Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. And I am not pulling your leg. March 21 is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. If only I got a penny for every International Day that I came across..
It got me thinking about the racism I see around me, and the racism supposedly prevalent in a country going through 2 decades of ethnic conflict. It is very difficult for a person to gauge the actual racial attitude of a group of people. For one, not many people will tell you they are racists, and at times, those who do toss around racial slurs do not always act according to their words. A former Tamil Minister told me last week, that there is no real hatred or antipathy for the Sinhalese on the part of Tamils living in his home village up north. In some villages, the people even have a good enough understanding with the army and get along fine with them. The chap then told me that most of the racist sentiments come from the cities. I cannot hazard a guess as to the truth of that statement. I have lived and grown up with people of all colours and languages. My Sinhalese friends have always gotten along with my Tamil and Burgher friends, and I have yet to see an adequately qualified Tamil lose out on a job to a Sinhalese. But then again, that is simply my experience. I do know that it is advantageous if your skin is of a lighter colour, for you do get better service in banks and some restaurants, but that lighter coloured skin is at a disadvantage when trying to bargain at Barzaars.
I might hazard a view, that racism lies under the skin of alot of people around me. It might be alright to have Tamil friends, but it will be slightly more difficult to get a Sinhalese father to let his daughter marry a Tamil, or a Muslim, or even a Burgher for that matter. It could be a question of religion, but so very often, as hard as it might be to see it, religion does often come almost inextricably intertwined in your race. I wondered once if this religious/racial difference in us is the reason for the war that drags its muddy feet across our lives. Then it occurred to me that people might not even remember the reason for the war anymore. The fact that there is a war, is planted in their heads as firmly as a toothache. How it got there doesn’t seem to matter anymore, and the government is trying to end the toothache without addressing the cause. You pluck out the tooth, eat more ice cream, and all you will get is another toothache.
How deep is the racism in this country. I wonder.
Colour does not bother me. Race does not bother me. I could trace my ancestry to several different races. And I love that fact. I am neither black nor white, but brown. And I think that is sexy. I have African friends, and I think they have beautiful skin. I have European friends, and I think they have interesting accents. I have Tamil friends who try to feed me as much as possible. I have Sinhalese friends whose fridges i raid for kavunk (is that the spelling?). It wouldn’t matter to me if Jesus were black, His teachings wouldn’t change. I learned about Prophet Muhammed enough in school to make me automatically add the letters P.B.U.H. after his name. Race doesn’t matter to me. Colour doesn’t matter to me. Your religion doesn’t matter to me, as long as it doesn’t interfere with mine. But unfortunately such sentiments are not held by everyone out there. My sincere wish is that I and everyone else is judged by what they do and not how they look. After all:
Accomplishments have no color. (Leontyne Price)