America unequal to India
by Sandhya Jain on 21 Jul 2009 4 Comments

The acronym ‘SC’ could well stand for ‘Supremely Confident.’ How else does one describe the calibrated anger with which the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister created opportunity from the intemperate rhetoric of the state Congress chief, to awe the entire political spectrum?

Rita Bahuguna Joshi’s odious oratory was followed by the torching of her Lucknow residence and three party vehicles parked therein; circumstantial evidence suggests Bahujan Samaj Party complicity (MLA Jitendra Singh and one Imtizar Abdi have been named in the FIR). Yet, in eloquent testimony to India’s ability to host silent mutinies, Mayawati of the ‘depressed classes’ took the political high ground; Congress went on the defensive; and BJP hushed Maneka Gandhi before she could cause further damage (as if Varun Gandhi’s antics were not enough). 

The Indian reality is that Scheduled Castes are on the rise, politically, economically, socially. The ascent is real, as proved by Mayawati’s success in crafting a BSP victory in Uttar Pradesh. As Scheduled Castes are volatile, Congress has suffered a setback in its efforts to woo them away from the BSP. Party president Sonia Gandhi was forced to apologise for Joshi’s remarks; Amethi MP Rahul Gandhi stepped carefully as he moved to corner Mayawati on the status of development in UP.

Congress is demanding a CBI enquiry into Joshi’s ruined home, to recover lost political ground, but Joshi will have to quit as state Congress chief. BJP should take a leaf from the Congress book and quietly shake the Maneka-Varun albatross off its neck.

India’s acknowledgement of Scheduled Caste power contrasts sharply with the slow progress of America’s black community, though slavery was abolished in 1865. It was only in 2009 that America elected a President of mixed black heritage, and without a ‘slave’ background.

India abolished untouchability and caste disabilities with the 1950 constitution. In a few decades of freedom, the early tokenism made way for the rise of self-confident leaders across the nation. Mayawati is UP chief minister for the third time, and a serious contender for Prime Ministership. She has demonstrated that neither she nor her constituents suffer insults gladly; a year ago, she sent a police battalion to arrest farmer leader Mahendra Singh Tikait for using her caste name as an insult. India does not defend morally indefensible conduct.

But America, supposed leader of the Free World, sponsor of the worldwide human rights industry, is unable to overcome its entrenched racism. The Vancouver Sun (14 July 2009) carried a startling story about hideous racial slurs against the Obama children by the Conservative ‘Free Republic’ blog, which have failed to rouse the white conscience.

Indian readers will be shocked that 11-year-old Malia Obama, who was wearing a simple t-shirt with a peace sign on it, was lambasted as “a typical street w@@@e;” “a bunch of ghetto thugs;” and “ghetto street trash.” The language became even more graphic, beyond my ability to stomach. A photograph of the First Lady was captioned, “To entertain her daughter, Michelle Obama loves to make monkey sounds.” No political party or leader of consequence, no major commentator, condemned this abuse of the first ever Afro-American First Family, in supposedly ‘post-racial’ America.
Shockingly, the blog Moderators left the comments untouched until a writer complained. Thereafter, the complainant became the target of sarcasm while the abuse of the Obamas got worse. Michelle was called “his witch of a wife;” another post said “…Ghetto and Chicago thugs have taken over.”

Race remains America’s dominant socio-political variable. As recently as 29 June 2009, in Eastern Pennsylvania, a group of black children from the Creative Steps Day Camp were ejected by The Valley Swim Club, a predominantly white private club, despite a contract of $1900 for one day of swimming a week for the summer session. Roni Famira, environmental lawyer and activist, said the white children immediately left the pool when the black children entered (The complexion of Race in America, opednews, 13 July 2009). Why? Because they were raised by their parents and school teachers to think and behave like that.

Many campers said they heard pool members making racial remarks while they were inside the club. Its president John Duesler told a Philadelphia television station that many members complained because the children fundamentally changed the “complexion” and “atmosphere” at the pool, but that this didn’t involve race. Really?

Indians call this Untouchability. The West, which strives to equate Race with Caste, must tell us if Racial Discrimination includes Untouchability. Governments and Corporates that spend hundreds of thousands of dollars funding human rights spies in all parts of the world targetted for Christian colonialism, must tell us why the human rights and human dignity record is so abysmal in their own backyard. Will Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch take note, or are they trained only to look for the mote in non-Christian eyes?

The Creative Steps Day Camp was given its full money back – the black children booted out. This is the ‘normal’ equation between whites and blacks in America. Can anyone envisage gutting this white supremacist club down to the level of the swimming pool?

The National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP), which observed its centenary on 12 February 2009, barely three weeks after Barack Obama was sworn in as President, urged the Human Relations Commission to investigate the incident. A century ago, the NAACP’s goal was to secure the constitutional promises of an end to slavery, equal protection of law, and universal adult male suffrage.

Indians will be shocked to know that America’s black adult citizens don’t have an automatic right to vote, like whites do. That privilege is granted for ten years at a time by the reigning American President since John F Kennedy; George Bush Jr. granted the latest extension, and no Amendment has been mooted to end this mockery of black citizenship.

The dice is loaded against blacks. African-American men are incarcerated over six times the rate for white men; incarceration of black women grows steeply; unemployment among African-Americans is more than double the rate for white Americans; and a black family’s income is little more than half a similar white family’s income. Let America look at the beam in its own eye; let Mayawati’s eyes gleam with vengeance.

The author is Editor,

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