What is it about mankind that loves to make difference the most important aspect in social interactions? Why, even when our humanity tells us that we are the same, do we insist on proving the existence of inferiority? It makes me angry. This anger was sparked due to a new endeavor I am about to embark upon. This time next week I will be in Mumbai, India taking a class on poverty, policy and community building. I am excited about having this opportunity to explore a new part of the world, yet I have to wonder, how will I be received? I mean, there is not exactly a plethora of Black American youth walking around the streets of India.
Will I be judged for decades of news and media that portrays black youth as violent, uneducated, and unemployed? Will I be stereotyped because most people will have seen movies life Nutty Professor, Madea goes to jail, or Big Momma’s House before ever meeting or interacting with a Black person? Will I just be stared at for being the darkest person in the room with my proud natural and conscious afro? I am not sure how I will be received and ultimately, the details are less important than the overall social context in which I am entering into. India is one of the fastest growing and developing counties in the world. In 15 years they are projected to surpass China’s currently held title as the most populated country in the world. I am now only beginning to understand the complexities and nuances built into the fabric of society in this country. And I am sure over the next four weeks I will be sharing anecdotes, experiences, struggles, problematics, and growth that a new environment will bring to my life (unless we have another Hip Hop artist coming out the closet, then I’ll have to put those thoughts on hold).
The first thing that sticks out to me about Mumbai is of course its racial politics. As far as phenotype goes, it is difficult to tell any significant difference between the different social groups in Mumabi, yet they have still figured out a way to marginalize, discriminate, and oppress a certain group of people. In India there is something called the caste system that has historically separated indians into four different groups. The social caste system has determined the rich from the poor, the privileged from the under privileged and the oppressed from the benefactors of oppression.
According to the orthodox Hindu belief as contained in rigvedic hymn purushsukta, the four “varnas” or social orders emerged out of the body of primeval man. The fours orders are:
Brahmins: intellectual elite, the priest, assigned to ritual and religious duties.
Kshatriyas: constituted ruling nobility and the warriors of the olden days.
Vaisyas: engaged in activities of the production of the distribution of wealth, agriculture, trade, commerce, baking, ect
Shudra: the labour force
And Dalits were out side of the Hindu four fold Varna referred to as outcaste or untouchables. These individuals were considered less than human due to their type of work. One of these days I am going to find a place in the world that hasn’t historically marginalized a group of people. For now, I remain curious of what this vast and complex location will reveal to me and my understanding of the world.