Seldom, there are any instances of racism in Pakistan.
This sentence can be defied by a number of people who have been victims of racial discrimination and have been belittled on this. Color has been one of subcontinent’s obsession from a very long time. This obsession is observed in the advertisement of fairness creams, whitening injections, and the blatant desire to get wives with fair skin. The recent focus of the world towards black lives matter movement has caused many Pakistani celebrities and people to come forward to show their support for this movement. Ayesha Omar, Mahira Khan, and Momina Mustehsan all stated that they have never promoted fairness creams and stand with the notion and idea of Black lives movement. Despite so much backlash on the racial discrimination and humiliation, the problem of looking at the dark color with inferiority still exists in our society. There are deep-seated practices and ideals that make it difficult to bring down the structure incorporating racist ideals.
Let’s talk about the birth of a child. Firstly, the most important question of our respectable society members at the time of birth is of gender. Birth of a male child is celebrated by the masses while birth of female child isn’t celebrated in that manner by some people. Then the question comes of color. The family and the relatives show a strange happiness if the child is fair. It can be established that these practices are a reflection of our racially discriminated society. Throughout his life, a person has to face lot of humiliation for having dark complexion. This includes the casual remarks passed as jokes by friends, people around them looking at them suspiciously, and even security guards suspecting them. It sounds horrendous of how this still exists in our society. One of the very prominent examples can be observed among the Baloch society. Blacker Baloch are considered not pure or complete Baloch. They are seen to be part of lower strata of social hierarchy. Other than this, there exist many examples of discrimination. This is one example of racial discrimination in the society.
I studied in one of the renowned schools in Karachi and I faced discrimination there on the basis of color. Many of the classmates passed remarks on my color and my appearance that can be regarded as bullying. I was also once stopped from entering a mall and the security guard asked me my purpose of visit. One can argue that these aren’t types of systematic discrimination and weren’t hindrances in a stable life. This is partially true as such small events prove very deteriorating towards a person’s self-esteem and confidence. I later started my Bachelors at a reputable university. I was still able to detect daily life instances of discrimination. I was asked to show my identity card at university’s gate. This might sound normal but when other students were allowed to enter without showing their cards then it can be classified as direct discrimination. I was further asked to show my card in one of the university’s buildings which I haven’t seen happening to any other students. It might be argued that this was a security protocol but a person who has seen such instances happening in his life might go as far as stating these events to be racial discrimination.
These examples of racial discrimination are so common that they have been normalized and incorporated in the society’s structure of norms and values. Color is considered an important factor at the time of marriage. Everyone casually uses words like ‘Kaala’ and ‘Habshi’. Even the former captain of Pakistan’s cricket team passed a racist remark on a West Indies team player ‘Andile Phehlukwayo’. After receiving the backlash on his statement, he apologized. This shows how casually the problem is dealt here that a sportsman can go on to make racist remarks at an international stage. All the racist remarks and belittling develops a mental pressure on a person and every such moment is remembered by the victim. This creates self-doubt and the person question his/her existence. In extreme cases the person might develop symptoms of clinical depression.
Being someone who has faced racial discrimination, I can say that it can cause hindrance in building confidence or might make it difficult for someone to get along with people. The person might start looking at everyone as engaging in discriminatory activities. The person might also start underestimating himself and regard himself as very low. The ongoing events have played an important role in increasing awareness regarding racial discrimination. This has shed light on some of the malign practices like calling names and preference for a marital partner with fair complexion. If we want to completely eradicate the racial discriminatory practices then a collective effort is required in the lower as well as the upper class. There should also be mass campaigns to develop realization in the society that using racial discriminatory remarks and practices are wrong and immoral in all walks of life.
How to End this Discrimination Cycle?
If this whole system of racial discrimination has to be eradicated then some reforms and change of practices have to be observed at different levels.
Firstly, this idea of searching for a fair complexion wife or husband has to end and the focus should be on qualification and personality while looking for potential marital partners.
Secondly, we should realize that jokes containing racial discrimination can be offensive and should be highly discouraged in our society. Formal institutions can also play a vital part in changing the mindset of the society.
Government can start by targeting young minds. It can broadcast cartoons and movies containing protagonists from all walks of life and colors. The stories should also not uphold saintliness being associated with fair complexion.
Another formal institution that can play a major part is school. Schools should provide knowledge regarding racial discrimination at primary levels. They should drive the students to practice the ability to critically evaluate societal norms and to be able to differentiate between the dos and don’ts in the society. They should also include stories that tell the humiliation and hindrances faced by people on the basis of color.
Local examples should be extensively included in it to highlight areas of problem in our societal structures.
All these efforts will help to establish a widespread awareness towards the discriminatory practices and children will themselves avoid indulging in such acts. This can bring a collective change among the masses as every schools’ student will become aware of these issues in our society. It can be a positive step towards forming a society with no or minimal racial discrimination.