Blogs Editor's Picks Latest Top Stories

Children of a lesser god: the ugly face of racism and discrimination

“We just live with racism every day. It’s like getting up, washing your face and having a cup of tea,” An Australian Indigenous woman stated during the Orange NSW consultations.

These words resonate with millions of the globe over from Asia to Europe to America, minorities or certain ethnic groups face bitter realities every day.

Facts shared by the Council of Europe revealed that discrimination, xenophobia and racism are widespread in many parts of the world: there are around 160 million Dalits (untouchables) in India bracing the hate of the caste system.

“In the USA, the race is a key factor in determining who is to be sentenced to death. Hospitals in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary have practiced involuntary sterilisation of Roma women.”

Discrimination of any kind is a trauma that is unfortunately faced by people of all ages. It leaves serious marks on the mind and body of people that result in severe depression, sleep disorders, stress, anxiety, heart diseases and diabetes to name a few.

Needless to say that no society is free from this evil no matter how much advancement it has shown in the world. Developed countries are discovering the universe beyond planet Earth; however, they are not much interested to find a solution to this deep-rooted earthly evil.

Desolation of untouchable Dalits

Asia is home to millions of different races and ethnic groups each with a different culture and Identity. Unfortunately social or religious minorities face hardships beyond words.

“Dalits (broken, scattered in the Sanskrit language) are not allowed to drink from the same wells, attend the same temples, wear shoes in the presence of an upper caste, or drink from the same cups in tea stalls,” said Smita Narula, a senior researcher with Human Rights Watch to National geographic.

“There have been large-scale abuses by the police, acting in collusion with upper castes, including raids, beatings in custody, failure to charge offenders or investigate reported crimes… But at the national level, very little is being done to implement or enforce the laws.”

A 13-year-old Dalit girl Gayatri Gordhanbhai Purbiya shares her miserable story: “I live with my parents in Vautha village in Dholkataluka of Ahmedabad district. I study in a government school in my village. Discrimination is practiced against me in my school. The Darbar girls by mistake if they get touched by me then they sprinkle water to purify themselves.”

She further narrated” “I am not allowed to participate in cultural programs. I am not allowed to sing the prayer in my school. Once a week I clean my classroom. I also clean one urinal and one toilet once a week in my school. Thrice in a month, I go to Darbar locality to get leftover food. I also go to do dragging of dead dogs and rats and in return, I get one kilo of grains. In my school, I get a turn to clean but not to sing a prayer. Whenever it’s the turn of Darbar girls to do cleaning work in the school, they come late from their homes and so we have to do the cleaning work. But they do not do the same if we come late to the school.”

Discrimination on any ground undermines the physical and mental health of adults let alone the children. American Academy of Paediatrics shared a study, published in 1998, that demonstrated a graded relationship between childhood exposure to various forms of abuse, neglect, and household stressors and risk for adult health problems, including mental health conditions (substance use, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder) and physical health conditions (ie, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disorders, cancer, emphysema, diabetes, fractures).

 A twist to caste system

Caste system has another colour in Pakistan. Various castes see themselves superior than others. This is a form of social segregation. Great discrimination is faced by many at work place, educational institutes or local communities just because of coming from lower castes. Incidents of murder over marrying outside family or caste are common and reported by media.

In one such incident, reported by an local English daily newspaper, a 20-year-old girl from Peshawar was murdered by her brothers and father for attempting to marry a man outside her biradari (caste, family) and for bringing shame to the family.

Social discrimination because of poverty is ruthlessly common. Poor Muslim, Hindus and Christians also have to face the issue of bonded labour at the hands of rich landlords or brick kiln owners. This has been happening generation after generation as an inheritance.

Roma gypsies: always struggling

In this age of advancement and technology in Europe the story of Roma people sounds untrue. Could this be really happening in a continent where many countries are part of G8? In a European Convention on Human Rights 2010 the discrimination with Roma gypsies who are one of the oldest natives of Europe was highlighted. “School children of Roma origin who were placed in “special schools” intended for pupils with learning disabilities.

They received a substantially inferior education to that provided in ordinary primary schools, with the result that they have been denied access to secondary education other than in vocational training centres.

Rohingya Muslims: a case of religious discrimination 

Religious or sectarian discrimination is another notorious issue faced by many. In 2017, in Myanmar campaign of “ethnic cleansing” against the Muslim Rohingya initiated in western Myanmar, brutally killing thousands. More than 700,000 were forced to flee to Bangladesh.

It was truly a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” as the UN called it. Despite the UN calls no other country took any practical step to stop this brutality and barbarism. Not even the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) played any significant role.

European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia reports that “Muslim women are at the centre of heated public debates… an issue (of) wearing a headscarf is often interpreted by non-Muslims as a symbol of oppression and subordination. The issue of the headscarf is complex and multifaceted.”

Public comments such as “we don’t want veiled women”, are common in the country.

French public opinion on Muslims particularly on Muslim women is worrisome. According to some opinion polls, the French Muslim community is the least tolerant population, with 53% of positive responses and only 26% of the French population having a positive image of Islam.

From a gender perspective, Muslim women are very negatively perceived in the country. Around 93% of the French population considers that wearing Islamic religious symbols such as the headscarf and full-face veil constitutes a barrier to “co-existence” (vivre-ensemble) as reported by European Network against Racism.

This discrimination is faced at the workplace, educational institutes and common social gathering places alike.

Eight major European countries ie Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom have been highlighted in different International organisations for religious discrimination against Islam in Europe.

As per a report by European Network against Racism (ENAR) in Germany, 18% of companies surveyed invited applicants with German-sounding names to an interview, while only 13% invited applicants with Turkish-sounding names. For applications from Muslim women with a headscarf in the CV photo, only 3% of the companies invited them to an interview. In Belgium, 44% of employers agree that wearing a headscarf can negatively influence the selection of candidates.

These astonishing figures clearly show that the civilized nations of Europe are unable to tolerate the religious differences that are harmless in any way to any society.

 Discrimination against migrants

Discrimination against migrants is not new to mention. If governments are allowing migrants then why these people have to suffer at the hands of the local people.

It is also the responsibility of the governments to develop a sense of tolerance among the natives to create peace and harmony among the locals and migrants. The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford claims that 16% of migrants in Great Britain in 2018 said that (they are)… ‘members of a group that is discriminated against in this country because of their colour, race, nationality, religion, language or ethnicity. In the UK, a recent field experiment conducted by Di Stasio and Heath (2019) revealed that applicants who were born or whose parents were born in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sub-Saharan Africa or the Caribbean were less likely to receive a positive response from the UK employers compared to applicants without an ethnic minority or migrant background.

Studies conducted in Western European countries found that at least one-third of all advertised vacancies were closed to applicants from ethnic minority groups as a result of discriminatory hiring practices.

According to the report, “overall discrimination rates of up to 35% were not uncommon,” meaning that at least one in every three job applications posed by migrant/ethnic minority candidates met with discrimination. This injustice is ignored and rarely put in the news.

The invisible chains of African Americans and Native Americans

In the USA the case of African American is a harsh reality. Even after winning second-class independence, they do not enjoy much freedom from discrimination.

African Americans face severe application of the law. Blacks are stopped by the police, arrested and imprisoned in numbers significantly out of proportion to their general numbers.

The practice of racial profiling by the police is widespread. There is ample evidence that black motorists are disproportionately stopped by the police for minor motoring offences because they are assumed to be engaging in more serious criminal activity.

“My race/identity forms a large aspect of my identity because it influences a lot of the treatment that I receive. As a black woman here in America, there are inevitably negative connotations associated with my racial group. Whether it be violence, bruteness or a lack of emotional connection with others.

There are positive things about my racial group, but it is rarely acknowledged unless blatantly emphasised,” a 17-year-old black girl reported to the American Academy of Paediatrics.

“I’m multiracial so I’ve received racism from a lot. Black people won’t accept me because I have ‘white people assets’ and white people won’t accept me because I look black,” another 19-year-old black young girl reported to the American Academy of Paediatrics.

The story of Native American is also as horrifying as the African Americans. They have faced land losses, massacre, poverty, deprivation of health and education facilities and elimination of their culture, heritage as well as religion.

The Native Americans face significant discrimination across a wide range of areas of life. They report personal experiences of many forms of discrimination. Reported the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health after conducting a series of surveys on Discrimination in America.

“Roughly one-third of Native Americans say they have personally experienced anti-Native discrimination in the workplace or when interacting with police.

Nearly one in five Native Americans have considered moving because of discrimination”

According to Minority Rights Group, the number of Native American language speakers continues to decline and a growing number of Native American children are monolingual English-speakers.

Native American communities also still face issues of cultural and religious freedoms, including the denial of access to religious sites, prohibitions on the use or possession of sacred objects, and restrictions on their ability to worship through ceremonial and traditional means.

Online racial discrimination

The stories of cultural, social and religious discrimination have never ceased in history. There is always a modern way of discrimination. Media and technology have also turned into a weapon.

Brenda M Tynes, an author and professor of education and psychology at USC Rossier School of Education is considered an expert on cyberbullying and online racial discrimination in her article (Online racial discrimination: A growing problem for adolescents) shares figures from a study that 44% of minority youth indicated that they had experienced online discrimination on a social network site.

As many as 22% of minority youth indicated that they had experienced online discrimination through text messages. some 21%of minority youth indicated that they had experienced online discrimination on Twitter and YouTube. Minorities are shared racist jokes, images and even death threat just because of a different race.

Right for respect and equality: a relentless struggle

Would mankind ever enter an age of peace, tolerance and justice? International organisations collect data and figures and present their researches with horrifying facts and realities. However, local governments do not pay much heed.

Most of the people stay out of the hands of the law and as reported above many of the law agencies are part of this whole act of discrimination.

Unfortunately, billions of stories are read, heard and observed globe over about social, cultural and religious discrimination and typically to no avail.

An Indigenous Australian participant in the Orange NSW consultation on 24 July 2001 rightly stated:

“I don’t want to be tolerated. You can tolerate a headache. I want to have respect and equality.”