I sat down at a store today in the middle of Mumbai and a cute little girl about two years old was walking by with her grandma. She took one look at me and refused to come any further. I smiled at her encouraging her to take the few extra steps but she refused to budge. I put down her reluctance to pass by me as her seeing me as a strange being after all how many black africans had she seen in her life! There are black Indians but my type of black was a strange one, my hair is not curly and my facial features are very different and on top of all this she is a two year old, how much can she be blamed for not knowing that the blood that flows through my veins is as red as that flowing through hers!
The next incident that occurred was in the rest room of the Taj Hotel in South Mumbai. The facility was really nice, there were three toilets close to the lobby which we could use, I had gone with two friends. The toilets were manned by a lovely lady in a beautiful sari who took one look at my braided hair and smiled in delight, ‘nice’ she said, I said thank you in return. There were only three toilets and I waited my turn in a line, I used the next available toilet. It was clean and once you were through you had the tap opened for you by the lady in the sari who handed you a very clean white hand towel which you disposed of in a basket by the sinks. She also turned off the tap for you.
When I came out of the loo, there was still a line of ladies waiting to use the facility but there was one odd thing, none of the women would go in to the toilet I had just come out from. I thought this was odd and waited a few more seconds to see what would happen. The next lady in line just waited for the next available toilet and she promptly jumped in when another lady came out. I could not help myself and I burst into laughter, I also looked at the next lady in line who seemed to be undecided about what to do, after hesitating a bit she entered the toilet booth I had vacated!
I pondered on the actions of these women who seemed to be in their forties therabouts and who were white skinned. What exactly did they think would happen to them if they shared a toilet with me? I don’t know and I cant even begin to imagine what their thoughts are. I am not one that beats around the bush when it comes to the race issue, but my take is that for crying out loud we are all human beings!
The first incident just set me thinking about how it seems that racial stereotypes and differences may be innate and not acquired especially when you take the age of the child into consideration but I have many more examples that show that discrimination based on race or color is actually acquired the same way preference for teams in the English or European leagues is acquired. When fathers buy their children red or blue colored jersies and actively denigrate all other colors in front of their children is it any surprise that the children become avid ManU or Arsenal fans and join in trumping other teams when the opportunity arises!
The second incident I will chalk down to the humorous inclinations of the ladies in question, maybe they wanted me to laugh and they succeeded, I had a good laugh! It is ludicrous to think that some things can jump out and cling to you for life because you used the loo after someone with chocolate skin:) I sometimes say that these things do not affect me but maybe sometimes they do!
Anyway here is a toast to all the colors of the skin you can think of……………..May our skins never change, may our hearts be white, may our blood always be red and may we all live in harmony like the colors of the rainbow!
Written January 12 2010