Nepali Times Asian Paints
Here And There
The racism race


Sometime next year in the United States, a drug will be offered for sale on the market. This is a medicine for people with heart problems, but it is meant only for African-Americans, black people. Science has found that this particular chemical has little or no effect on whites, but it works for blacks with bad hearts.

At first glance, this is a good thing. Helping the ill to live longer lives can only be positive. But there's deep unease among social scientists because the new drug is merely the tip of emerging phenomena that, in the past, has caused pain and suffering on a far, grander scale than heart disease.

For much of history, humans have sought ways to differentiate themselves from each other. Tribes, castes, clans, even racial groups, all of these seek to set us apart from each other. You are a Bahun, I am white, she is Native-American. Some notions of caste, for example, helped inspire the murderous evil of Adolf Hitler's Nazi movement, the concept of a pure Aryan race somewhere that we must pay homage to.

The Holocaust, Hitler's systematic genocide aimed at Jews, Gypsies, Slavs and homosexuals, is history's most extreme example of racism run amok. Six million Jewish people were killed, countless others lost everything but their lives. It was evil incarnate and it was done by human beings like me or you.

Turkey tried to wipe out a race in 1915. Nearly two-million Armenians were killed by the Imperial government of Turkey, a genocide that the now Euro-aspirational Turks do not acknowledge. Few Canadians are aware that their country had a government in the 1920s that sterilisd habitual criminals and people with Down's syndrome, a condition once described as 'mental retardation'.

America, infamously, had slavery and after its Civil War, segregation between the races that lasted until the 1960s and beyond. This helped inspire Apartheid in South Africa which held that blacks, whites and South Asians were all separate groups that could co-exist only in separate parts of the same country.

And of course, there's caste. Many Hindus feel caste is different. It has, they feel, the imprimatur of religion, five thousand or more years of history, an ancient stamp of approval. The Indian government spent ridiculous sums of money several years ago trying to stop Dalit groups from attending the UN racism summit in Durban, South Africa. No doubt, Nepal's Bahun-Chhetri establishment was a quiet cheerleader to all that.

Anyone whose caste is traditionally disadvantaged in either India or Nepal doesn't have to be told about discrimination, alienation and evil. It's yet another way that we humans, we naked apes, divide ourselves so we can lord it over others and enjoy the odd conflict.

Lately though, things had been improving. Social scientists had long argued that race, caste, tribe, these were cultural, not physical. We were all the same, even if we looked different. Science confirmed this when the Human Genome Project found that our DNA-black, white, Hindu, Muslim, Chinese, Inuit-was 99.999 percent similar person to person, 'race' to 'race'. Many of us breathed a huge sigh of relief. The racists were proven wrong.

Now we have medicine for black people. Again, not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself. But this means that the race industry is back in business, and I dare say, the caste industry.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)