The Other Side of Racism in India

by Sharell शारेल on April 18, 2012

in Culture Shock in India

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When I came to India, racism was not really a term I was familiar with. Sure, I knew what it was. Yet, it had never had much bearing in my life. I had friends from different cultures, and treated everyone the same.

However, in the more than six years I’ve now been living in India, I’ve become so acquainted with it to the point that I’m sick of hearing it. It wouldn’t bother me so much if it was used correctly. However, I’ve been called racist simply because I come from Australia, or simply because I’ve made a negative observation about something in India (that even Indians would say themselves).  The racism term is thrown around so loosely, it’s completely lost its meaning and puts me on edge every time I hear it.

And, let’s not to overlook the other side of racism — that is the racism I often face in India because I’m white! I’m viewed as being rich and I’m frequently quoted higher prices. It’s a constant battle not to be ripped off. In addition, thanks to the common perception that Indians have of white women being loose and immoral, I’m often leered at in the street and constantly receive emails from Indian guys propositioning me for sex.

Yes, this is racism according to the definition:

1. The belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, esp. so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.
2. Prejudice or discrimination directed against someone of a different race based on such a belief.

However, this kind of racism isn’t taken seriously. A comment left by one reader (an American Indian) on my blog recently summed up why.

“I think most Indians are racist. But I do not see it with negative connotations as I do with white or black racism. Indians do not have the power in the world to be negatively racist. I.E. oppress races of people, kill them in large numbers, or denigrate their culture, looks or language. I think people sometimes just throw racist out there without thinking about it fully”.

So, I resigned myself to the idea that racism towards white people is never going to matter. What is there to do apart from shut up, never say a bad word about India, and accept that people are going to blatantly over charge me and proposition me for a “sexy good time”.

Then I read this column in the Hindustan Times Cafe today. It was written by Bollywood actress Kalki Koechlin. For those not familiar with her, she was born in India to French parents and has lived in India all her life. She speaks Tamil and Hindi fluently.

It struck me. Wow! Another white person who feels that they experience racism in India.

She writes:

“I have to rant. I was stuck in my car in the gully just outside my building because of a truck parked on the road and blocking the passageway. The driver refused to move as he was filling water for a building. Suddenly, out of nowhere came an elderly woman who, without any pretext, came walking to the car and said, “Yeh log aise hi hai.” (Why are you people like this only?). Then she looked at me and said, “Kya kar rahi ho? Piche jao.” (What are you doing? Go back). I replied, “Aage mera ghar hai.” (My house is ahead).

The truck driver told me to take some other route to my building. When I said I didn’t know any other way, the woman took the opportunity to say, “Bol rahi hai iski ghar hai, phir bhi isko koi aur rasta nahin malum.” (You are saying this is your house but you don’t know any other street). When I asked her why she was insulting me, her eyes looked down for a moment and then she said in English, “I am not insulting you, this is my road to walk on, not yours.” She walked on. I reversed the car and tried to find another way to get to my building.

This racism is something I’ve had to deal with all my life, been born and brought up here, but damn I still can’t get used to it.

I go to a small town and men start talking to me in broken English saying things like “Hey baby” and “Saxy lady.” I get asked questions by journalists such as “Why aren’t you in Hollywood?” and “Do you like India?” as though I had just arrived in this country yesterday. I get people, usually of an older generation, telling me, “Yeh log aise hi hai.”

Sure, being white has had the opposite effect too, where people have treated me with a lot more kindness as though I’m their guest, I’ve probably been shortlisted in auditions for being ‘fair’, but this too is a kind of racism, a separation. We like to separate people into neat little categories through their religion, the colour of their skin, the way they speak and dress etc… and I can’t help but feel that this racism and this fear of the different is what limits us as people.”

And I can’t help agreeing with her!

As Denis Leary, an American actor, comedian, writer and director, has said: “Racism isn’t born, folks, it’s taught.”

Photo credit: Mahidoodi.

75 people like this post.
© Copyright 2012 Sharell शारेल, Diary of a White Indian Housewife 2008-2014. All Rights Reserved. Do not copy and reproduce text or images without permission.

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{ 554 comments… read them below or add one }

Roxana February 7, 2013 at 12:03 am

I think the saving grace of all ‘missunderstandings’ and faux-pas’s is the freeedom of information.. Increasingly int he world more and more people have access to free internet.. not all, not even half of the world’s population probably, but mroe and more people get the opportunity to find out and educate themselves about another ways. Combine this with the way globalisation is going… it probably means that my children’s children and so on, if the freedom of information will still be around, will be able to discern and pick the best things from all these fusions… just like it happened until now in many places in the world, where they were forced to adjust to new realities, but it took much longer, many more generations, since access to information was not that straighforward.. I hope so anyway, hope also that all the Gods from all the religions will help us find that way heh.. ;-)


Dhananjay February 12, 2013 at 2:04 am

Hello Sharell,
It is unfortunate that you had to suffer racism or sexism in India, whatever sort of it was. But I think you have made few wrong observations.
It is true that Indians are very racist people. they even divide and discriminate fellow Indians on the basis of cast, money, religion, region, looks… The list can go on. If there is any element I cannot think of, they discriminate on that basis too. But if you observe closely you will realize that they do not discriminate by choice, thetruth is that most of the times they do not even realize they are being racist.
1) I think the factor playing important role behind racism in Indians in my opinion is religion. If you study Hinduism you will know that this religion is standing on foundation of racism, sexism, discrimination. There is pyramid of casts placed in hierarchy. Every casts discriminates lower caste which gives them feeling of being better than lower casts. Racism is deeply embedded in Hinduism. So if hindus are being racist, I would blame religion not the people. (also keep in mind that this religion forbid it’s followers from education, there were capital punishments for it. That’s why most of people are illiterate. So Indians have failed to form civilized community [before introduction of religion (which is gift of west) to India we had very advanced communities, Harappan for example] so either way Blame religion not Indians.)
2) british ruled India for 150 years and thanks to Gandhi we couldn’t get respectful liberalization from british govt, the freedom to India was more like given and not earned or taken. Which in turn justifies hate against whites.
3) there are bad people in every society, just because you had some bad experiences you cannot brand all Indians racist. And let us not forget all those assault on Indians in Australia. Before you point figures to others make sure your hands are clean.
4) this country and it’s culture is very complex to understand, I personally know hundreds of people who are fighting against evil teachings and traditions of the religion. And I assure you that you will never face any racism if you meet any of these people.
So if Indian culture is full of bad things, then it is also full of overcoming it. I agree that there are drawbacks in Indian culture. But just because you had some bad experiences, you cannot brand all Indians racist.
(and also define racism properly. You cannot call anything racism. for example in case of Kalki, how can you be sure that the old woman said what she said because kalki is white and not rich? Rich people also get to hear such stuff and remember it’s not racist cause rich do not have unique race)


Gary July 27, 2013 at 12:25 pm

You stated that you think Hinduism is the cause of racism, sexism and discrimination in India. It seems to me you are a Muslim or a Christian (or at least an anti Hindu) who could not resist the urge to insult Hinduism even though Sharell’s post had nothing to do about it. If you think that Hinduism is the source of racism and sexisim in India, why do Muslim and Christian nations also have a long history of racism and sexism? Are those religions innocent? Do different muslim groups and different christian sects not have a history of discrimination and brutality against one another? For the record, the caste system in Hinduism is not to make one person subservient to another, that is what it has turned into in today’s India where life is meaningless and you can murder or rape someone and then become a politician. If you think the whole of Hinduism is about the caste system, maybe you need to read the Gita, learn about karma, dharma, and all the other great ideas that most Indians such as yourself might benefit from today.


michele March 5, 2013 at 11:57 pm

I am a white american woman with an african-american husband and a bi-racial child. I was shocked to see blatant racism when I moved to Florida from New York. We are considering a move to Mumai and have read plenty of articles about “racism” in India (seems like its mostly against other indians?). Since we all read know what it looks like and experienced it here in Florida, we wonder to what degree it will affect our lives in Mumbai. My husband is a big guy and looks like an NFL football player and actually will be teaching PE in an international school. I wonder if being tall and American will balance out the dark skin? I wonder how the rich indian kids in the international school will react to him. And thier parents… I had few worries about issues I might face as a white woman in Mumbai… until I read this blog that is! And of course our son is a concern. He is bi-racial so maybe with a low haircut he can blend? Will the indian kids befriend him or will he be an outsider? But still I try to keep it in perspective. He has had kids at school call him a nigger here in Florida! So should we be afraid to move to another country for an international experience for a couple of years for fear of possible racism when we already deal with it in our own country?
It is hard to tell how many westereners there are in Mumbai. I wonder will we be able to simply move around the city without jeers or threats because we stand out so much? Or is it the diverse cosmopolitan city you read about and the big city mentality where people avoid eye contact and do thier own thing in peace? How many African Americans are there in Mumbai? Just tourists, or living there? I see that American movies are shown in the Mumbai movie theaters. I imagine American shows are shown on TV. So I wonder how that influences Indians’ opinions of African Americans. I would hate for the fear of the unknown and making uninformed assumptions scare us off from this once in a lifetime opportunity. I wonder what you think about our situation and how racism directed toward black americans might affect us in Mumbai…


Annoyed June 9, 2013 at 10:23 am

Racism exists every-where. You will not escape it by moving to Mumbai. Just be aware of that before you make the move — if you haven’t already done so.


Dinesh July 11, 2013 at 9:21 pm

Dear friend Michele….I just get familiar with this site today and I do not know whether you took any decision to come to Mumbai or not or may be you have arrived. but if you are still in dilemma then I want to make things clear before you. I am living in a much small city than Mumbai. and still I do not see any reason for a foreigner not to live here. Mumbai is a very developed city internationally. People there are very much familiar with the foreigners from all across the world whether whites,blacks or of mixed races. If you are considering settle down in Mumbai then I want to assure you fully that you can live there with full safety and you will surely enjoy your life with your family like in your native country. There are some issues to the native people with the non-native people in every places and you have to consider that and live accordingly. you have to take care all the things that you are not living in your own country. But these are the small things as compared to the chance you or your hubby is getting in his career. So please put your worries apart from this and believe me your Mumbai trip is going to be awesome and a very wonderful experience in your life with full of fun and enjoyment. People there are very good in nature. they are kind-hearted, helpful and loyal…. There are some evil people every where and so may be in Mumbai too. you just have to be careful from these people by adopting some general safeties…
is this para written by me, helpful to you…pls revert me your feedback by replying me…..


melbourne desi July 12, 2013 at 6:59 am

so did you finally move to Mumbai and your husband teach PE in an international school.
rich kids and their parents and their ayahs will refer to your hubby as “Negroes” – get used to it. even colleagues will refer to him as a Negro.
no malice in it – it is just a word for them (not for you I understand)


Sandesh Sawant March 14, 2013 at 12:18 pm

Hi Sharell,

Yes, Indians are also racist. I will cite 2 real-life examples which I found on the blog below:

Two western girls got duped by Indian men. One Indian man named “Ram” has written how he dumped his western girlfriend(Kathy). Another example is of “Very Nervous” western women. Both these western girls were good,dedicated and loyal people with good values. But still the reasons cited by the Indian men were that they got rejected by their indian parents. So, by definition of race:

1. The belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, esp. so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.
2. Prejudice or discrimination directed against someone of a different race based on such a belief.

These 2 cases (and I am sure there are many) shows how indian parents/indians were racist towards western women.

I think everyone one should read the posts about the girl named “Very Nervous”(By Very Nervous on Wednesday, November 01, 2000 – 02:46 am and By Very Nervous on Wednesday, November 01, 2000 – 03:03 am), “Susannah” (who got lucky even after 6 months of break-up) and a post by “Ram”. These girls almost went into a depression.

These are some of statements of “Very Nervous”:

“It means that it doesn’t matter how good a person is in this world or how unconditionally they give their love. Ultimately race and culture matters.At moments if I had not been such a spiritually aware or strong person I would have ended my life to stop the pain and frustration and confusion and shock at the sudden rejection that I suffered when I had already overcome a lot emotionally even to believe in the relationship for a start (none of us are deluded as to the obstacles we face dating indians). Once I had weathered all the pressures and doubts and built up my faith and trust in the face of all the obstacles (which meant using huge reserves of emotional strength) because I could see he was seemingly committed to me, was with me in a serious longterm relationship, and was talking to his parents about marriage,,,,,,,POOF!!! Then I was “dumped”. I have been through beareavement in my life and belive me this was no better, because there didn’t seem to be a reasonable reason for it! I don’t think I have ever been through such a painful time in my life as this past month. I don’t think ANYONE should be put through this.One good thing about your system – had we been indians our fathers would never have let this happen. You would both have been forced to marry us soon after a year I am sure. ”

“You see, humanity and values can be very similar even across cultural boundaries”


GAURAV VATS July 20, 2013 at 12:30 am

Sorry for whatever bad experience you witnessed. I wouldn’t say that it happens everywhere or you are lying as all those things are untrue. what i want to make a point that indian media highlighted the issue of australian racism against indian few years back, There are certain attacked happened on indian origin students and truck drivers in Australia. However unlike you i am not blaming all Australian for that. There are good and bad people everywhere. As you are a foreigner people might have tried to take advantage but to make same perception about all indians, i think its little unfair. Anyway if you still in India then good luck for rest of the time. bye


vijay March 19, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Seriously Sharrell. Your views are pathetic and drop the exaggerated sense of importance you attach to yourself. You are an absolute nobody.
And if you dislike India, then get the bloody hell back to your convict country.


Sharell शारेल March 19, 2013 at 12:31 pm

Oh, the predictable ole “I don’t like what you wrote so I’m going to throw some personal insults and then say leave India” reply. How mature of you. Not.


Ashutosh Tiwari April 13, 2013 at 5:12 am

I would like to ascertain you Ma`m on some issues that you raised.
The first thing that you said about ‘the perceptions of Indians of white woman’ is sexual is just because of the porn Industry of Western world.
Indians who are not educated enough and not accustomed to Western culture just get a wrong Impression and you must confess that it`s not their fault.The second thing is about the comment ‘Ye log aise hi hai ‘ comes due to the Britishers who were responsible for numerous problems India faces today including Partition of India.
Can you imagine Ma`m that some comment stirred you to the level that you posted it on Internet. How bad Indian students would have felt when they were attack in your country of Austral world .
Remember there are only two types of people 1. Good 2. Bad.
The Indians are not racist , you can easily verify it by watching a marriage ceremony in an Indian Village where every caste person`s Presence is compulsory to perform various rituals .



Annoyed June 9, 2013 at 10:21 am

Of course, no Indians are racist. And all Australians are racist. Totally makes sense! After-all, we wouldn’t like stereotype any-one, would we???


Karthik April 16, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Hey Sharell
Oh we Indians are very itchy about what others say about us..but what we rant about each other is ok :-) but yes as someone else pointed out, there are good and bad elements everywhere.. I Hope you have had some nice experiences in India too..
In that other example you quoted, from another perspective, if the truck driver was supplying water to a building which was probably very important for the residents there , would nt it be more prudent for her to park her car somewhere near by and pick it up later when the truck is gone.. not sure why she decided to tag it as a racist incident..


rohan March 24, 2013 at 4:26 pm

Hello Sharell,
I am from India and I study in France since last 6 months. I read your blog – The Other Side of Racism in India. I feel sorry for the discrimination you face in India. There are racist people everywhere. Kindly, go through the following links –

In addition, recently three of my friends were denied entry in a club in France because of their ‘Brown’ skin colour. This is bad and I will never forget this incident.
Have A Nice Day!


Pretty in Punk ! March 29, 2013 at 10:27 am

Racism on the base of colour has a deep rooted history behind it and it goes something like this:

In ancient India, there had always been a preference of the-few-shades-fairer-than-native ppl kinda look . This is mainly due to the fact that fairer people didn’t have to work outside under the sun for too long. They had enough of everything and hence fair started to symbolise wealth, luxury, relaxed lifestyle and abundance . This kind of situation went on for so long in India that fairness started to become desirable. Eventually ppl started to recognise them by another name – The Upper Caste. Over time, fair skin started to become more and more desirable.Even today, if you notice, most people in the so called upper and general caste tend to be really fair and the lower caste and ordinary people on the road tend to be dark. Maybe the ppl are following their instincts.

Another interesting thing I’ve noticed over here in the south, especially in TN (where I’m corrently living right now) is that hoplessly-low caste hindus tend to convert themselves to christianity through missionaries and other sources to get rid of that low caste torture tag and dalit tag attached to them. And its quite clear. The christians over here are very very dark, sometimes even more darker than typical Tamilians. Their skin looks more closely associated with dark africans than Indians. Atleast now they are no longer a part of the most tortured group of ppl anymore! The same goes for some muslim groups too.


Devesh April 4, 2013 at 8:09 pm

Pooh, what a absurd debate on the basis of few small experience. For all foreign girls who think indians are racist are confusing between racism and sexism. The adult remarks and eve teasing they face is faced by Indian girls too. India does not have any historical example of racism. It is british and english people like General Dyer who were racist and used to treat indians with contempt. Its was Europeans and particularly Hitler who was racist. It was americans who are racist and a long history of discriminating black and sometime they burn them alive. It is aussie who are killing Indians. It is Britain who so elaboratly outraged and termed india a past colony and what not when Indian chose to Dassual and not to eurocopter.
Now since india is a emerging country and our people are demanding equal rights in every spheres, foreigners assume that they are intruding in there spheres and terming indian rasixt.


Annoyed June 9, 2013 at 10:19 am

No Devesh, it was Indians (and a Sri Lankan) who killed the Indians I assume you are referring to. Have you still not taken the time to investigate the facts for yourself? It’s too easy to listen to the rantings of hysterical Indian journalists I suppose. But before parroting the baseless ‘observations’ and rumours spouted by people not even qualified to make such judgements (most of whom got their information from equally uninformed people), please at least do some research. You can Google it if you like. It won’t take more than 5 minutes. I promise.


Annoyed June 9, 2013 at 10:32 am

PS. And what has Hitler to do with anything? Most people living in Britain and Australia are not of Austrian descent. And you cannot compare any-one or anything to what Hitler did all those years ago. It is the current generation (and that of our parents) who have agitated for changes in those sort of ideals and prejudices. And have striven to improve human rights and race relations (is this being done in India today may I ask? If so, then I am very happy to hear it). Whatever the case may have been then, however, please don’t hold the people of Austria — or western countries in general, who have nothing to do with him or that generation — accountable for his/their crimes.


Pondy Kay April 22, 2013 at 9:20 am

Hi Sharell,

I am so happy you found love in India and are loving it there. As an Indian in the US, I will tell you, I feel the EXACT same way ! I cannot ever make a negative observation about America (even though Americans make the same observations !) else I am called an obnoxious Indian ! Many americans have made me feel less than human for being brown-skinned. I believe that racism is an epidemic all over the world. Indians may be very talented and smart, but unfortunately were not really the best at being racist !

The only thing I have to say is, you will never be made to feel subhuman for being white. That is something only brown and black people can feel. White is the best color to be in most parts of the world. It’s sad but true.


jade June 8, 2013 at 3:20 am

Yes! For some reason, people don’t recognize their own racism and seem to only notice racism when it affects them. Then, suddenly, they get all upset. I noticed how this author decided that all Indians are racist from a few experiences. That’s called racism because it’s judging an entire group of people based off of very few experiences that may or may not be racist. I mean – it couldn’t possibly be because of gender (again sexism is bad too) or how she presented herself (attitude). It couldn’t possibly be because of how media portrays white people and the fact that India is a relatively homogeneous population with very few interactions with other groups, say white. I mean – the author doesn’t know how to get to her home via an alternative street, she could have been throwing a princess hissy fit to get the water delivery person annoyed, she didn’t speak the native language when making the request because sorry – there are very light colored indians around. Indians tend to know the people in their society so it speaks magnitude that someone who is a “neighbor” in the society doesn’t recognize the author.

As for skin color – the whole world likes white skin. When I hear a white person complain of racism – I wonder – do they realize how bad it is to be a person of color? I feel sorry that you experiences some “racism” – but again – I’m uncertain whether it really was or not.


michael alexander April 30, 2013 at 8:57 am

Can any one out there tell me how the river Ganges got its’ name


Raj June 10, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Ganges is an anglo name for the Indian river ‘Ganga’. The british could not pronounce it, as usual, like most non anglo names, so they gave it an anglicized name ‘Ganges’. By the way the name ‘India’ is also an anglo name coming from ‘Indus’(the river) which is originally called as ‘Sindu’ in Indian sanskrit language, which became ‘Indus’ in english and from it ‘India’ which is basically referring to the river ‘Sindu/Indus’ and the Indus Valley Civilization.


Rakesh October 16, 2013 at 3:10 am

@michael alexander The word ‘Gangēs’ came from the Ancient Greek. But the earliest/original name is Ganga, which came from the Sanskrit (गङ्गा/gáṅgā; literally “swift-goer”), from verbal root गम्/gam (“to go”).

@Raj The name ‘India’ was given by the Greeks. The ancient Greeks referred to us as ‘Indoi’ (i.e. the people of the Indus) & the term ‘India’ originated in around 350 BC. ‘India’ is mentioned in thousands of years old Greek written records. The term ‘India’ is derived from the Sindhu river, which Greeks mispronounced as Indus river. The word ‘Sindhu’ itself came from the Sanskrit language. BTW, neither ‘Ganges’ nor ‘India’ are “anglo names”. In fact, both of them were given by the Greeks, although their origin lies in Sanskrit.


Dinesh July 11, 2013 at 9:36 pm

here is the correct answer to your question buddy……… Ganges is the ‘GANGA’ written by indians. according to holy sacred scripts of hindus This river is said to be coming out from SHIVA’S (GOD OF HINDUS) head. and from there the name Ganga is taken.


dc May 19, 2013 at 5:01 pm

” there is no racism. only ignorance “


Rrainx May 22, 2013 at 3:08 am

I am white,married to a Sikh man,living by ourselves in the UK. When we went to the gurudwara last time, the man who walked amongst us all sitting down and handed tissues for the Prasad, deliberately skipped me whilst making eye contact. Hubby and I were devastated, felt singled out and everyone could see, we both felt tearful and got out after a few minutes.
When relaying this experience to his parents over the phone in India, his father said that well, it was not nice, but such is life these things happen, for example when white people that go to visit temples in India refuse to take food from temple because it has been touched by hands…… There are si many issues with his “reassuring” statement, especially that he gave himself away as seeing me as one of “the other side, a gori girl”. His son argued that white people may not touch Indian food for the same hygienic reasons that his parents advise us to not eat local fruits during the first days of a visit to India to avoid the Delhi-belly.

The whole experience sobered both of us up. We went to speak to the guruswara manager, but got wishy washy answers and half-appologies similar to a shrugging of shoulders. Such is life hey!!


PuNjAbI May 30, 2013 at 8:58 am

I get tired of hearing about housewives and Moms being a bad thing. Please give them the respect they deserve. My Mom stayed at home and raised 5 wonderful, intelligent, happy kids. Being a Mother is a job. It is important. Support women’s choices. Respect them…Having kids raised by strangers and institutions aka daycare centers is not what God had planned for them. Children will grow ip more confident and well-adjusted if their Mom stays home to raise them. Stop baahing traditional Indian culture.


vikas May 31, 2013 at 6:31 pm

Today’s children are tomorrow’s future. 2 full time working parents can never dedicate enough attention and care for their growing children.What kind of individuals they grow up to be is a good guess.Raising kids is a very virtuous thing .Full time housewives deserve more respect than working women.


Annoyed June 9, 2013 at 9:52 am

Why is that racist attacks against Indians in Australia is always brought up? If you’d bothered to look beyond what the Indian Press reported (which was totally biased, and served only to whip Indians up into a frenzy without presenting them with all the facts), you’d know that most of the attacks were perpetrated by people of other ethnicities (such as Pakistani, Lebanese and Sri Lankan immigrants — and above all, other Indians (including those on working visas)! Also, those murders that were so widely reported and implied to have been committed by whites were committed by Indian nationals and an immigrant of Sri Lankan origin)! Then of course you had a whole lot of Indians claiming to have been targeted by whites such as that stupid guy on holiday from India who accidently set himself alight while torching his car to get money from insurance. Thankfully the arson squad determined that he’d done it himself after considering all the inconsistencies in the evidence. Oh, and the reporter who was attacked by a fellow Indian while covering the events! So please don’t blame whites for everything! We are sick of it!


Raj June 11, 2013 at 3:11 pm

I am not sure why you are coming up with so much defense for the anglo whites of australia. During the height of attacks against Indians in 2008-09, the federal government appointed chief of inquiry and former australian defence forces chief Peter Cosgrove came out with damning report of the underlying reasons for the attacks with the top one being clear racism in australian society. Quotes from ABC, the most trusted australian media body “Australia’s former military chief has characterised recent attacks on Indian students as racially motivated, rejecting Canberra’s official line that the violence has been purely criminal rather than racist.
“If you didn’t suspect a racial strand you’d be mad,” high-profile former general Peter Cosgrove told The Age newspaper on Tuesday night after delivering a speech on race relations.”

I find this ridiculous defense on racism, especially from educated working/middle class australians quite strange. Burying head in the sand and rejecting existence of racism is as bad as crying racism at every little thing. Both are bad and both should be put to an end..well…that’s my optimism anyway!


Annoyed June 9, 2013 at 10:05 am

Also, don’t forget that the crimes committed by Australians of ‘anglo’ origin were perpetrated by thugs who would have attacked any-one walking alone so late at night distracted by what they were doing on their i-phone. Many of the areas in which crimes are committed were in Sydney’s dodgy western suburbs, which are full of people from lower socio-economic backgrounds — including many immigrants from Pakistan, India, and Arab countries. There are bad people from all walks of life. Personally, I like Indians (at least the ones who don’t act superior to every-one else, including their hosts, and treat them like servants cos that’s the way they are used to treating people of lower or no caste in their own country). I think once you become a citizen, or even a resident, of another country you should respect the customs and culture of that place. Try to fit in a little, and leave your old prejudices in the country you left. I try my best to fit in when I travel to other countries, and most people respect that. I try to always treat all people as equals, regardless of their origins, here too. However, it is a bit difficult when people insist on sticking with their own kind, and speaking in their own language (despite speaking English perfectly well). Also, I experienced terrible racism while I was volunteering in Nepal for 5 months. I suppose it’s lack of education, but I don’t think any-one has the right to call ‘whites’ racist without at least acknowledging that they are equally racist and that racism exists among all peoples. Just as Caucasians should not accuse all Indians of racism, so too should Indians not accuse all Caucasians of racism. And fix up your caste discrimination problem too (that is by definition racism, unlike nationalism like in Australia, and cannot be labelled as anything else). It’s only fair!


Annoyed June 9, 2013 at 10:12 am

So yeah, first clean up your own backyard. That’s the general gist of what I’m trying to get across. And my thanks and respect to all those people — from whatever nationality they most identify with — who are genuinely making an effort to promote understanding, and not just accusing people without first looking at how they themselves treat people of other races, ethnic groups and cultures. Let’s all work at improving the way we treat one-another… together!


Raj June 10, 2013 at 3:19 pm

Sharell…I am a silent reader of your site for years now and never wote comments. I always enjoyed your balanced, interesting, funny and fascinating observations of India and was hoping you don’t get in to these touchy topics like racism because it has so many angles to it and usually ends up in finger pointing, mud slinging etc. This is the case in EVERY country on the planet, including your mother country which is where I am living(in melbourne) now for the last 5 years. Being an Indian, I faced a lot more discrimination in various forms in India and what kalki has faced is almost nothing and I actually don’t see it as a race issue there. The woman would have been a lot more arrogant and dismissing of me If I was there. I understand how, where and in what situations, ‘white’ looking people can be discriminated in India but at the same time, I am pretty sure you must be aware how ‘non-white’ looking people are discriminated/stereo typed in Australia or in other countries where the majority of population look white. Till this day, the australian media and people keep regurgitating about the attacks on Indians in melbourne while none of the Indians are bothered or not interested in hearing about it anymore. Not trying to justify racism but just giving you an example of how the world is which I am sure you have an idea. I have faced similar discrimination/stereotyping/generalizations/assumptions etc based on my appearance in Australia and I know many Indians who face a lot more than me on a daily basis here, sometimes out right and sometimes subtle. I have also been referred to as ‘you are one of those’ fair looking Indians and sometimes people assumed I am not an Indian and went on to speak a lot of ignorant/uninformed rubbish about India right infront of me. So this problem is universal and not something unique to India or Australia. I hope you take my comments in the right spirit and try to understand the complexity of a country like India, its people,its history, its various cultures, religions etc, that contributed to the attitudes of people which they acquired over centuries. Yes there is need for change in many areas but change comes slowly.


Dinesh July 11, 2013 at 10:32 pm

Hiii SHARELL!…….I just read this today and couldn’t stop me to reply. Like many of the repliers said this racism problem is everywhere in the world, I also agree with this.
But as an Indian I think the problem you have faced and which you are saying as racism, is not quite a racism. I think it is a general behaviour which a less educated or an obsessed with his/her cast,religion,colour etc person shows. I feel really very bad and sorrow when I hear that people are not behaving in right way to foreigners or tourists. Some cab drivers or shopkeepers who have direct interaction to foreigners (for business) seeks the way to cheat them (to get more money). But if you go into depth of this problem then you will find that white people are generally considered superior in every kind (richness, education, beauty etc).

People act sexist because they think whites are beautiful (case related generally to white women) which may be true as for all indians feel.

People act racist (considering only your case and your experiences) because they have the perspective that whites are richer and thats why they quoted you higher prices. I think its not racism…is it?………. In my view it is a perspective problem not of racism problem. They are not cheating you for being of white race, but due to the perspective that you are rich and you would not mind in paying extra bucks..pls think about it…..
And you get the comments and emails from people regarding the propositioning for sex…if you deeply analyse about this then you will find it is not really a racism problem…this is due to cultural differences and much due to misinterpretation of the western culture. In India you can have sexual relations only after marriage and generally marriages are life long. But in western countries which are generally white people countries, marriage is not a compulsory condition to have sexual relations between couples (girlfriend and boyfriend). Relationships change frequently. Also divorces are too frequent. So it is general belief in India that white people can have sex easily to anyone. So they try on you by email or by any other mean…..again this is due to cultural difference and where the racism in this?

I think for a non-native person, this type of problems are common everywhere in each and every country. There are different types of people having different mentality and different backgrounds and different educations. Most of the people are good everywhere but there are some evils. these evil people are responsible to make any place infamous……….

Sharell……I want to know your feedback on this……….kindly reply on this to me……


Sharell शारेल July 11, 2013 at 11:17 pm

Hi Dinesh, thanks very much for your thoughtful comment. Before I reply, firstly, I’d like to ask you a question and hear your view: why do you think Indians experience racism? What is the cause of this?


Dinesh July 12, 2013 at 1:27 am

you asked why I think indians experience racism.. Well I never said to you that indians experience racism as I never experienced the same probably due to the fact that I never went abroad.
But as far as my knowledge is concerned about this, Indians experience racism more in developed countries like australia, Uk, US, europe etc. There may be many reasons-
first the skin colour in white countries. White people generally dont like the dark skin people.
Second, the fear in the whites due to increasing population of indians in their country.
Third, mostly the good scholars go to abroad to study and perform there excellently better than a no of whites. So those people don’t like indian students there.
These are my observations.

In india also there is significant racism is experienced by some of the specific communities mainly divided on the grounds of cast&religion and on the grounds of regions. Hindus are divided in 4 sub casts and the lower cast people feel discrimination may be referred as racism. North indian people in south india experience discrimination because south indians feel that north indian do not have right to get education or earn in south indian cities. People from east states like east uttar pradesh, bihar experience racism here in dehradun or haridwar.


Sharell शारेल July 12, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Here’s my take on racism: what underlies it is cultural differences. The more familiar people become with others from different cultures (including castes, religions etc) and the more they understand them, the less likelihood of them treating them differently/non equally.

So, for example, while you say that Indians propositioning white women for sex and thinking they’re easy is a cultural difference, this is exactly what causes racism — which involves belief in racial differences, and which acts as a justification for non-equal treatment. (Definition of racism).

So, yes, I also see Indians viewing white people as rich and over charging them as a form of racism. It meets the definition of 1) belief in racial differences and 2) justification for non-equal treatment.


Dinesh July 12, 2013 at 6:58 pm

may be these come under the basic definition of racism but this is something very difficult to change in the society. so better to think it as normal and do not get frustrated due to this because the most important thing is not to waste valuable time in thinking about this i n your day to day life and also there is no malice in this level of racism. every new person has to live with these so better to consider this a routine rather than the problems. and as you said as you get more familiar with the people, less they treat you differently.


Padparadscha July 16, 2013 at 7:00 pm

I don’t see how a sex proposition is racist. On the contrary it is an attempt to become more familiar.

I don’t see how assuming a tourist is rich and trying to get money from him is racist either. This is called business in my humble opinion.

I’m sure Indian women get sexual propositions and rich Indian tourists are also expected to spend more (because as far as I know there are more Indian tourists than foreign tourists in India).


Sharell शारेल July 16, 2013 at 7:41 pm

Like you said, it’s all opinion. :-)


Padparadscha July 17, 2013 at 6:04 pm

Yes, you’re right. :)
My husband vividly remembers an incident that happened years ago, which he labels as racist, when it completely went out of my mind.


Rebecca July 15, 2013 at 8:04 pm

Dinesh, have you actually ever lived in a developed country? I won’t comment on racism in other countries but will present some counterpoints in reference to my country, the U.S.:
1. Do you know what color the American president is?
2. Did you know that Indians comprise only about 1% of the population in the U.S.? Did you know that many Indians work illegally and legally at jobs for much lower rates than Americans?
3. Did you know that there are excellent scholars of all backgrounds in the U.S. and that American universities attract top students and professors from many countries of the world?


Manny July 16, 2013 at 9:12 am

A black kid got shot after being stalked by a “cracker” and gets acquitted.

And the same week a black woman fires a warning shot and gets 20 years behind bars.

Is that not a caste system in the US?



Tamasha the Choto Rani July 16, 2013 at 2:22 pm

“A black kid got shot after being stalked by a “cracker” and gets acquitted.”
Gorge Zimmerman is half white & half hispanic- no poor rural white ‘cracker’ would ‘identify’ with him.
The American news media identify Mr Zimmerman as a ‘white Hispanic’- WTF is a ‘white Hispanic’? Only in America!
(I also don’t know why Sharell allows ‘ethnic & racial slurs’ such as ‘cracker’ on her blog, oh well)


Sharell शारेल July 16, 2013 at 5:27 pm

(I also don’t know why Sharell allows ‘ethnic & racial slurs’ such as ‘cracker’ on her blog, oh well)

I think you’ve forgotten something here! I’m not American. Nor have I been following the American news. I have no idea what a ‘cracker’ means. In Australia, cracker is slang for crazy. eg. “That person is crackers” or “Have you gone crackers?”


Tamasha the Choto Rani July 16, 2013 at 7:29 pm

Well, now you know what ‘cracker’ means in the context of Manny’s sentence-
cracker- a derogatory term for poor rural whites in the Southern United States
And you’re still going to going to leave Manny’s post using an ethnic/racial slur on your blog?
Did I forget something again?


Sharell शारेल July 16, 2013 at 7:39 pm

Did I forget something again?

Um, yes, how about an apology for assuming that I should even know what a “cracker” is and having a go at me for allowing it to be published.


Tamasha the Choto Rani July 16, 2013 at 10:31 pm

I sincerely apologize if I said anything to upset you. That certainly wasn’t my intention.
I wasn’t aware apologies were necessary for assuming someone had knowledge which they hadn’t. That’s a new one to me.
I don’t feel I was ‘having a go’ at you, I was simply questioning why you leave posts containing racial & ethnic slurs on your blog? If you wish to do so, that’s fine with me. I mean you’ve let Manny advocate violence against Christians in the forum- so a disparaging racial/ethnic epithet here & there probably isn’t a big deal I guess?

Manny July 16, 2013 at 9:58 pm

I put (sic) with a “less than” and “greater than symbol” but it did not appear in the post.. Tray Von’s last words to his friend over the phone.. before he died was “This cracker has been stalking me”.

So I used exactly his words.. I was not being derogative.


Padparadscha July 17, 2013 at 6:05 pm

I had no idea “cracker” meant this… I thought it was something you ate with… cheese :)


Raj July 16, 2013 at 6:43 pm

And my points to your counterpoints…
1.First and the only black president in 237 years of independent american history. Perhaps it was time for change at last and may be that’s why you have a colored president?
2.Did you know that Indians are the richest and the most educated ethnic minority in america despite being less than 1% of its population? Did you know that an average Indian immigrant family’s income is much higher than any other ethnic groups(including white american) in america? Did you know that Indian Americans continuously outpacing most ethnic groups socioeconomically to reach the summit of the U.S. Census charts? And did you know that latinos form the largest illegal immigrant group in america?
3.Did you know India is the top source of students for american universities and only recently china surpassed it?

And finally Did you know that despite constituting less than 1% of the U.S. population, Indian-Americans are 4% of the nation’s engineers, 7% of its IT workers and 8% of its physicians and surgeons. Did you know the representation of Indians in these fields is striking in practical terms and your doctor is nine times more likely to be an Indian-American than is a random passerby on the street?


Dinesh July 16, 2013 at 8:37 pm

Rebecca…Have you read the post from RAJ below. I think RAJ have given statistics, which explain superbly about indians in USA.

my counterpoints:-
1) The only black president in more than two centuries. Thank to the financial crises at the time of elections when whole country was looking to the only hope in Obama on his attractive speech of “Change.”
2) No woman president till now.
3) Being claimed for its lesser status of women, India have seen both woman prime minister and woman president.

Racism is a world wide problem and India is not certainly a center of all the critical problems as you think.


Rahul July 19, 2013 at 9:22 pm

Hi Sharell – great blog post and I understand and agree with almost all the points you have made.

I am an African of an Indian descent and I cannot begin to count the number of Indians I must have offended by not calling myself an ‘Indian’ (apparently it’s not okay to be proud of where you were born and raised and call your home).

My wife also happens to be ‘white’ – but I prefer describing her by her name, or where she comes from, etc. To Indians though, she’s just that – white. Although we have never lived in India, I do recall her facing similar experiences as yours – being charged more money while shopping, the lack of respect and the copious amounts of attention she would get while out and about.

While we cannot generalize that all of India is like this, we can safely deduce that a large percentage is. And the vast amount of experience we read about daily are a true testimony to this.

I do believe that one of the many reasons for this is the Indian media and it’s highly derogative portrayal of Western civilization. You can’t blame little Shankar for watching Zee TV and growing up thinking that Shelly from America is going to be an easy catch when he goes to study in New York.

As far as women are concerned, from what I can see, white or purple, you’re all treated the same. Disappointing for a culture that was once so highly respected.

I hope you are well and I wish you all the best.


Scrutinous July 25, 2013 at 1:42 am

Yeh Log Asa i Hei means “Those Men are just Like that” Not You people. Unless he was talking to the driver that way. But if she said it to you. Then my Translation is what she said to you.


borninindia July 26, 2013 at 2:56 am

Being an Indian , ive seen my friends behave racist thoughtlessly. They look at whites with amazement and talking to them as a status symbol. Blacks are discriminated and indians take pride in being one shade lighter and thus feel free to comment on.
Im from a smaller town which doesnt have much exposure to other races.
I think the culture of india can be very crude. People think anything is fine if they get away with it. They are no bad but just well, lacking manners. However there are people with exposure and who are nice and all, but even for them, they want to be a shade lighter.
I am the darkest in my family. I have had a lot of issues with it. My sister is very fair. People look at me like ‘oh so sad’. Ive had to hear ‘kalli’ a lot of times (means black) it has seem3d like a swear. I’m not black. I’m like most light skinned indians. But my family is very white.
If you live in India and feel discriminated against. Just open up and tell them how foolish they are. Like I said they only do it if they can get away with it.


Gary July 27, 2013 at 1:19 pm

I can sympathize with everything you say in this article. The fact is that you are being treated differently based on the color of your skin, whether people assume you are someone wealthy and accomplished, or immoral and loose. That is racism/discrimination. Since you are aware this is unlikely to change anytime soon, hopefully venting on your blog helps.

As for the quote by Denis Leary, I don’t think parents in India are teaching their children to be racist against whites. It is probably just that most Indians don’t know any white people and they mentally link them to either the earstwhile British overlords, or the rich american celebrities they hear of in the media, or the porn stars on the internet. You unfortunately will always be at the receiving end of these preconceptions, and it will not occur to most Indians that such stereotyping is itself racist. Fortunately you love a lot of other things about India, so maybe you won’t let this bother you too much.


Tanmay Sahni October 10, 2013 at 4:03 pm

Hi Sharell. I’ve come across a few newspaper articles/blogs in the last few days all highlighting the issue of racism in India. Racism in India isn’t just limited to white people or people of African decent, people from North-Eastern Indian states are often called names and their women are disrespected. I believe that racism in India stems from the ignorance of Indian people, rather than a feeling of superiority over people of different skin colors. For instance, Indians have a habit of staring at foreigners to the extent of making them feel uncomfortable. They do it because they don’t understand the implications.

I have been contemplating working on this issue. My initial focus was to work with North-easterners and Africans, but I might as well deal with the issue of racism against whites. I had a few thoughts on how to tackle the issue, nothing concrete. I want to get in touch with as many foreigners as possible and any input from you would be appreciated. I want to devise a plan on how to move ahead and what sort of activities would help tackle the problem.


Dilliwala November 24, 2013 at 1:31 am

Your blog name shows that ‘racist’ is there in your mind. So, you can’t pass judgements upon others, in the first place.
Let’s get to your article now. I’d be lying in denying that ‘racism’ has become quite a sensitive and generalized term in English-conscious India, especially in the aftermath of extensive and mostly over-the-top media coverage here of the racist attacks on Indians in Australia. Minor issues like pointing out a flaw may be deemed racist, but it also depends on the way you point it. There could be a difference of understanding and possibly your tone of conveyance of your message appears as ‘racist’ to many Indians, but as I said, could be.

It ain’t surprising that you come from Australia and weren’t much used to this word ‘racism’. Of course, you don’t belong to a non-racist nation. Australia and the other White nations are among the most deliberately color-based racists in the world, simply because they possess the so-called superior color. But you’d still have never felt the need to put this word to much because you weren’t faced with it. Ask those who had to bear it in your country, not just Indians, you know. But it’s only my comment on your statement, not a complaint, so worry not. I don’t adjudge you as racist here!

Coming to your remaining India-related post, you must remember one important thing. When someone talks of the Indian Subcontinent- India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Tibet and Maldives, as one entity either as Subcontinent or as individual countries themselves, he’s blundering and being a massive racist him/herself! India (and the Indian Subcontinent) is a Union of tiny ‘nations’ having their own indipendent cultures, languages and other traditions. The one thing that unites the whole Indian Subcontinent is our Ancient Civilization, the common origin that we possess. Otherwise, almost every state or province in the Subcontinent is a complete nation of its own, having a complete set of practices distinguishing it from others.

The Indian Subcontinent is the world’s second most indigenously diverse region on the planet only after the continent of Africa. So in India, what you see in Jammu & Kashmir state will be a total contrast of your experiences in say, Tamil Nadu! Similarly, a Gujarat-experience will be totally different from your Arunachal Pradesh trip! Even within states, you have incredible diversity. Say, within Jammu & Kashmir (Indian-administered part), you have 3 very clearly distinct Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh regions! Then within Ladakh, you have the Leh and Kargil sectors to further differentiate… and so on! You travel some 200 odd kms and you encounter a new dialect. You travel slightly more and you discover a change in attire and food! You travel across India’s N-S stretch and you observe people’s color changing from J&K to TN.

So you can never attribute to India in general what you observe in one part of the country. This is the most common blunder that foreigners commit about India, e.g.- projecting Indian culture as Rajasthani culture in videos and pics, while being ignorant about the fact that Rajasthan is only one state of India, having its own distinct culture! Now should I label you and the erring foreigners as RACIST??? Going by your experiences in India mentioned here, and your conclusions about the same, I think you’d suggest that I bestow this “RACIST” tag upon you! However, I know that it’s unfair, since I know that foreigners who visit India as tourists are mostly unaware of India’s incredible diversity and thus, generalize the whole union on the basis of their regional experiences. This, I term as ignorance, and not racism.

Similarly, in your case, whatever you’ve experienced in India is not deliberate. You do racism intentionally when you are aware of your victim’s race and seek some purpose out of hurting him/her. This ain’t usually the case here. Those who offer higher prices than usual thinking that you’re white and hence rich are not being intentionally racist. They’re simply ignorant of the fact that they’re stereotyping! You must understand that in Indian traditional cultures, you appear very simple in your dressing. So, since foreigners, especially whites many a times come dressed in plush garments, sporting goggles, fancy hairstyles, etc., they appear from another world, far richer than ours! The British Rule of India had helped sow the seeds of this inferior psyche. Hence, when they inflate prices to you, their act is intentional but their reason is mostly NOT.

As far as staring goes, I must confess that I’m tired of reading foreign travelers complain of this. This clearly smacks of racism, even by your definition! You don’t try to delve into their intentions of staring and simply jump to conclusions.
Try one thing, if possible. Visit some Indian village with some urban Indians. Don’t step out, just observe from, say, a car (I mean stay hidden from the villagers). Perhaps to your astonishment, you’ll find the villagers passing the same kind of stares to the urban Indians that you’ve encountered in India (and I’m not talking about lewd remarks that you’ve been passed, yet, which might definitely have racist tendencies!). So are even those unexposed, poor fellas racist? You’ll have split me into two laughing if you nod your head in the assertive… ‘coz they’re not! They stare because they have some new kinda people, wearing different attire, traveling in some unknown vehicle (not for all villages), different from them, visiting their place! The same happens when unexposed Indians see a black or white foreigner. They stare because they’ve seen something not usual at their place and not because they have some malicious intention or are racist! Perhaps, racist is mind of those visiting folks who think the staring lot is being racist! And I hope, every foreigner who visits India and faces such a scenario reads this part of my comment before going back and whining…

Regarding Kalki’s racism allegations, I’m not sure how she could interpret “it’s my road, not yours” as racist! If she explained nothing further, then perhaps she was being racist instead of that lady. That old lady could’ve been kind of bullish and meant to have said the statement with a personal sentiment instead of racist (it’s MY road => the old lady’s since it’s in front of her house). But if Kalki provided some further details, then possibly her claims might be justified!

All said, I’d not refute the existence of racism in India. What may seem as racism in everyday Indian life is generally not racism. You might encounter people calling each other with terms, like bandar (monkey) considered racist in White nations. In India, such remarks are lovingly made! The thing is that people are never aware that some of their actions might bear a racist imprint, since racism here was never an issue before the advent of the British imperialism. Yes, India has seen Caste and Religion based discrimination for centuries, even the more recent regionalism and linguistic fanaticism could be termed indigenous- they’re because of India’s diversity, but racism certainly doesn’t have its roots in India. You have stark whites as well as stark blacks living in extreme North and extreme South India respectively. In between you have a mix of white, brown and black Indians. Such has been the demographics for millenia! This intermixing has been on since time immemorial! So you can’t accuse Indians in general to be racist towards whites and/or blacks. Any racism faced could have some insecurities behind or may be out of ignorance, a more common case.
Yet, racism in India is on a very gradual rise! You can never deny deliberate cases of racism here. Our own North-Easterners face deliberate as well as ignorance-driven racism here in North-West India, Delhi in particular. So yes India is developing a racist-temper, but so far as the various accusations leveled on India by foreigners and so-called impartial surveys on racism, they’re certainly too far outstretched without valid reason!!!


Sharell शारेल November 24, 2013 at 3:29 pm

Gosh, you had a lot to say! You’ll have to excuse me for not writing a detailed reply as I’m not actively updating this blog at the moment. I’m not particularly keen to reply to someone who interprets my blog title as racist either. What’s racist about saying I’m a “white Indian” (rather than a foreigner, which is what I’m constantly viewed as being in India)? It’s all in your mind. Should I be offended if my husband moves to Australia, feels at home there, and refers to himself as a brown Aussie?


Dilliwala November 24, 2013 at 10:56 pm

You yet again reveal your stereotypic mindset by assuming my whole content as critical of your blogpost based only on my opening line! I can’t help but stereotype your mindset based on your stereotypic reply! Better go through my comment before drawing conclusions.


Sharell शारेल November 25, 2013 at 12:03 pm

Sorry, but I don’t know what you’re on about. You are the one making assumptions. Where did I indicate that I considered your whole content to be critical of my blog post?

To quote you: “Better go through my comment before drawing conclusions.”

I said “I’m not particularly keen to reply to someone who interprets my blog title as racist”. That’s it!

The fact that I published your comment indicates that I was happy to let you have your say. However, as I indicated, I won’t be responding to it in detail because I’m not devoting time to updating this blog at the moment. In hindsight, not responding was a good decision to make. I hate to think what other assumptions you would’ve came up with.


umots December 8, 2013 at 1:24 pm

I think your husband won’t get any cookies if he migrates to Australia, identifies himself as a ‘brown aussie’ above all other characteristics of his being and then complains that he is not treated as one within the fold of ‘white aussies’. While I agree that Indians can be quite hostile to those not a part of the fold, I don’t think it is racism. Its xenophobia, a general fear and prejudice against those who aren’t ‘one of their own’. In most cases, it comes out of ignorance rather than any positive hostility – the type that is prevalent in those Eurocentric countries that have a law enforcement comparable to India (Belgrade comes to mind).
It isn’t racism unless you have been targeted for hostility that is based entirely on your projection of race (and not just because you happen to walk through a rather violent neighbourhood). As a North Eastern who lived in mainland India for years, got a finger on the pulse of the society AND travelled half the world, I have found Indians to be some of the least racist people that I have encountered. When a bloke tries to overcharge me at a tourist spot, I don’t think its his racism at play – but his assumption that I am wealthy enough to ‘afford’ being ripped.


Manny December 11, 2013 at 7:55 am

Very well put Umots… Indians can be nasty because they are aholes not because they are Racist! LOL :P


umots December 14, 2013 at 12:24 am

I am not sure I’d label Indians as assholes. Being an asshole is deliberate, like how Tamasha trolls when she is behind the safety of a computer screen. Most desis seem rude because they are crude, ignorant and superficial with very little capacity for complex thought – not very different from the average ‘God Bless America’ yank.


Kartashok March 24, 2014 at 1:27 am

Don’t refer to yourself as “living on the mainland”, you are part of the mainland too! You are one of us, don’t let the racists in the “mainland” tell you otherwise!


Monica December 6, 2013 at 10:33 am

Hi Sharell,

I am sorry to read about your bad experiences in India, and take your word for it.I have witnessed enough of those to be sure you are right. I am Indian, and can I say I am deeply ashamed every time I read/see such things?I’d like to tell you my own experience of alienation there. Though I am Indian myself, I was born in Africa(I used to be very light skinned for an Indian though) and my parents moved to India when I was 6. I didn’t know the local language(Tamil) at the time, but could only speak English and I am Christian and didn’t know the local customs. I was also a very expressive child. But my first few years were horrible. The other children in my class used to push me out of my seat, pull my hair , pinch and beat me – because they knew I did not know how to deal with them – I had never imagined I would need to. When I used to report to the teachers, who were themselves always over-worked and tired, I would get punished too. I grew up fast, but I learned the tricks of dealing with them with time and things got better. Now I live in the US. I frequently reflect on the fact that I was most harassed by people of my own country. The way to go about life is to not expect any kindness there, it would seem.
But, having related that account, I do think about whether the form of racism you are dealt with is not as severe as the kind I face(and I do, in the west) because I am brown. After all, the attitudes of white superiority have been so prevalent for generations now. You can argue that most Indians that treat others bad don’t know better, they are not educated, don’t have exposure to different cultures and are uncouth. But what do you say to those who are educated, exposed to other cultures but still hold those attitudes of superiority? Let me give you an example of what happened the other day. I have to say I am really petite and not at all scary to look at. I was getting in an elevator which already was occupied by a mother with her 2 children. I was with a white friend. I cannot explain to you how much more comfortable the mother felt about my friend than about me. Just because people don’t announce it on roof-tops doesn’t mean that their rejection cant be felt. Her body language clearly communicated to me, her discomfort with me. I also feel hurt sometimes when people assume I will be dirty/sloppy in my work / not have social skills or have a rounded personality just because I am Indian.
I am just sharing my thoughts with you. After coming to the US, there have been many, many times I thought it is good that I am brown, because it wont be so easy for me to look down on some other racial group. Your complaint is that they look up to you, how do you think you would feel if they looked down on you? Don’t you think that is worse?


Sandeep December 16, 2013 at 9:54 pm

Boycott these Indian Movie & Sports Stars and Companies in India spreading Racism through Advertisements that spread discrimination based on skin color!


N Nigam April 4, 2014 at 10:34 am

Greetings dear blogger,
Apropos your blog, The Other Side of Racism in India. The article is disjointed. Firstly, the title of your blog is a dead giveaway of your complete obsession of being white in India.Such an article is bound to have volatile comments.
My mother was ‘ Indian WHITE ‘ , whiter than you and my Dad is ‘Indian Red’. My very own real sister is WHITE and I took after my Dad and am RED. My brother was in between, quite fair. There is no racism in our family.Indians don’t practice racism. It is ethnicity.
Even an Indian born and brought up in India who may have spent 80 years of his/her life in different states couldn’t have seen all the varieties of color available.
I can prove and show you pure Indian with grey eyes and a person from Rajasthan with dark brown skin and green eyes. They are of only Indian origin. If you Google and see images of people from Gilgit province in Kashmir you will see what they look like.There are Indians in certain parts who have hair like Africans.
It will take half a century for you to travel and absorb all the information in India only then should you conclude.Everyday life on the street in a metropolitan, cosmopolitan city is not what theories should be based on.
There are streets in front of certain homes which are privately built by the owners. So they call it theirs. Kalki’s article that you have quoted rings horribly hollow.Usually , high handed people face such problems everywhere. They will face it even in their own native hometown.
Since you have married an Indian and chosen to live in India, it is for you to first read and learn in depth and not accuse with a single experience.
All the problems that you face are faced by all Indian women who have an iota of beauty in them.You are not the only one. You should get rid of this idea first.
Once again I can prove to you that all the problems you quote in this article are very normal faced by many in every country. It depends on the mood you are in, the way you may have reacted and EGO.
When I go to my village dressed in the latest fashion clothes in my long car all the kids come and touch me, pull my hair, ogle at me. The women tease me and pass comments like , ‘ rich lady, fashion queen, hoity toity ‘ in Hindi. It is because they are different and perhaps a little envious of me since I live in the city.
My aunts who live in Connecticut and New Jersey, USA have similar tales to tell where they are still not accepted and looked upon with disdain by ‘WHITES’ due to brown skin even after 35 years.My Irish sister – in – law doesn’t have any of the problems you do ,when she visits India.Neither does my husband’s Chinese sister-in-law.
As such, Mumbai does not exactly represent a typical Indian city. It is too artificial,that’s why it is called Tinsel city.
India will be the way you are with it. Indians are very perceptive and can see and understand from the eyes and body language even before the mouth opens.
Wishing you luck in your life.


Athena May 5, 2014 at 6:24 am

All I can say is, wow! Thank you for writing this brilliant article. I live in Canada and am mixed-white (Georgian Russian and Scottish). I recently went into a small Indian grocer (Surrey, BC) to get some prepackaged Indian food. When I walked in, every single Indian person stopped talking and stared at me. No thank you for my purchase, nothing. It was a small incident and doesn’t qualify as serious racism but it was an attitude that told me I wasn’t welcome, even though I was born and raised here!


Ib-itz May 5, 2014 at 8:41 am

Back in the 1980′s I was going to college in Vancouver and one day in the student lounge, I was part of a three person conversation on our personal music tastes. One person was a Canadian-born Chinese fellow, one was a Malaysian-Chinese immigrant and myself, a Canadian born “white”. The Malaysian-Chinese lady spoke of her admiration for Motown music and how blacks and Chinese have rhythm. She glared straight at me and said, “not like you whites, you whites have no rhythm at all”. Her hatred at that moment was most palpable. Most memorable.


Sharell शारेल July 16, 2013 at 11:02 pm

You’ll note that he’s clarified his position on the matter, and so have I. He didn’t intend it as a racial slur, and I didn’t know it was one!


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