Two days back, like most other sensible Indians, I did a facepalm when I listened to Sam Pitroda aka Uncle Sam’s mindboggling (read mind-numbing) monologue on India’s beautiful unity in diversity. The look on his face can only be termed righteous as he proudly talked about how Indians from the East looked like Chinese, the West looked like Arabs, the North looked like Whites and the South looked like Africans. Even as I listened to it, I could anticipate the meme fest and the backlash that would follow in just a few minutes. Rightly so, I would say, because no person, let alone a senior member of a leading political party, should think it is okay to segregate the people of a country based on their looks and equate their looks to people from other nations. No matter what they say the intent was, that is a statement that robs people of their pride in being a citizen of this nation.

This statement becomes especially problematic considering how the very statement he made has time and again – in fact, continuously – been a racial slur used by our own people to bully those from other parts of the country. The ones who have faced this racial attack the most have been those from the North Eastern states, who have been called “Chinkis” and outsiders, told they were not Indians and treated with utmost disrespect. And while the “White-looking Northies” and “African-looking Southies” is made to sound innocent, it is nothing but a reflection of the long-standing discrimination and body-shaming based on colour, which true to its colonial roots, has been considered the parameter of superiority and inferiority. Even today, when the newfound concept of pan-Indian movies and their success are celebrated, there are umpteen comments about how “these ugly, black Madrasi uncles want to romance our fair and beautiful girls from the North.” And sure enough, there are enough comments in reply about how the Northies are all “offsprings of goras whose DNA is not Indian.”

And it is in this country that Uncle Sam makes his statement echoing the very same sentiments, disguised as his flowery discourse of unity in diversity and tries to get away with his “good intentions.” Dear God!

Someone like Sam Pitroda making a statement like this was reason enough for a backlash. But the backlash I saw from many online has been nothing but a testament of the ingrained “black means inferior,” “black means primitive,” “black means belittling” mindset of our people. In their response to Sam Pitroda and his stupid statement, these people had made a mockery of what it meant to be “Africans,” even for the Africans themselves. These people had overtly and covertly used the term “Africans” as an insult under the garb of satire, like they have always done even prior to this discourse from Sam Pitroda. And these people were responding mainly to being compared to “Africans,” not exactly to the act of comparing, which should have been the point of focus. For at least a few of them, it would have been less of an “insult” if the comparison was to someone fairer in complexion – and that is the unvarnished truth.

If we want to make sure that no other Uncle Sams come out with similar grandiloquent idiocy, it is not him that we should fight first, it is our own highly deplorable standards of “good looks” and superiority, and our own shameless practices of discrimination. It is for us to first think of ourselves as a country before attacking the ones who are only encouraged by our own divisive thoughts.

Also published on Medium.