From racism to casteism to patriarchy, Dear White People resonates with any and every person who has faced an instance of systematic oppression, finally a movie with not just a token representation but a real one.

Humanity, as a collective, has consistently shared one thing— the feeling of being different; the feeling of being isolated, alone, and deeply ununderstood. Dear White People ends up striking exactly this chord with every single person in the audience. It holds up a metaphorical mirror to society, forcing us to look around, observe, and realise, that in all our talks of unity and diversity, maybe we have forgotten what unity is supposed to look like.

The movie being largely inspired by film director Justin Simien’s book by the same title, finds a place to showcase its literary roots in the structure of the movie itself. The movie begins with a very storybook-like screen and the words ‘Prologue’ etched onto it. This trend follows throughout as if taking us systematically through the chapters and finally leaving us at the ‘Epilogue’ to mull.

It isn’t a new phenomenon, the feeling of being comfortable with other people belonging to the same backgrounds, regions, histories, and realities. Neither is its manifestation in academia new.

The movie brought forward the historically entrenched power equation between unequals, the groupism that is not just embedded in our public lives but also our private, and the dichotomy of being different— of being too much or too less, just never enough. It grapples with the question of personal choices and stereotypical ones and the struggle of not wanting to subscribe to the prejudiced notion people form of you upon your first meeting. 


Dear White People ended up being more of an explanation about the need for people to find others belonging to the same circles, not because of something that they have seen or been taught, but simply by the reason that others who are the same as you have a considerably less chance of wanting to bully you for your choices, teasing you and your inherent differences, or stereotypically putting you in a box. Following Lionel’s story, the struggle of fitting in was something we could all relate to, but the fact that he was trying while the world was stuck in the ways of decades past, spoke more about that ingrained racism that found its foothold over centuries of oppression and takes more than having “two black friends” to refute.

When Lionel asked “Am I black enough for the Black Student Union?”, when Sam broke down the divisions mentioned in Ebony & Ivy, when ‘Coco’ consistently tried denying her own identity, we ended up seeing shades of different ideas and opinions, with refreshingly the oppressed being a reflection of their own oppression.

Not surprisingly, the arguments used by the “whites”— the most repeated one being that the most difficult thing in today’s world is being a white man— are the same ones that we have seen and heard in real life, on Twitter, and on the streets.

The movie ended up being a brilliant portrayal of reality and more than being solely about racism and its struggles, became a reflection of every other instance of systematic oppression, finally showing a real representation.


Feature Image Credits: Athena Film Festival


Manasvi Kadian

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Medical officers, scientists, even the World Health Organisation (WHO) refers to the current pandemic as Coronavirus, but not some powerful world leaders, who have used this opportunity to stigmatize a particular disease. We still have not learnt anything from history, Have we?

 Amidst the world combatting the Coronavirus pandemic, the infamous part-time President, full-time “Twitterati” Donald Trump took to Twitter to address COVID-19 as “The Chinese Virus”. While in the same tweet he also said, that the United States of America would continue supporting the worst hit industries, like Airline and Travel Industry, where he completely ignored the dearth of funds the US healthcare system has been facing, the worst part still remains him nationalizing Coronavirus. 


Image Credits: Talk Radio Image Caption: The tweet where Trump addressed Coronavirus as Chinese Virus
Image Credits: Talk Radio
Image Caption: The tweet where Trump addressed Coronavirus as Chinese Virus


The US has been struggling to deal with the pandemic since Day 1, and Trump’s blame game has only jeopardized the situation more. Earlier, Trump blamed ex-President Barack Obama for the rise in number of cases in the States (Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?). Followed by Trump then blaming WHO, his own medical officers and ministers, and well now China. It is confirmed that the first case of Coronavirus was found in China, but does that make the virus Chinese? Trump’s own Secretary went on record to condemn Trump’s racist views as the virus is not propagated by any ethnicity or nationality, but Trump’s views do propagate Xenophobia.

While being asked to comment on his racist remarks of calling the virus Chinese, Trump refuted all accusations by saying, “The only reason I call the virus Chinese is because it originated from China. Whatever I said is not racist. Not racist at all.” Now, the question that persists is why the Coronavirus being called Chinese is extremely wrong?

There are two answers to that question, and both of which lie in power dynamics. Firstly, history has been the witness that whenever a disease or a pandemic has been stigmatized to particular ethnicity or nationality, it has led to catastrophic consequences. In the 14th Century, Jewish people were blamed for the outbreak of Black Death in Europe, and they were killed in great numbers. Again in 19th century Irish Catholic immigrants were blamed for spreading Cholera to the US, and thus were thrown in detention camps and faced mass killings. If you still don’t understand the relation of stigmatization of disease and its effect on people and national policy. In 1876, a group of Chinese people living in San Francisco became the scapegoat for smallpox outbreak which prompted the infamous Chinese Exclusion Act. 

While Trump may just be following the past narrative of naming diseases on the place of their origin, like Ebola, The Zika Virus, and more, what he doesn’t realize is that the world already has realized their mistake of stigmatizing diseases. Therefore, in 2015, WHO laid down the guidelines for naming a disease to avoid exactly what Trump is doing right now. Owing to the ideology that Trump preaches, the Asian-American, specially the Chinese-American community are facing tremendous violence, hate and daily racism. This phenomenon is also evident in India, where several harassment and racism cases have been reported against the North-Eastern citizens.

Secondly, calling the virus Chinese helps Trump to put the entire accountability of failure of the US health infrastructure on China. It also defers people from asking questions to Trump and his health policy, to hating China. Unfortunately, this has been proven true, with now the conspiracy debate around China using Coronavirus as a weapon being more surfaced than questions regarding the poor healthcare system, and how our politicians do not deem to invest in it but would spend all its budget on statues.

The Coronavirus sees no nationality, no ethnicity, no race, it just sees immediate health action plan. Whenever a disease has spread, shameful incidents of xenophobia and stigmatization have been written in history. Trump’s desperate efforts of playing the blame game, and nationalizing the suffrage of people, just shows the ideology of a capital-driven right-wing President.


Feature Image Credits: Bangalore Mirror


Chhavi Bahmba

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On 22nd March, an MPhil student from Manipur, studying in Delhi University, was spat on near North Campus, and was called Caronavirus. Following her, other students from North-East India shared their racial harassment stories.

In a shocking incident, on 22nd March, a 25-year-old woman from Manipur was spat on by a man and called ‘Coronavirus’ in North Campus, around 9 p.m., as she was walking back after getting some groceries.

This incident was then reported to the police and a First Information Report (FIR) was filed in this regard at Mukherjee Nagar Police Station. Speaking to Mojo, the victim said “The man approached me on a white scooty as I was walking, and I could feel that something was about to happen. He then proceeded to stop and spit on me and the paan from his mouth entered my eye and came on my face. For a moment, I was stunned, but as he sped away, I tried running after him but couldn’t catch him as my eyes were burning. My first concern was getting infected, with someone spitting at me at the time when Coronavirus is spreading. I immediately rushed back home, changed my clothes and bathed before lodging a complaint with the Delhi Police. I’m still trying to process what happened, it has been a really traumatising experience for me.”

After the story of the victim was shared on social media, two more victims, who faced the same incident in January came forward with their story.

The victims spoke to DU Beat about the incidents that took place with them. In conditions of anonymity, they said, “It was on the night of 22nd January 2020 at around 7:30 to 8 pm and I was coming back from my friend’s place. It was quite dark at that time and I was all alone. And then suddenly a middle-aged man came on his scooty and spat on me. At first, I thought something had fallen down from the tree but then the smell suddenly hit me and by the time I looked back to see him or his vehicle number, he had already vanished. The feeling was so disgusting and horrible. When I heard about this incident that happened last night I shared the same in a Whatsapp group wherein I came to know that the same thing happened with another girl on the same place later that night.”

The other victim said also described the incident that took place with her. She told DU Beat that, “As I was walking back to my PG,  I was walking past the park located near my PG. The streets were empty then and dimly lit. All of a sudden, I saw a man in a scooty driving towards me. I thought he was going to hit me with his scooty and just froze for one sec. Next thing I know, he spat paan all over my face, neck, hair and clothes. I was shellshocked and didn’t move for 10 seconds. When I came back to my senses, I shouted but he had already driven off. Traumatised, I ran into my PG and cried to my friends. They thought that I had fallen in some mud or something since the colour was brownish-red. The smell was utterly strong and disgusting. They cleaned me up and I bathed four times. They informed my PG owner. He came and we all went to the scene where the incident had happened. We planned on reporting it to the police, but the next day, I decided to let it go as I was traumatised by the incident and no longer wanted to ponder upon it.”

“I’m coming forward with my story now so that I could help the person who was attacked on 22nd March, since our descriptions of the attacker match. I just hope that Delhi University’s North Campus is a safe place for us North-Easterners to roam even past 8 at night and I hope that the same incident doesn’t happen to anyone else in the future. No human deserves to be treated this way.” she added.

Initially, both people didn’t think this attack was racially motivated, but after noticing the increasing number of incidents that have taken place in the same manner, it can hardly be a coincidence, since all three times the target were people who were from the North-East.

DU Beat also spoke to Mr Varun Pradhan, a member of the Delhi University’s North Eastern Student Society (NESSDU),  “Once I heard of how there were more students were also attacked in a similar manner earlier, I tried contacting the North East Helpline, but couldn’t get through to them.  So I called the Mukherjee Nagar Police Station, but they said that it’s too late for an FIR, however, the victims could still file a written complaint and the police will support them thoroughly in this regard.”

Of late, such racially motivated incidents are on the rise across India. It is indeed a shameful situation and such actions should be condemned by all members of the society.

In connection to this incident, the Delhi Police arrested a 40 year old man on Wednesday, 25th March 2020.

 Feature Image Credits: Anonymous

Khush Vardhan Dembla

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We evaluate the history of Asian movies at the Academy Awards, and how over the years inherent racism has painted the award culture.

“When I tell you that every single Asian person backstage at the SAG Awards just had the same emotional look on their face when the PARASITE team… even people who had nothing to do with the movie…”, Jen Yamato, an Los Angeles Times Reporter tweeted when the cast of Parasite won Best Ensemble at the 26th Screen Actor Guild (SAG) Awards, held on January 19, 2020.

Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite became the first South Korean movie to be nominated for Oscars in the categories of Best Picture and Best International Feature Film. Rounding out Parasite‘s six total nominations were nods for Directing, Film Editing, and Production Design. Despite the film’s memorable performances—from Song Kang Ho’s palpable tension as he sweats and hides beneath a coffee table to Park So Dam’s quick, sharp wit—acknowledgments in acting categories were pointedly missing. This bias is a continuing phenomenon, from 1987’s Last Emperor (9 nominations) to 2000’s Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (10) to 2005’s Memoirs of a Geisha (six) to 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire (10) and 2012’s Life of Pi (11).

Media studies scholars told VICE, “the reasons behind this lack of recognition are multi-layered. With pop culture reflecting society at large, Asian actors face more than just industry issues. Beyond the general lack of distribution of Asian films, the difficulty Asian actors face in breaking into Hollywood’s mainstream, and the Academy’s mostly-white demographics, Asians in Hollywood must also go up against the racial stereotypes and biases of American society, which inform the way viewers perceive their performances. When it comes to judging the work of Asian actors, the white American mainstream has historically been clouded by bias.”

However, in a year that could have been a major leap forward in representation at the Oscars, performers of Asian descent were overlooked in all of the acting categories. Notably, Awkwafina was not among the nominees for Best Actress, despite rave reviews for her performance in The Farewell. The snubs for The Farewell also include Lulu Wang, who wrote and directed the film and was overlooked in the Best Director and Best Original Screenplay categories. . The only time a woman of Asian descent has been nominated for Best Actress was in 1936, when Eurasian actress Merle Oberon was up for The Dark Angel. Meanwhile, the last time any Asian actor was nominated by the Academy was in 2007, when Rinko Kikuchi was up for Best Supporting Actress for Babel.

Overall, the lack of expanded representation comes after decades of being overlooked during awards season.

The issue was further aggravated at the 2016 Oscars — which had already drawn criticism over the failure to nominate any people of color in the acting categories — when host Chris Rock brought out three Asian-American children for a stereotype-laden sight gag. Constance Wu and others slammed the joke, and a few days later, Sandra Oh, George Takei and director Ang Lee were among several Academy members to sign an open letter calling for an apology.

As the Los Angeles Times found in a 2012 report, Oscar voters were 94 percent white and 77 percent male, with Black voters eking out only two percent and Latinx voters making up even less. The Academy’s current breakdown isn’t clear, but ABC reported last year that based on the most recent numbers provided, it was making steps toward change, with women making up 49 percent of the members added in 2018, and people of color accounting for 38 percent. Despite these efforts, the fact remains that in 2018, people of color still made up only 16 percent of the Academy’s overall voting body.

A similar perspective was shared by Nancy Wang Yuen, a sociologist and author of Reel Inequality: Hollywood Actors and Racism. “If the stereotype is that Asians are not expressive and the entire enterprise of acting and the reward of the Oscars is about being expressive, those stereotypes work against Asian actors,” Yuen told VICE. “There’s variation in expression, just as there is variation of expression in Western cultures, but there’s racism against Asians: the idea that all Asians look alike, the inability to distinguish between Asians and [different] Asian cultures. Those old racist ideas that Asians have to face in the general culture definitely impact how they fare in popular culture.”

It’s the 92nd Academy awards this year. Let’s hope the Academy finally wakes up to the plethora of Asian talent at the movies; because as Bong Joon Ho said, “Once you overcome the 1-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.”

Feature Image Credits: Getty Images

Paridhi Puri

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Many of us today experience identity crisis because even though we are brown, our imagination is highly influenced by the west. Let’s trace the history of our hybridness. 

The history of India’s colonial past is an integral part of its identity. By the first half of the 18th century, English trade with India was an important part of its economy. However, the British East India Company soon started to wage war on Indian rulers and in 1757, after the Battle of Plassey, they had strong political and economic hold on the Indian sub-continent. In 1858, the rule over this region got transferred from the Company to the British Crown in the person of Queen Victoria, thereby beginning the long rule of the British Raj in India. The introduction of English education in India by the English Education Act, 1835 can be credited to Thomas Babington Macaulay, though the necessary order on the subject was issued by Lord William Bentinck, the then Governor-General of India. One of the main reasons for teaching the English language to their colonial subjects was to exercise cultural hegemony and create a class of educated Indians who could help them in administrating their rule over them. Seventy-one years after our independence from the British, we continue to be a part of the Commonwealth. English Language and Literature is an intrinsic part of our Indian Education System and the Western Civilization has a strong hold on our lives. This paper aims at studying the psyche of the Postcolonial Hybrid and the way in which the West influences our imaginative and creative self and our perception of society and how till date it has a certain power over us. 

The ancestry of postcolonial criticism can be traced to Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth, published in 1961, and voicing what might be called ‘cultural resistance’ to France’s African empire. Cultural resistance is the broad use of arts, literature, and traditional practices to challenge or fight unjust or oppressive systems and/or power holders within the context of nonviolent actions, campaigns and movements. At its core, cultural resistance is a way of reclaiming our humanity, and celebrating our work as individuals and communities. This concept is applicable to the Indian context. During the struggle for independence, the Swadeshi movement called for the boycott of all British goods and the revival of local industries. It was a call to go back to traditional ways of living and remembering our glorious past, thereby, weakening British economy and strengthening Indian nationalism. The Independence Movement saw a flourish of art and culture in the local flavours. Songs and poems composed by eminent people like Rabindranath Tagore, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay and Sarojini Naidu at that time became political and artistic fronts of India. After Independence, local arts and artists continued to grow and the Indian Film and Music Industry boomed with growth and glory.

However, it is not as if India completely went back to its pre-colonial ways after independence. British, and more broadly speaking, Western art and culture never stopped being a part of Indian society.Indians had been going to universities like Oxford and Cambridge to study since colonial times, leading to academic and cultural exchanges. Cornelia Sorabji, the first Indian national to study at a British University and Srinivasa Ramanujan, a famous mathematician were some of these prominent scholars. During the British Raj, many Indian texts got translated into English and vice versa. Gitanjaliby Rabindranath Tagore, for instance was translated into English by William Butler Yeats. He even gave a preface to it and in 1913, Tagore became the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Artists like Amrita Sher-Gil introduced western styles like Avant-garde to Indian art thereby, creating an Indo-western form of expression. India always had a huge market for western literature, art, movies and music and after the Indian economic crisis of 1991, a new policy of Liberalization, Privatization and Globalization, the LPG model got introduced by the government which led to a freer global trade policy. With new foreign investments came a new surge of foreign publishing houses and telecast networks, making access to western culture much easier than before. Today, post industrialization and globalization, in an age of the internet we can download western books, movies and music in an instant. This makes access to western culture and influences much easier. All of these influences since the time of the British Raj has created a class of Indian postcolonial hybrids whose identities trespasses its geographical boundaries.

Feature Image Credits: University of Nottingham 

Juhi Bhargava 

[email protected] 


I remember the time when I was drawing the map of India in class. I was little then, and as a good boy would I attentively listened to the teacher to learn how to draw my country. “Check the map”, I remember her say, “and don’t forget to draw the international borders in dark, bold outlines.” So I drew the boldest outline for the international borders. “Now draw the 25 states of India and colour them differently”, the teacher added. Now, my counting was limited to just the number of fingers in each of my tiny hands and toes in each of my tiny foot.

So drawing the 25 states (as the 28 had not formed yet) was really troublesome. I never understood why I had to draw more borders than I already had, in great bold outlines. Naturally I approached the teacher with my perfectly valid complaint. I was told that I would understand it when I grew older and understood the working of the human mind…

We humans are the most intellectual being on earth and we take great pride in that knowledge. Our intellect has helped us claw our way from cold, hard caves to plush, furnished hotel rooms, from cattle drawn carts to the sweet melody of a roaring V-8. But there is one talent, from our endless repertoire, that is my topic of interest: our capability to see and recognize patterns.Have you never looked at the floating clouds and giggled as you noticed a peculiar shape in them, maybe that of a cricket bat, a face of a famous person, a face of a not-so-famous person, an aeroplane or a loved one perhaps? Recognizing patterns is not just another one of our talents mind you, but an almost vehement compulsion. Look at your wallet, most people like to keep their money in a fashioned order – 10 rupee notes followed by 20 rupee notes which are in turn followed by 50 rupee notes, and so on and so forth.

This compulsion of forming patterns is not limited to the inanimate alone. We tend to classify people as well, so consequently we have the Indians, the Americans, The Chinese, Marathis, Punjabis, Bengalis etc. In your everyday greeting with any stranger, your first instinct is to ask him their name (out of courtesy) and then their place of origin (out of curiosity). Once you have known the latter it becomes easier for you to compartmentalize him into a specific category that already exists in your head. Now you know which ‘category’ of ‘people’ he comes from, your initial tension subsides and your conversation becomes more fluid. You are safe in the knowledge of what to expect.

Our brains are always, actively, trying to make out patterns. You hate noise because you can find in it no rhythm to tap your foot to. You hate the crowded metro because your mind just cannot find any pattern of behavior. In fact, if our brains are to be subjected to a long stretch of unpredictable patterns we are under the threat of losing our sanity. The ingenious Chinese water torture makes use of the very same fact. The victim is strapped down to a chair or a table while water is trickled, drop by drop, in their forehead. Does not sound like a torture does it? Remember the time you had a leaky roof during the monsoon, or a time when the bathroom tap was loose? Remember the annoying sound it made when drops of water fell to the floor, waking you at just that moment when you had started to doze off? Maddening wasn’t it? So you can only imagine the agony the victims had undergone as drops of water hit their forehead, erratically, before their minds collapsed into insanity as it exhaustively tried to find some sort of pattern.

Similarly, most people are irritated when their nosy friends borrow something and not keep it back in its original place. People are more likely to hang out with others from the same ‘group’ and usually avoid people who are not part of the ‘group’. Because in a ‘group’ the pattern is defined to almost the smallest of detail like – favorite hang outs, food and most importantly faces of people you know. Nobody likes a fly in their chicken soup, do they?

So the question is… was Nido Taniam the fly?  A ‘something’ that did not fit the urban pattern of Delhi? An anomaly so detestable that he was beaten to death?  Was he not part of the same pattern that I had outlined in great dark, bold outlines as a child? Now when I think about it, I am still that kid holding a map drawn in crayons…


Presenting a relevant cause using music, the final day of Hindu College’s Mecca 2014 began with a concert against racism. It saw performances by three bands of north-east Indian students.

The songs being mostly in their native languages, aimed to present the array of wide culture north-east India possesses. In an attempt to sensitize the youth towards the ‘different’ Indians and to highlight the gravity of racism they faced, Sh. Pradyot, the King of Tripura delivered an awakening speech towards the end of concert.

“We are more informed about the happenings of the world, than we are about those eight states of India. Hindi is just one language spoken in India, not the only language. We all need to make an attempt to understand and warmly receive the students who leave their hometowns and culture behind for better opportunities, only then we shall be able to see the rich cultural heritage of north east India and  its importance in Indian economy and socio political system.” the King remarked.

The winner of Mecca Idol. Image Credit: Abhay Makhija

The musical mood continued as the finals of the singing hunt ‘Mecca Idol’ were scheduled for the next slot. Post the prelims, nine participants from colleges like Lady Shri Ram College for Women, Kirori Mal, Maitreyi, Shri Ram College of Commerce, Miranda House and IIT Delhi performed in to a packed  auditorium. The audience hummed along the Sufi tunes of songs like ‘nit khaer manga’, ‘lagan lagi tumse..’, ‘tere liye..hum hai jiye’ and ‘Roza’.

The first prize was won by Sarim Ali from Deen Dayal Upadhyaya College whose song ‘Teri Deewani’ had taken the event to new heights. The competion ended with a  musical performance by Aria & Alankar – the music societies of Hindu College.

Featured Image:  Sh. Pradyot, the King of Tripura. Image Credit: Abhay Makhija for DU Beat

Following the killing of Nido Tania, the harassment of the two girls from Manipur and the Khirkee incident, a protest march was organised in North Campus on 3rd February by a group of teachers and students to raise their voices against the recent examples of racism in the city. Protesters assembled at the Vishwavidyalaya metro station before starting their march which ended at the University Undergraduate Hostel for Girls. Led by leftist student groups such as National Socialist Initiative (NSI) and All India Students’ Association (AISA), the protest witnessed slogans of “racism down down!” and “nasalwadi ho barbaad!” filling the roads. Police accompanied the protesters all throughout the march, who paused in front of the Mukherjee Nagar police station to voice their opinions regarding the police’s alleged initial reaction concerning Tania and the shopkeeper where it was alleged that he was beaten up a second time by the police and a compromise was forced out.

Students protesting in GTB Nagar on Tuesday. | Image Credit: Sidhant R. Seth

People from the assembled crowd of protesters at the Undergraduate Hostel gave voice to their take on the issue. While students of Northeastern origins recounted their personal encounters with the city’s distaste for the different looking, others asked for stricter anti-racism laws. The issue of the persistent racist attitude against the African students studying at the University and living in the areas surrounding North Campus was also talked about. An appeal was made to include others suffering from racism within the same fold and to not make it an issue limited to Northeastern students only. Tackling racism as a menace which affects different groups of people in different and yet similar ways was agreed upon as the only way to move forward.

Similar protests were also seen the next day on 4th February, with students protesting in GTB Nagar.

This article was written in 2010 and was published in CRTIQUE, an irregular magazine brought out by the New Socialist Initiative (NSI) – Delhi University Chapter. The authors are activists associated with New Socialist Initiative. 

Kevin is from Kenya. He studies at the faculty of Law. We ask him whether he likes India (he doesn’t) and about the kinds of challenges he faces. He shrugs and shakes his head “I have don’t face any discrimination” He often repeats this sentence at various points of the discussion. After he tells us about shopkeepers who refuse to sell him milk or before narrating how not a single shop at Patel Chest area was willing to type his assignment. “When you go to buy things from a shop they refuse to sell. If you ask for milk they say ‘no milk’ but you can see the Indians buying milk.” Later he tells us a similar story “My mobile phone was stolen. For one week I was thinking how to get a new one. The shops here don’t sell to Africans.” Kevin doesn’t think much of these experiences and dismisses them as insignificant, the ordinary trials of living in a foreign country. A woman on the road provokes a dog, provoking it to bite him, which it does. At Hans Charitable Trust Hospital they ask him for 10,000 rupees for the anti-rabbis injection. This is a service which is provided free of cost, however the small print reads ‘unless you are black’. Our interviews starkly shows that this particular subtext is present everywhere. We don’t realize that for the most mundane of daily activities (like buying milk) there are conditions that apply. The condition that you are not black.

These interviews give us a glimpse of how these students experience classrooms, hostels, streets, the metro and other public spaces. “What does kala bandar mean?” Boniface asks. They point. They laugh. They don’t like sitting next to you in the metro. What must it feel like to enter a strange foreign country where people across the board categorise you as sub-human? Strangers call you black monkey. “When I go back from college to hostel people on the streets keep laughing and staring. It is humiliating” Boniface says. Kevin stayed in a hotel for two months before joining hostel because no one was willing to rent him a room. The entire gamut of racist discrimination faced by the black students of the university includes everything from actual violence to incessant racist remarks, staring and laughing. This is racism in its purest, crudest and most undisguised form.

If one begins mapping the experiences of these students in north campus of Delhi University there is no choice but to face up to the irrefutable fact that India is a deeply racist society. Yet the idea of racism as a socio-political issue is not one that is associated with India. It grew out of the specific history of European and North American societies and is inextricably linked to the historical fact of colonialism, slavery, displacement and migration. Racism is typically conceived off as exclusively an issue between blacks and white in western societies. We are arguing for the establishment of racism as a serious issue in India, one which is in urgent need of not just study but even basic acknowledgement. However with respect to the particular experiences of these students the onus must be put on Delhi University. The university must be identified as the accountable institution whenever there are instances of racism within its purview; this space includes classrooms, hostels and college campuses. As of now you can call a student a ‘black bitch’ in the university hostel and not face any consequences. As of now racism is not even recognized as a problem. The attitude towards blacks is so normalised and commonplace that the idea of racism as a manifestation of unacceptable bias, prejudice and discrimination is a foreign one. The demand that the university awakens to this issue and takes into consideration the rampant racism which is rooted in university spaces is a basic but essential one. The fact that we have to even demand this basic minimum from the university only goes to show the abysmal degree of neglect.

“There is segregation in the classrooms. In Ramjas College there are three rows: Indians, foreigners and North Eastern students. There is no interaction. They don’t speak to each other. I have an Ethiopian friend in Arts Faculty. It is the same situation there. No on sits close to him and if somebody does then everyone gossips about them. A friend from law Faculty told me it was very bad there. When he would walk into the classroom some students would walk out” This sounds like something out of segregated America of the 1940s. Most African students do not arrive here with a framework of race and racial politics. Why should they? They are coming from black majority countries to a non-white third world country. They come unprepared and don’t anticipate being treated like non-humans. Unless they have friends in India who have warned them or have some understanding of Indian history they enter student life without being able to contextualise or make sense of this treatment. Joyce says, “There are so many Indians in my country. I’m so used to them. I studied with Indians. My father studied with Indians. We don’t see the difference. That is why I find it strange that people stare at me here.”

Kevin’s interview was particularly revealing. He came having done some research of his own by doing an internet search on “racism”. When faced by a vast amount of matter, all to do with racism in the U.S.A he came to the conclusion that it was by definition an American phenomenon. This is probably why he repeatedly told us that he faces no discrimination, while narrating extremely disturbing instances of overt and explicit racism. When you define racism as an issue solely between blacks and whites, then Indian racism which is as entrenched and brutal as in the white dominated counties of the west is conveniently side-stepped. This is deeply problematic. It is truly appalling that there is no language available to talk about the grotesque form of racism that Kevin faces. The deafening silence on the issue of Indian racism robs victims the right to protest and a sense of injustice. How do you even begin a discussion on racism and our fascination with fair skin when there is a complete absence of any critical understanding? By perpetuating this silence we barricade any possibility of debate. We have to start with the very first step, that of exposing Indian racism for what it is. Why does it not shock us that when Boniface walks back home in the evening people on the street point and laugh? Why is someone by virtue of having black skin an immediate target of ridicule? Why is it, of all things, funny? Why does black skin automatically result in being called a monkey? Why is fair lovely? Why is black ugly?

Although it seems obvious, it is important to note that skin colour comes with a powerful symbolic loaded-ness. What are the images constructed around black skin? How are they reproduced and sustained? How did black skin come to denote barbarism and savagery? These are huge complex questions which have no simple answer. To address them in a nuanced manner we are required to dig deep into our history and politics. We need to revisit the long history of colonialism and understand how the logic of dominance played itself out; all this while taking a strong political stance against racism as it exists in all its manifestations today.

Not only is there a pressing need to talk about explicit racism but also to recognise the subtler ways in which our underling prejudices reveal themselves. The fact remains that racism is not an issue of individuals and circumstances but is structural, historical and institutionalized into the very fabric of our society. The general obsession with Europe and the U.S is combined with an absolute neglect of the rest of the world, most of all Africa. It is true this imbalance is a global one and has economic, political and social dimension to it and ultimately whiteness is symbolic of wealth, power and civilization. Black skin came to be constructed as a sign of the uncivilised and barbaric and therefore not ‘us’, not human. This skewed reality which continues to be reproduced today in the post-colonial world, displays itself plainly all over the university in subtle and not so subtle ways.

Editor’s Note: Despite the fact that this piece was written in 2010, not much seems to have changed. Narratives of racism continue to undermine our rationality, as we stare, talk and behave depending on where a person ‘belongs to’. Mandela might have passed away, but what he fought continues to remain.

Guest Post by Aashima Saberwal, Bonojit Hussain and Devika Narayan

Aashima and Devika are Research Scholar and Post-Graduate student at the Department of Sociology, Delhi University; Bonojit is an independent researcher.  Research for this article was assisted by Shobha and Meghana from Dept. of Sociology, DSE.

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