RACISM: A Pandemic within a Pandemic
“The plague of racism is insidious, entering into our minds as smoothly and quietly and invisibly as floating airborne microbes enter into our bodies to find lifelong purchase in our bloodstreams.”
– Maya Angelou
While Racism is often thought of a problem that does not exist in today’s world, we forget that Apartheid was only abolished in South Africa in 1994, which was less than 30 years ago.
Slavery was abolished in the US in 1865. Yet, Racism extends beyond slavery and exists in every form of discrimination against a particular Race.
Racism is still very much prevalent in the United States. This led to the rise of the Black Lives Matter or #BLM movement.
While one needs to understand why Racism is still prevalent, it is also important to not confuse this social evil with colourism.
Racism is discrimination against a particular race, while colourism is discrimination based on your skin tone or colour of your skin.
Racism in America is often confused with colourism as the people discriminated against are from the African American community and have darker skin.
When you picture modern-day racism in the States, you picture a person screaming the n-word at an African American. But Racism exists in different forms. It’s there in your head every time you grip your purse tighter while passing by a Black man.
It’s there when white people walk around with semi-automatic rifles, without facing any consequences, but 911 is dialled when 9-year-old Ahmed made a clock that looked “similar” to a time bomb.
It’s there when the police do not take any action against white people protesting against the much-needed lockdown, but shoots rubber bullets at Black people protesting against police brutality.
It’s there when a white man in uniform is allowed to murder a black man in broad daylight by putting his knee down on his neck as he mutters again and again helplessly that he can’t breathe.
Racism exists in the justice system of the USA too.
The CGTN reported that “The U.S. is notorious for putting more people in prison than any other country: its prison population accounts for over 20 per cent of the world’s total, according to the Prison Policy Initiative.
And African Americans are incarcerated at a much higher rate than anyone else.
For every 100,000 black residents, 1,134 were in prison, compared to 218 for whites.”
According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, about 40% of African Americans are homeless in the US, while they make up roughly 13% of the population.
While I’d love to focus more on the USA and dismantle systemic Racism for you but, unlike what American Sitcoms believe, there are other places in this world besides the United States.
Let’s move to Libya. If you thought slavery was not legal worldwide, you thought wrong. While it has been abolished in almost all countries, it still isn’t criminalised in as many as 94 countries.
In November 2017, a CNN investigation shocked the world, as they exposed actual slave auctions.
In 2016, 1.130% of the Libyan population lived in modern slavery.
According to a report by Time, many refugees attempting to flee war and poverty and reach Europe by sea get caught in Libya and are kept in “horrific” detention centers where they are vulnerable to being beaten, raped, and sold as slave labour.
In the UK, systemic Racism is very much prevalent today.
According to, Police powers and procedures, England and Wales year ending March 2019, Black people were six times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police, than white people.
The Independent reported that “Stop-and-search rates between 2018 and 2019 show that black people are now nearly 10-times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police than white people. This has contributed to far higher arrest rates for black people than for white people.”
The UK’s Annual Population Survey revealed that black people are also paid less on average than white people.
According to a report published by Oxygen, “India is home to the largest number of enslaved people in the world. An estimated 18,354,700 people, or 1.40% of the population, are reportedly living in modern slavery, which includes intergenerational bonded labour, forced child labour, forced marriage, and commercial sexual exploitation, among other forms.”
Free the Slaves reported that poor villagers, in particular, are vulnerable to being enslaved due to debt bondage and bonded labour.
According to Oxygen, “India’s intelligence agency advised Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discredit the September 2017 report by the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Australian rights group Walk Free Foundation. The United Nations defended its research, according to Reuters. (Walk Free Foundation published a separate report earlier about India estimates — ILO did not single out countries.) The labour ministry vowed to rescue 18 million bonded labourers by 2030.” Similar problems exist both in Bangladesh and Pakistan.
According to The Wire, despite multiple criticisms, Uttar Pradesh, the state with the highest population in India, is in the process of “promulgating the Uttar Pradesh Temporary Exemption from Certain Labour Laws Ordinance, 2020 that suspends the operation of all labour laws applicable to factories and manufacturing establishments in the state for three years, with the exception of the Bonded Labour System”, in an attempt to lure foreign investors by providing cheap labour, to strengthen the falling economy.
But India’s racism problem extends beyond modern-day slavery. North-East Indians and South Indians often fall prey to this social evil in India. While North East Indians are compared to the Chinese and fall prey to violence whenever International Relations go south with the Chinese government, South Indians are mostly discriminated against for belonging to a complex culture and social background and a darker skin tone.
While to many, Racism presents itself to be the root problem, lurking in its shadows is White Supremacy – The belief that White people are superior to people of other races. Systemic Racism thrives in the US because the system allows it to. The system was designed by White Supremacists, and (surprise-surprise) most of them owned slaves. The system is not broken. It’s working exactly as it was designed. Systemic Racism allows White people to hold power over African Americans, both socially and economically.
The belief that a certain race is superior to others is what leads to discrimination and in many cases genocide.
We see examples of this throughout history, like what happened to Jews in Nazi Germany, or what happens to Bahujans in India.
The Black Lives Matter movement made a great impact only because it threatened to dismantle the very system that allowed George Floyd to be murdered in broad daylight by men in uniform. The protesters made sure they were heard even in the middle of a pandemic. The movement soon spread across the globe and people started demanding accountability from the police and to defund the police.
While the movement did not meet all of its goals, George Floyd’s killers are in prison today and are facing second-degree murder charges.
Someone says that whenever you call out racism, it’s like taking two steps forward and moving one step backwards. And it’s true; many people were injured during the protests.
But isn’t that what they want you to do? To give up? To stop speaking out? To make their jobs easier?
As Detective Santiago in the popular sitcom Brooklyn99 said, “Two steps forward and one step backwards, is still one step forward.”
– Aanandita Singh