I came across an article in another blog, and thought I would write some of my own experiences with people of different colors and different nationalities.
Before I say anything at all, I want you to understand that I am very comfortable with the color of my skin. I don’t look at whites or blacks or browns or any other color with a sense of awe or denigration. I have friends of all colors and I am perfectly happy to call them my friends or acquaintances.
I have noticed that racism plays a huge part in some circles. Educated circles and uneducated circles! It is not just whites versus blacks. It is also about ethnicities. It is the difference between the first class citizens and the second-class migrants who have attained the naturalization and citizenship through years of proving that you can become a citizen here.
When we moved to this town, my daughter was about five years old. We didn’t want to buy a home right away, and wanted to look around to see if the town suited us, and if we would be happy at work. So we started looking at apartments. One place had a sign on the front that there was rental apartment available. We went and knocked at the door of the manager, and when we asked to see the apartment for rent, he told us, “No there is no apartment available at this time.” We pointed to the sign outside, and he just flicked his hand and closed the door. M and I looked at each other, and just smirked at his attitude. Next we saw an ad in the newspaper that talked of a two-bed room apartment, ready to move in. So we went there, and he looked at us and told us, “I don’t rent to mulattos”! We didn’t know what that word meant. So I asked him about it. And very clearly he said, “Mulattos are people like you”! I prayed then that my daughter should never remember that conversation.
After this reception, we built the home. Why did we continue to live in a place where we were not welcome? Because, the hospital and the administration was wonderful, and my work was extremely gratifying! Many years later, that same guy who had called us mulattos, came in to the office as a patient with bronchitis. I recognized him immediately and even though I shouldn’t have, I asked him if he remembered me. Then I told him about our conversation that morning several years ago. I saw the light of recognition come on his face. Anyway, I treated him for the pneumonia that he had, and we never again discussed the word. He continued to be my patient, and always brought some cookies or fruits for the office staff.
These are a couple of the incidents that stand out for me in this country. But I saw racism at its worst in the most sacred of places. It is a national curse I think, where people of one country feel that they are far superior to any other person from another country. The first time I went to Mecca for the pilgrimage, the feeling of being ostracized was intensely obvious. The local Arabs considered us as just a pack of animals and would never speak with a kind tone or have the decency to stop and answer a question. They would just flick their hands and tell us to move on, sometimes with a rude voice. It was a startling awakening to the anticipation of a peaceful journey. Arabic speaking women, though fluent in English, did not have the time or patience to explain or attend to the needs of Indians and Pakistanis. It was really disappointing to see this level of indifference towards people of different ethnicities, especially in a place, which is supposed to bring harmony and peace.
In much smaller circles of people from India, I sometimes hear women putting down other ladies with darker color of the skin. So, this attitude of racism is not limited to America, or the white people of America or the black people of America. I think it will remain ingrained in people’s minds for many decades, and perhaps centuries to come. Racism is like a crab that burrows deep within the sand and comes out at another point, to burrow some more.
These are some of the more painful memories that I am not able to forget.