almost the same manner as Floyd was. Elijah Mclain and Breonna Taylor are other victims whose lives were unnecessarily taken by the police. Mclain was arrested for no probable cause based on a phone call and injected with twice the normal dose of sedative, which killed him on August 24, 2019. Breonna Taylor was in her home sleeping when the police burst through her front door and shot her eight times. Thus, the protests were significant to highlight racial injustice. The protests all around the U.S. played a pivotal role to highlight the real problems that the black community faces every day in the U.S. It is time to listen to their voices and learn our role in their fight.

tejatgt@gmail.com


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Printable version | Sep 28, 2021 5:02:49 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/colour-and-caste/article32125533.ece

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