Why Color Matters

As a child, I never really realized how much skin color mattered. In retrospect, maybe I should have. My very first memories are from the time my family and I were based in UK. I knew I looked different from the rest of my class, my skin was brown and theirs was white. My mother used to tell me it was because I was special and I truly believed her. Little did I know that it was really the other way around.

I lived in an Indian society, and all of my closest friends were as brown as I was. I had a few white friends too, but I don’t recall going to their house of playing after school. Yet, back then, it didn’t seem odd, I was still the special one. Once we moved back to India, I felt more comfortable in my own skin. I didn’t just survive here, I thrived. I spoke my mind openly, I participated in every possible activity I could, and I even made friends that I still cherish. Maybe it had to do with not being the odd one out anymore, maybe it had to do with me growing up, I will never know. It wasn’t until I grew up that I realized the significance of skin color.

In the 9th grade, my family and I decided to go for a vacation to the USA. We went for a great cruise and met some family friends along the way. This was probably my first brush with the concept of skin colour. Every internal flight we took, and there were six of them, we were the group with four S’s on their boarding passes. In case you aren’t aware of what that means, it means Secondary Security Screening Selection. This basically means you are felt up from every angle possible, and your neatly packed suitcase shall now be a hazardous mess. Apparently, the SSSS is random. I however, find it extremely hard to believe that every single time, the four of us were the ones who were “randomly” selected. My mother whispered into my very worried ear,” Beta, humari chamdi ka rang dekh ke faisla kiya hai.” This made me pervious to the thought process of the enlightened world. Color matters. It seems to go like this: the darker you are, the more you shall be condemned.

Nowadays, it just makes me sad. In the last two weeks, I’ve read about a hostage situation leading to 22 deaths in Dhaka, the murder of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, and the Dallas shooting. It can be argued that one situation had religion at its root cause while the other had racism. To me, it all bows down to one simple fact. People who did not deserve to die are now dead, and it isn’t because of religion or racism, it’s because of ignorance. Statistics show that 31% of the police killings in 2012 were killings of black people, even though they account for just 13% of the US population. Those number gives us a slightly clearer picture of how authorities deal with colored masses in the western world. When the police, who are meant to serve and protect can’t put their prejudices aside, what can we expect from the common folk?

The Dallas shooting caused the death of 5 police officers and it left 7 injured. The suspect claimed he wanted to “kill white people-especially white officers”. I read something on a friend’s timeline, “A black man is killed by cops and the media prints his prior records. A white teen rapes a girl and the media prints his swim time.” This made me very aware of how the media decides to publish their stories. Marsha Mcluhan said, “the medium is the message.” The media is supposed to be indifferent to perspective and is supposed to report the worldly occurring’s without any bias, but I’m old enough to know that isn’t true and Mcluhan was right. The media is also made up of people who have different perspectives, opinions and unfortunately, predispositions. This also flows through the information the media provides us with and inadvertently affects the way we think.

The shooting was a devastating tragedy. Officers who were potentially not at fault ended up losing their lives. That is exactly what is wrong with our world. It was a reaction to an action that has been repeated time and time again because of deeply embedded prejudices in society and the innocent paid the price. It costed officers their lives while the officers who actually pulled the triggers are still alive, well, and on paid administrative leave. If only the people responsible were also the ones held accountable.

The world has a problem with stereotyping and generalizing traits according to skin colour, religion, and profession. It happens all too much. Islam is a violent religion because a few men with the wrong idea decided to take matters in their own hands, all black people are thugs because poverty lead some black men to the thug life, all police officers are racist because a couple of them took the lives of innocent black men. It’s a never-ending cycle of blaming an entire community for the fault of a few.

Color shouldn’t matter, but somehow it does. White, black, brown or yellow, all men and women should be equal, but they aren’t. No one of us should be special, entitled or above the others but there are people who believe they are (Donald Trump for instance). That’s what needs to change, but there is no end to prejudice. There shall always be people who can’t see through the veil of stereotypes and bias, and there shall always be people who want to enforce their will on others by hook or by crook. We can blame it all on color, religion, profession, education and upbringing, but does the blame game really help the cause here? It’s about time we look past what happened and look at why it did. It’s the only plausible solution to cycle of violence and hate riding through society today.

 

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