Indian millennials and Gen-Z have been trying to uproot the culture of making bigoted comments in everyday conversations a thing of the past. Somehow, it seems difficult to call your elders out for the same, but it is important to do this if one wishes to live in harmony with one another.
The conversations around the dinner table at night are similar in most, Indian middle-class families. It heavily revolves around religion and minorities. It hardly matters if the parents are highly educated or amiable. They absolutely hate certain religious minorities and believe all of them actively engage in terrorist activities and that their religion teaches violence. They believe that Hijabi women are unequivocally oppressed and have no control over the course of their lives. Middle-class Hindus often declare how they can’t trust minorities anymore and engage in overt and covert bigotry by calling them names or refusing to rent out their flats to them.
Have you ever noticed how your mother takes out another steel glass for the housemaid and the man who takes out your garbage when they ask for water? The housemaid always sits on the floor while watching television while the other members of the family sit on the sofa. This is all casteism. Sometimes, your parents ask a person’s surname to know their caste and if that person somehow qualifies an exam or gets selected for a government job, they attribute it to the reservations in place for them. All of this reeks of ignorance and privilege.
Women are often subjected to misogyny by the society for every action of theirs. Older people in the neighbourhood, largely women can’t help but talk about girls who wear skirts or talk to boys in a demeaning manner. The middle-class impression of a gay man or that of transgender people has been taken from ‘The Kapil Sharma Show’. The public laughs at this representation of gay men or trans people, from a show which is infamous for its homophobia.
In 2016, there was a spate of attacks on Africans in Delhi and Noida. They were beaten up with cricket bats, bricks and iron rods for no reason at all. However, the government refused to call it a ‘racist attack’. The discourse going around at the time in every Indian middle-class family was that Africans can’t be trusted because all of them deal with drugs. So, they think it’s a reason good enough to attack them. Same goes for racial attacks on people from North-East. When they go to metropolitan cities like Delhi and Bangalore, they are called by racial slurs like ‘chinki’ and are harassed by their own countrymen. South Indians are collectively called ‘mallu’ and face colourism. Being prejudiced against minorities and marginalized communities has been so ingrained in us, right from the childhood that this sickening mentality has been normalized in our daily conversations.
It’s not easy to change the narrative around these subjects. Our parents grew up with these ideas and even if you call them out for their prejudices, they would ask you to shut up because after all, they have seen the world and know better. All we can do is learn as much as possible about caste, class, race and gender and recognize privilege whenever it benefits us. The next time your parents and relatives or neighbours make any problematic comments, calmly tell them where they’re going wrong. I am hoping this is how we’ll change our society and its thinking, one family at a time.
Feature Image credits– Indian Express