Recently there was a question raised in Quora on “which is the most racist country you visited as a tourist”. There were different answers depending on the race and travel experience of individuals concerned.
The answer that got most views and up votes was unsurprisingly, India. An Information Technology professional of African-American ancestry who has travelled extensively, visiting several countries, had no hesitation in saying he faced most racial insults in India. He wrote :
Of all the countries I have been to, India ranks way up there among the most ‘racist’, IMHO. Indians aren’t so much ‘racist’ as they are intolerant. Indians discriminate against fellow citizens to a degree that I have NEVER encountered in ANY other country. Without a doubt, Indians are the most color obsessed people I have ever encountered anywhere in the world. No doubt because of all that saturation advertisements for ‘Fair and Lovely’, ‘Fair and Handsome’ and all manners of skin-whitening creams, lotions, soaps etc. Even if you are 100% Indian, your fellow Indians might still discriminate against you on the basis of the color of your skin, which region of India you come from, what language you speak, your religion, your caste etc, etc.
If you are of obvious African ancestry, including African-American, you can find life really, really tough in India if you are going to be in India for a while. Indians can be such unabashed, in your face racists. In the interest of fairness, I should point out that oftentimes, lighter-skinned Indians despise darker-skinned Indians every bit as much as much as they despise us people of African ancestry. Apart from that, there is also considerable antipathy between North Indians and South Indians.
Probably he might have felt the same if he had visited other countries of the Indian subcontinent. With a two thousand plus years history of a severely hierarchical casteist society this came as no surprise.. It may take much more time in India for the modern humanist concept that humans should not be judged by their skin colour, language, ancestry etc to take root than in most other countries.
But the thing that impressed me most about that Quora answer was almost all Indians who responded to it agreed that Indian society is very racist. First step in tackling the problem is understanding it. Many in India, at least in social media, realise how bad their society is in regard to this issue. That insight should help them to try make India a better place to live and work.