With the COVID-19 pandemic, the social and economic inequalities are becoming more prominent. Millions of people in major cities are protesting against racial injustice and discrimination ignite by the death of George Floyd. MD Talebur Islam Rupom argues that racism is not only real in west but also very much relevant for other parts of the world
SUDDENLY, the world has realised that racism exists after seeing the death of George Floyd on camera. It has shocked the world terribly and certainly it had to. The video became not only viral but also symbol against racism receiving strong reactions on social media, mainstream media and finally seeing activism on the street seeking justice.
In simple terms, racism means prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior. All the blames are being put to the white supremacist cop and the system. The protest has not been only restricted to the USA but also ignited the entire globe including Asia through social media and other ways. People are showing their anger and protest against the injustice.
It is one of the orthodox incidents happening in quietness that how people are treated in Asia, according to their skin colour, social class or the geographical representation. So, is American or western white race the only one responsible for the brutal death of someone like George Floyd?
What is the role of economy and imperialism here? How does racism happen with Asians in Asia and outside of Asia? How do the Asian treat their own counterparts? This article will take all the various components of racism into account such as colourism, xenophobia, islamophobia, social class and geographical discrimination.
I am not in favour of the trendiest tag ‘Black lives matter’ as of now, rather I support ‘All lives matter’. Because discrimination and racism does not happen with black people but also many colours and classes of people. Each discrimination matters to all lives.
It had been more than 165 years since the America had abolished slavery for good, constitutionally. But it remains alive in multiple systematic ways like racial superiority complex, domination and exploitation of Black Americans, mainly refer to the African Americans whose ancestors were enslaved here since fifteenth century from Africa. Although native Americans, also known as American Indians are darker in colour too. They are the oldest residents of the continent who were first colonised by the Europeans and their colonial settlement.
Since 1492, they were deprived from their own land, resource and lives and then considered as the least important community in their own territory. It took place in the same way in Australia too with the native Australians.
On the other hand, the European colonised most part of Africa, they used to deal in selling the Africans through imperialistic power. This is how the white supremacy was created in America. Over the years, the systemic and non-systemic racism have been occurring. Yet the white supremacy took the control over the economy which eventually has been strengthening the muscle power and social norm.
In the hands of systematic racism, people and their leaders died but 165 years-old abolishment is yet to be implemented on ground level, both systematically and publicly. Even the two-term former president Barack Obama was not able to bring an anti-racist mindset which is questionable.
During other presidents and leaders, racism had been stirred up in term of religion such as Islamophobia in the world’s largest settler country. In the course of time, the United States of America has become the top choice destination for the Asians, Africans and each corner of the world to earn, study and live with high standard and convenience. Europe and Australia are also included in this desire list to live.
So, in the breathtaking video, an American white cop was brutally pushing his knee on the neck of George Floyd, lying on the ground, until he took his last breath. Innumerable Asians claim, they also face discrimination in the Western world. Question arises -- is discrimination new in the west? What do the Asians do with their own peers inside the USA, Europe, Australia or even Asia? Do they act ‘colourless’ as whole?
Asia is considered the largest consumer market of skin lightening and fairness products. People spend billions of dollars on it. People are judged openly for their skin colour, social class and geographical location in Asia. It occurs very commonly in educational and social institutions, street, any sort of gathering and almost everywhere, from birth to social relation, and work to death.
Taking Bangladesh as the first example, skin colour and social class matter a lot in every social and economic class of families. It exists everywhere. It plays a vital role in most of the contexts. Here, people are more concern and worried about presenting themselves bleached as much as possible, then to make themselves self-dependent.
Class discrimination is also an issue here as the difference of rich and poor is huge. We routinely find such incidents when it comes about getting married, relationship and many other social bonding. The scenarios of the neighboring India are same as Bangladesh. So, it is ridiculous when these people with such discriminative tendency storms in social media and protest against the racism happening thousands of mile away.
The film superstars of this region are also responsible for promoting racism, who are also promoting ‘anti-racism’. Recently, Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra, Deepika Padukone were slammed in social media for their fairness product promotions and also using the tag ‘Black lives matter’ against racism whereas they actively promote and have huge endorsement with fairness and beauty products. In fact, Bollywood films and their actors and actresses are responsible in many angles for spreading colourism and racist mindset.
Similarly, it happens in East and Southeast Asian peers such as in Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, China, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and other countries even take it into another level because skin colour represents their identity. They are extremely sensitive about colourism.
From the childhood, both male and female are taught how to keep their skin fair and bright. It does not stop here. They treat the foreigners by colour or geographical location. They have the tendency to prioritise white people and serve the white supremacy. For example, if there is a group of 10 foreign people from different nationalities, geographies and colours. It is likely the white people in the group would be treated differently and highly.
When someone foreigner visits or lives in those countries, the person usually is dealt in that way. I have experienced these while visiting and living in two of the countries. Additionally, I heard several firsthand experiences. Besides, it has been learned that in the Western countries, expatriates from Bangladesh face difficulty to get job or privileges in studying at even Asian led institutions compared to other Asian migrants.
There is a huge discrimination associated in these issues. I have been also surprised by the reactions from Bangladeshis when they convey their protest against the bill that Trump administration passed to ban the study and work permit. The first, it is internal issue between the USA and China; Bangladeshis can do nothing for it, not even their protest matters there. The second, when the Bangladeshis are discriminated in oversea countries protests do not happen. Thence, Bangladeshis are somehow obsessed with white and elite supremacy and class division since China is also treated as superior by many of the people.
There are many reasons for racism and any sort of discrimination. Economy and power are the most prominent ones because the system put their arsenal to make the best use and profit through it. If these two components have a balance and access among the mass people, then the discrimination will start reducing.
Bringing the mindset of a complete anti-racism would take a long time. Economy, administration and education have to play the most essential role to eradicate racism. Thus, it is also high time to speak up about ‘All lives matter’ instead of ‘Black lives matter’. Otherwise, there are nations where people from other colours or ethnicity or community are suppressed. It would question the discriminative and subconscious mindset of human being as whole, break the unity of humankind and use uncertainty to unite again.
Because every life is valuable. We should not let the economic and administrative institutions and its beneficiaries to use the lack of peoples’ awareness and knowledge in their favour instead of the entire human being. Otherwise, a diverse beautiful world would be prolonging to witness.
MD Talebur Islam Rupom is a contributor with the New Age Youth
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