On Tuesday, former West Indies captain Daren Sammy put out a tweet calling out his ‘brother’ for a racist comment made against him during the IPL.
“Recently I discovered a word that I was being called was not what it actually meant I need some answers. So before I start calling out names I need these individuals to reach out and please tell me there’s another meaning to that word. I saw u as brothers,” he tweeted.
Sammy’s tweet comes after an Instagram post he put out on Sunday in support of the Black Lives Matter movement that is being observed worldwide in memory of George Floyd, who was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis.
The ‘brother’ in question happens to be Ishant Sharma, who referred to Sammy as ‘kaalu’ a derogatory term used for black people in India. Sharma and Sammy who were teammates while playing for Sunrisers Hyderabad in the 2014 edition of the IPL had taken several pictures together, as Sharma’s Instagram profile reveals.
The comment section doesn’t help either. Instead of calling Ishant out, people have just laughed and added comments like, ‘Bhai. Lagne waali hai teri.’ Or ‘Edit karke sorry bolo’.
Incidentally, Sharma isn’t the first person accused of racism. Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh was called out for allegedly calling former Australian batsman Andrew Symonds a ‘monkey’ – a charge that Singh and his teammates vehemently denied in the 2008-09 tour of Australia. Even the inquiry said that Harbhajan was not guilty of the action.
In a piece I wrote earlier this month, I spoke of the innate racism in Indians. The attacks on Nigerians at a mall in Noida, accusations of prostitution by AAP MLA Somnath Bharti in 2014.
Last year, Bollywood actress Esha Gupta was called out for her support of racism. She shared a screen grab of a WhatsApp conversation in which a friend mocked English football club Arsenal’s Nigerian star, Alex Iwobi, as a "gorilla" and "Neanderthal" who "evolution had stopped for"."Hahaha," wrote the actress, as she shared the screen grab .
Sadly, Africans who live in India are used to this open racism. Speaking to the BBC, Ezeugo Nnamdi, the secretary-general of the Association of African Students in India (AASI) added that, “as racial slurs go, her words were no worse than what fellow African students experienced on a daily basis - to their faces.”
It’s not just the racist comments on Africans that showcase India’s attitude; it’s even the attitude towards people from the northeast region of the country. The racism has increased manifold during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with people even posting videos requesting Indians not to call them ‘Chinkis’.
According to a study in 2013 that surveyed 81 countries from across the world, two out of 81 countries had 40 per cent of the respondents saying they would not want a neighbour of a different race. One nation was India; the other was Jordan.
Why is India so racist? Is it a colonial hangover? Is it an obsession with fair skin? (Looking at a matrimonial ad in 2020, you’d probably agree with the latter) OR is it just plain insecurity?
In 2010, India's whitening-cream market was worth $432m, according to a report by market researchers ACNielsen, and was growing at 18% per year. Nandita Das who has propagated the ‘Dark is Beautiful’ campaign, while speaking to the Guardian in 2013, said, “"Indians are very racist. It's deeply ingrained. But there is so much pressure by peer groups, magazines, billboards and TV adverts that perpetuate this idea that fair is the ideal.”
Racism isn’t going to disappear from India any time soon, but if Ishant really considers Sammy as a ‘friend and brother’, the sensible thing for him to do will be to issue a statement. But will the BCCI allow that? We can only wait and see.