The Question of Racism

racial illustration

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.

We don’t want the white man, just his money. I wonder what would happen if someone portrayed Buddha as a White Man, or an African. Will there be as much fuss as there is about the Black Madonna?

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)

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10 comments
  1. ranil said:

    i personally know of Sinhalese people who helped, at risk to there own lives, to hide and shelter there tamil friends, neighbours, during the ’83 riots. Ironically, some of these same people (the Sinhalese) use every bit of influence and emotional pull they have, to ensure that there kids do not marry from a different race.!!!

    Sometimes the roots of our prejudices are so deeply ingrained in us that, like you said, the symptoms are evident, whilst the reasons are shrouded in the mist time. I think that sometimes those symptoms take a life of there own, overiding the now long forgotten reasons.

    We fight now cos we dont know how to make peace, this is not a racist war, its a war that derives its power from our interlectual apathy. The symptoms are a reason enough!

    The majority of us are not racist, or prejudiced, we are just lazy, scared, or not bothered to examine our symptoms, we just live with them…

  2. disco said:

    Because you are brown, you can think that all races are equal. But my friend majority of White men think that they are biologically superior than you simply because they are white. So you can refuse this simple truth and keep on writing how bad the racism in SL. As a Sinhalese I don’t like to marry a Tamil girl. But I do not think that Sinhalese are biologically superior than Tamils. The first and worst element of the racism is biological superiority. The reason for me not to marry a Tamil girl is the language and cultural difference. That applies to any other girl who is not a Sinhalese. That is not the racism. So do not render the problem in Sri Lanka as racism. But if you think white men are not biologically superior than you then address that first instead of blaming Sinhalese for racism. You have turn your back at the real racism and pointing out something else while the real racism is doing — to you at your back.

  3. ranil said:

    Disco, firstly, i think this article deals primarily with sri lanlan issues, and is not solely a disection of ‘global racism’. i think the author is just trying to analyse the situ here from a wider perspective. and secondly, dont fall into the trap of generalization… not all white people are racist, and its not good for us sri lanlans to always skirt difficult issues here by pointing fingers elsewhere.

    btw, not marrying a tamil girl ‘cos of cultural differences is a latent form of racism… be honest to yourself mate, your a bit ‘n pieces racist!

  4. N said:

    I’m not entirely sure if the majority of white people think they are superior but a fair few do, at least racism is suprisingly prevalent in the West. Its not a blatant in your face racism, but a much more subtle one, send your resume in somewhere and if they cant pronounce your name it ends up in the trash…but as ranil said its not wholesale

    I have to agree with ranil about the racism in not marrying a Tamil/Muslim girl because of cultural issues…its understandable if they are hardcore Hindus,Christian or Muslims, but then I doubt they would want to marry a non-Hindu/Christian/Muslim anyways…

    Personally I’m fine with anyone who’s not an extremist and who respects others views…you can pray 5 times a day as a Muslim…but I’d marry that person if they didn’t insist I didnt do the same thing and they respected that I once in awhile pop down to the temple (what to do with the offspring coule be problematic).

    That said it is sometimes shocking when people you know sometimes say some obviously prejudiced things and see nothing wrong with them. I may think them sometimes in pure reaction, but I recognize whats wrong with saying them…a lot of people I know don’t.

  5. janusis said:

    @Ranil
    That’s true, its often that ingrained racism that is the hardest to get rid of, because you don’t accept it as racism.
    Oh, and I like that term, bits ‘n pieces racist.. I think I will remember it…

    @disco
    I do think that all races are equal, but not because i am brown. Hell, if i miss my tan, i almost become white, but i still think all races should be treated equally. You have to admit, that racism is not just on the white man’s side. Honestly, alot of people i know look down on the average American as been uncultured. I know a few Indian girls who would never marry a ‘white’ man, cos he is too white!
    Sometimes racism is a perception. We feel inferior cos we are not white and then imagine that someone is looking down on us. Be confident in yourself, and people’s perception of you also changes.

    @N
    There really is not that big a cultural difference between Tamils and Sinhalese really. So, yes, its probably bits ‘n pieces racism again..

  6. Racism is an idea of being different. When we’re being invaded by aliens and being f**ked up the a** (forgive the language) maybe some people will forget racism. BUT the true racist will be the guy who offers to help the alinens take over earth. Wait a minute.. would that be a TRAITOR or a SPECIST?

    ok ok ok.. so i’m being an immature idiot. but just to sound important and all i will say “Racism is one of the many pass times for those who have excess (of anger, frustration, hatred, disappointment etc etc) and nowhere to direct it.” atleast that’s what I think, also because of my own experiences. I watced the movie crash a long time back and wondered if racists have feeling to.

    Eventually at the root of it all, it’s about doing and saying hurtful things. In which case racism is not the only way people do it. It’s just one of the many pathetic yet great ignorances of man.

  7. disco said:

    Hi All,

    You all should admit to the fact that we cannot give clear cut definitions for racism. Different people see it in different perspectives. I think the the basis of racism is people in once race think that they are superior than another in a particular way. The worst of all is the biological superiority which Hitler believed in. Other criteria are, knowledge, economical and military power, cultural issues including religion etc. So a Tamil or Sinhalese comparing these things with the same of the other they find no difference or very little difference. So there cannot be any racism from either end. But there is an emotional wall between the two races which is due to the environment built in the country. Although the real causes are poverty, imperialism, and terrorism, majority try to interpret the cause as racism. Your arguments are true to a certain level but what I want to emphasis is the cause is not the racism. There is no racism in any form in Sri Lanka. Even when Praba kills in barbarous ways it is not the racism which drive him. Because he cannot think that Tamils are superior than Sinhalese in any way.

    But when other nations comparing themselves with Sri Lankans, both the Sinhalese and Tamils, they have reasons to think that they are superior. So in such cases there can be racism. So I say again, there is no racism here in Sri Lanka. But if you want to investigate, talk or do whatever with racism in so called bla bla day, you should turn your face where racism is really exist.

    Anybody can refuse that there is no such thing as biological superiority, but for example some people in Papua New Guinea has very small brain sizes than the average. So there are differences. Also it is a well known fact that the original Sinhalese are Aryans and Tamils are not. But now the both races are mixed in a way that biologically there are no difference. When advancing to a better global culture it is good that everybody treated equally; religions, races, nations, and people. But are we treated equally as a nation or races by the developed nations. No. So my friends, lets stop pointing our fingers to each other and call racist. Instead we need to understand in this respect we all are in the same boat. We have been targets to racism for long time and still being targeting.

    Regarding the marriage issue, I challenge you to find ten white girls who like to marry me (I am a smart guy ;-)). Simply you cannot. But I can find lot of Tamil girls. So don’t cheat yourselves with fancy theories. Face to the reality.

    Janusis’s last advice is great. But we need to keep in mind that all of these ideas including mine are only correct to some extend.

  8. janusis said:

    @Disco
    “There is no racism in any form in Sri Lanka.”
    That is a very very sweeping declaration my friend. And I doubt you will be able to find anyone in sri lanka to support your claim. There is racism in Sri Lanka, as there is racism in every corner of the globe. Besides, you contradicted yourself again by saying that racism does exist too..
    “So in such cases there can be racism.”

    And as for the marriage issue, hell, I have found a white girl, a sinhalese and a tamil willing to marry me.
    (always remember that it is very hard to apply rules to women. the moment you do, they break ’em)

  9. anon said:

    Regarding the marriage issue, I challenge you to find ten white girls who like to marry me (I am a smart guy ;-)). Simply you cannot. But I can find lot of Tamil girls.
    —————————–
    Wow…he can find 10 >=Tamil girls…or more who would like to marry him!

    I have found a white girl, a sinhalese and a tamil willing to marry me.
    ——————————
    3 girls…..to commit to life sentence! wow šŸ™‚

    lucky guys

  10. lolo said:

    i was just wondering… where did u get this picture from?

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