Initial Education in Racism
When ‘racism’ was taught to me first, I recall, I was in eighth grade, my teacher would emphasize how the colour ‘White’ was almost dictatorial, once upon a time — I want to tell her how grossly incorrect she is — and how badly it crushed the ‘Black’. It was not the definition which got stuck with me; it was colour. Why would two colours be arch-rivals?
What is making me write about this colour-rivalry, you ask?
A Shocking Facebook Post by my friend
1 hour ago, walking home from near to the Brausebad tram stop, a car slowed down and this guy started tsk-tsking at me, I looked and he yelled, “SUCK MY COCK YOU BLÖDE MUSLIM”. The guy was probably my age, the girl on the driver’s seat as well who couldn’t help laughing uncontrollably. Another boy and girl in the backseat were doing the same. All of them around 25, probably attending the University. I stopped and gave them the middle finger. They stopped as well and the boys started brandishing their fists at me along with yelling profanities in German and calling me Muslim repeatedly.
Then I started walking again and they drove on. The White gentleman nearest to me who saw everything, hurried on and shushed his kids away from me as if I was the source of a plague.
This is not the first time. The night of the Blood moon, in Bruderholz a group of drunk older men hurled racial abuses at me in German and English. There were many people present in the park waiting to observe the moon. All listening and all feigning deafness. I walked away to friends who were at another end of the park. Or my first day in Basel when my to-be-temporary-landlady screamed at me that I was wearing shoes in her house within 5 minutes of walking and said that all-Indians are the same. I hurled the abuses back at her and walked out homeless with my luggage.
I have been called a Brownie and other racial things on Dating sites. I have screenshots that I’ve compiled in a Zine that talks about discrimination within the Online (and by extention more covert Offline) western LGBT scene. I’m gonna share it soon.
Today’s incident, needless to say has had me helplessly infuriated. I couldn’t memorise the car’s number.
I was alarmed by the intensity of responses and hostile environment my friend was in. I wondered how and in which ways could I help him. A friend abroad is being harassed, bullied, and discriminated. And, on what grounds? Colour and Nationality. It was not the first time it was happening to someone but this time it was happening to someone whom I knew and hence, it had a grave impact and was alarming to me.
He announced, at the end of the post, that he is coming up with a compilation of all the discrimination which he has faced. And, I was looking forward to his compilation which is, finally, out for exhibition now — in India.
Diary of Discrimination from Digital Gay Dating Spaces (the compilation of incidents and research by Abhay Pratap Singh) in Zine: Medium as Message is on display, in Kalakar Theatre (near Saket Metro Station, Delhi. Click here for more details), in an immaculately and deftly compiled collection of art works by Shaunak Mahbubani (Allies for the Uncertain Futures).
On 7th October 2018, I went to attend that exhibition. In this piece, however, I am going to talk about my friend’s work: Diary of Discrimination from Digital Gay Dating Spaces.
Diary of Discrimination
Abhay Pratap Singh (my friend and the author of Diary of Discrimination and a student of Master of Arts in Visual Communication and Iconic Research), through his art, has helped us locate the discrimination in the online dating spaces. While he is ambushed and ridiculed online, he compiled all the hatred — hate messages and abuses, and has addressed an important concern — the safety of ‘other’ (and especially queer people) nationalities.
It’s not completely a case of xenophobia. It has more to do with a structured pattern. A point in making and proving who ranks higher in the power equation — which colour, caste, sex, and origin has the right to exercise and control the sexuality of the ‘other’ and of the ‘minority community’.
“All animals (strike-through) gay people are equal, but some animals (strike-through) gay people are more equal than others.”― George Orwell, Animal Farm
It was so gripping a personal narrative that I read the complete work standing there at the exhibition. This work, fundamentally deals, explores, and tries to understand through the exchange of texts over a popular gay dating app — Grindr — the layers of inherent and deeply rooted racist mindset and attitude of people which my friend was chatting with.
Based on his experiences , both online and offline — and an array of responses which he received and anaylsed by experimenting and altering the personal information on the app for example, changing his ethnicity and nationality after removing his profile picture on the app — he has divided it into four sections, which can loosely be said to cover the following: superiority of one nationality over the other, de-personalisation, racism and ethnic discrimination.
Here are a few conversation excerpts and images (used in the blog with the author’s permission).
Abhay is called a ‘brownie’, his nationality is ‘not their type’, they wouldn’t like to ‘fuck an Indian/Asian’ but he can suck their cock. He should feel lucky that some ‘white’ guy has messaged him. He was reduced to nothing but a colour, he was just an object of ‘fun’ and the app a medium of sending a clear message that he is unwelcome there.
Tired from fighting with people whose first question to Abhay on the app was: What’s your nationality? He writes: It’s fucking exhausting to have my body, my background, my ethnicity be politicized to constant defence, dialogue, and debate.
I wonder how badly it might have been affecting him, this constant battle to fight with his emotions and withholding an urge to shout back at those hurling abuses; instead he chose art as a medium to address this and represent in the most amazing manner — a form of resistance against the representative pillars of structure of power: colour, race and ethnicity.
When my teacher was lecturing me that day, the innocent boy I was, I didn’t get the lesson. She was referring to ‘skin colour’. And, it was not only black which was bullied; brown was equally reprimanded. It used to disturb me: What role does our skin colour had to play in this? From the history lessons, I thought, people from different countries only do that. Perhaps they don’t like each other for any stupid and illogical reasons.
That conviction was challenged by an eye-opening incident at my home. I was discriminated, in my own family — at my own home, by my relatives (I am a tone darker than my siblings).
I understood one thing that day: human beings are weird creatures. And, they desire this: a sense of superiority. And, people, in one way or the other wants to feel superior; it doesn’t concern them whether it is coming at a cost of a trauma which someone has to go through. Or it comes by belittling the other. I cannot do anything and have nothing to offer to such people except pity.
Instead of celebrating diversity and accepting people for who they are and what they are irrespective of their nationality, ethnicity, race, caste, colour, creed, sex, gender, and sexual orientation, we choose to abuse, harass, bully, and admonish them. Which world are we living in?
And, if this is the kind of world we imagine then, to my mind, their can be no better answer to such people and power structure than to begin a relentless battle against them. And, to fight and win this was by art.