By Devanshu Narang in Toronto, ON
Time to stop sugar-coating and say it as it is.
White privilege. White power. White preposterousness. They exist. Period.
The first two, privilege and power, are externally evident, historically as well as socially proven facts that have, are and will drive the world for decades if not centuries.
Preposterousness is seeded internally in the minds of White people when the colour white seeps in from the skin and makes them believe that they are superior to other races and have the right to rule over them and accept them as civilized humans only on their terms.
You do not need to look at a White supremacist or a KKK/ Neo Nazi supporter to understand what I am talking about.
There are tens, if not hundreds of stories in any coloured man’s (Ed note: or woman’s) life in interactions with racist ‘ordinary’ common White men and women. As you grow older, your experiences become ‘richer’ or ‘poorer’ as you may like to name them. For the White man cannot differentiate between your beard or skull cap at the place of worship, and that of the terrible-sounding Mullah or a Sikh priest in some distant land who may be shown as issuing sermons against Western civilization. You may be a part of their community and a law-abiding, ordinary citizen of their country; but your colour, culture, language, accent or religion are giveaways and make you an outcast in the society even if you or your children are first, second or seventh generation immigrants.
Forget the White supremacist or racist; many among so-called accepting, understanding, liberal, left-leaning White people feel heroic and expect to be treated as special when they extend humanly treatment to people of colour. After all, they have shown benevolence in treating that different human earthling as equal. Hail thy greatness! Shame on me for not considering this as an act of kindness but just normal human behaviour. After all, I am not living in that crazy Third World of mine where I was equal and have moved to the White world where I should feel privileged to be treated as one.
Today, the pain of the Chirstchurch shooting runs deep. Yesterday it was Quebec City and Wisconsin. Tomorrow it could be some other city, somewhere else. It won’t stop. It has never before.
And mark my words, while there is a forced silence, a muted response or even an outward symbol of support, the feeling is temporary. After all, this is not how White people consider they are, and a Brenton Tarrant or an Andres Breivik are not a product of hate and mistrust running deep, but just aberrations. And God forbid: they are not terrorists. Only a Brown or a Black man can be a terrorist. White people: they could be ‘mistaken,’ but definitely not terrorists. Terrorism specifically excludes Whiteness. Even ‘the great leader’ himself considers that there are ‘fine people’ even on the extreme right side of White supremacists, and that it is not all but only a few who could be bad apples.
But the moment any act of violence or dissent is carried out in the Western world by a coloured person, all hell breaks loose and anti-immigrant, religion or colour stories spread like wildfire; and the right wing subsequently takes charge of another country or region, supported by common people. Common coloured men like me feel scared the moment they enter a subway of being mistakenly thrown on the tracks, and mothers continue to wait to sleep till their sons reach back home (especially if their sons grow a rebellious beard).
Today we live in a delusional world where we conveniently blame a few right wingers for spreading hate and venom and dividing people for their gains. However, these people exist because racism runs deep among average common citizens.
Donald Trump got elected as President of the most powerful democracy in the world, not on his own with the help of his venomous campaign or the support of just the right wing. But, by the actual votes cast by the silent majority of White people who supported his ideology and views. Externally these voters may have sounded accepting to their coloured community members or co-workers; but in that room when they marked their vote on the ballot, their mind clearly spoke out in favour a person who was standing to make America hate again and transform the land into a symbol of White power.
Canada too is waiting for its turn with emotions running high. Andrew Scheer feels that it is his time as Trump’s message has clearly divided the communities in Canada, and the committed Conservative right wing is in the right frame of mind. With Liberals facing one scandal after another, and the common White man quizzical if not disgusted by that Brown man in a turban desperately trying to lead the other party, his chances are strong. So obviously, he has to chose his words carefully even in giving condolences in order to ensure that his statements do not alienate his base. And off course there have been and there will be other suitable times to generate religious, cultural or colour-based phobia to ensure that the ‘common’ citizen comes to the Right frame of mind to vote.
Do we have hope still (and I am not talking politically for regime changes but in our day-to-day lives)? Can racism become a story of the past in cities becoming more diverse and in the world turning into a global village? Would we mingle and be a melting pot, or still prefer our ghettos?
Honestly, I feel it is difficult to hope in the Western world because White privilege runs deep and it is not going to be given away so easily, even in an extremely diverse city like Toronto! We need a paradigm shift in the mindset for people to become colour blind.
We get conditioned by how society makes us believe or our own experiences; and I myself have gotten influenced by how the White world has treated me over a decade, and how I have become a second or a third-class citizen in my adopted country. Yet, I guess I cannot give up, and must make that extra effort to open my heart out in the hope that one day the warmth of our soul is enough to touch our hearts and make us truly believe that we are one.
Privilege and power. Let preposterousness be given away, and then we will have a way! Amen.
Devanshu Narang is a writer, performer and author of Naurang: Nine Shades of Life.