mid-day editorial: Time to banish racist stereotypes

There is a huge controversy brewing over the nature and genesis of attacks on different groups of African nationals, who were assaulted by residents of three villages in Chattarpur area of south Delhi late last week. Reports state that at least six African nationals said the residents of Maidangarhi and Rajpur Khurd villages racially abused them.

While FIRs are being filed, the media is being told that they are creating an unnecessary storm and stoking the embers of what is basically a non-issue. There are also several differences about what has actually triggered these attacks, from some alleging that there was a scuffle over music, others saying there were racist slurs and teasing and yet others stating that it was impromptu and unplanned. One can safely say that the controversy will continue to bubble for a while, but it does make us re-look at how we treat people of a different colour even in this city.

In Mumbai too, there is a general wariness about Africans. Stereotyped with epithets like thugs, drug addicts and goons, people generally like to give them a wide berth. They also find it difficult to get accommodation. They are already judged because of the colour of their skin and nationality. African women are routinely teased by locals mumbling innuendos in Hindi, which they think they cannot understand.

It is time that we re-look at the way we perceive people of a different colour. While there maybe some truth about the Africans’ criminal records here, we simply cannot taint everybody with the same brush. We also have certain pre-conceived notions about white skin. Caucasian women tourists have stated how they feel when they are ogled at by men here; there is an underlying perception that they are loose or available.

Let us smash these stereotypes. Visitors or residents, let’s not look at them with a jaundiced eye. Treat them just like any other, and, let not colour or ethnicity dictate our attitude. Mumbai is the city of diversity and it must live up to its name.

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