Thursday, April 20, 2017 Reprint: African American Dave Adali's Response To The Question "What Is The Most Racist Country You Visited As A Tourist??"

Edited by Azizi Powell

This pancocojams post features Dave Adali's entire April 4, 2016 [updated Aoril 19, 2016] response to the question "What is the most racist nation you have ever visited as a tourist?".

A few selected comments that were published on that site in response to Dave Adali's comment are also included in this pancocojams post.

The content of this post is presented for socio-cultural purposes.

I showcase internet articles and hyperlinks to those articles on this blog as a means of sharing information and perspectives.

I encourage visitors of this pancocojams blog who are interested in this subject to visit that website and read other comments that were published in response to this particular reprint as well as other comments that were published in response to that question.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to for provided a forum for discussion of the subject of racism and colorism around the world and thanks to Dave Adali for his comments on this subject. Thanks also to all those who are quoted in this post.

From What is the most racist country you visited as a tourist?

"In which country did you have the most racist experiences?" Please state your home country as well as all the other countries you have visited to put the answer in context.

Dave Adali, an American, had a poignant answer to it.

Dave Adali, Updated Apr 19, 2016
I am an African-American in the IT field and I have thus far had the good fortune to live and travel extensively throughout Western and parts of Eastern Europe and many countries in Asia. I have lived or traveled in the UK and most of the EU countries as well as Taiwan, Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia and several other Asian countries including India.

Of all the countries I have been to, India ranks way up there among the most 'racist', IMHO. Indians aren't so much 'racist' as they are intolerant. Indians discriminate against fellow citizens to a degree that I have NEVER encountered in ANY other country. Without a doubt, Indians are the the most color obsessed people I have ever encountered anywhere in the world. No doubt because of all that saturation advertisements for 'Fair and Lovely', 'Fair and Handsome' and all manners of skin-whitening creams, lotions, soaps etc. Even if you are 100% Indian, your fellow Indians might still discriminate against you on the basis of the color of your skin, which region of India you come from, what language you speak, your religion, your caste etc, etc.

If you are of obvious African ancestry, including African-American, you can find life really, really tough in India if you are going to be in India for a while. Indians can be such unabashed, in your face racists. In the interest of fairness, I should point out that oftentimes, lighter-skinned Indians despise darker-skinned Indians every bit as much as much as they despise us people of African ancestry. Apart from that, there is also considerable antipathy between North Indians and South Indians

Indians outside of India endlessly complain about the intolerance and racism they have to put up with in places like Europe, the US, Canada, Australia, the Middle East and even Africa. These very same Indians conveniently choose to ignore the fact that Indians themselves can be such pathological bigots against their fellow Indians, other Asians and especially people of African ancestry. `. In Amritsar, one of my best friends was Gyan, a Nepali whom I initially mistook for a Chinese. Indians disdainfully call him "Chinki" or "Bahadur", which Gyan hated. As a matter of fact, Indian citizens from India's North-Eastern states, who often have Chinese facial features are routinely referred to, usually disparagingly as 'Chinkis'.

I have a very good friend 'Terrence', also an African-American in the IT field. His wife 'Rekha' is the the assertive and independent-minded daughter of Gujarati Jains who arrived in the US when 'Rekha' was 7 years old. She and her husband met in graduate school and have been married more than ten years now. They have got 3 kids, all of them with dark complexion and curly hair, physical traits which her relatives back in Gujarat hated. When 'Rekha' took her kids to Gujarat for the first time, her Gujarati relatives took to calling them, usually disparagingly, 'Africans' and 'Blackies'. 'Rekha' finally had enough, especially since the older kids were now old enough to understand what was being said about them. So 'Rekha' gave the offending relatives the following ultimatum,' 'Treat my kids right. or get out of my life - and stay out of my life!'

India is a great country to visit briefly, because the country itself is endlessly fascinating. An American journalist once described India as "a land of jarring incongruities". That is what makes India such a worthwhile tourist destination.

Some African-Americans have sought my advice about going to Indian for hands-on IT training. My stock advice to them is. be prepared to deal with unabashed in-your-bigotry because Indians hate dark-skinned people, including fellow-Indians. You can expect to have things even worse if you are somebody of African ancestry. As for housing, be prepared to live long term in a hotel. Available housing can be hard to get even if you are an Indian. Because Indian landlords routinely discriminate even against fellow Indians who happen to be from the 'wrong' part of India, speak the 'wrong' language, belong to the 'wrong' religion or caste etc. As somebody of African ancestry, you face a double whammy in a culture that hates dark skin. If you are Caucasian or White, you should be alright, since the people automatically show respect for white-skinned people. Heck, I have seen Indians discriminating against fellow Indians in favor of White foreigners.

This is NOT an anti-Indian rant, just my experiences and observations.

My apologies in advance for any toes I might step upon

This is a Post Script to my answer:

When I originally posted my answer, I was bracing myself to get 'flamed' and abused by a lot of very angry Indians. Such has not been the case however, which I find very gratifying. We should be able to voice dissenting opinions without resorting to abuse and name-calling.

Some of the Indians here here expressed the hope or belief that the caste system and Indians' obsession with fair skin will soon go away. As a realist, I have to face the fact that these types of things do not disappear overnight. India's caste system is here to stay for the foreseeable future, and a lot of the blame for that IMHO lies with Indian politicians and their 'Vote Banks'. These 'Vote Banks' are so rampant, and they appeal to constituents along communal, religious or caste etc, etc (often artificial) lines. So instead of uniting people and communities, these politicians simply drive communities even further apart with all sorts of politically convenient wedge issues. And these 'Vote Banks' aren't going away anytime soon."
-end of Dave Adali's response to this question-

Pancocojams Editor: I initially retrieved this article/response and the comments given below in 2016. my latest retrieval of this article and its comments was April 20, 2017.


Pancocojams Editor:
These selected comments are from the same internet link that is given above. I've numbered them for referencing purposes only. All of these comments, excerpt one* are from early April 2016.
*#15 below was published in May 2016.

1. Erik-Cristian Seulean
"When I was in India, as a blond white guy, I felt that sometimes people were looking at me like at a piece or art or an animal caged in a zoo. In any place I was walking I got hundreds (yes hundreds) of people stopping me to take pictures. Entire families stopping for pictures with me. The most desturbing one was in a safari, I was taking pictures to tigers walking 10 meters away from us and the people on the shared jeep were taking pictures of me and felt more amazed by me instead of the tiger."

2. Dave Adali
"As an African-American in India, I had similar experiences too. Excited crowds of kids and even adults pointing at me and calling me 'kala, kalu, kale. etc' That did NOT offend me at all, since these are simply words that mean 'black' in Hindi and other Indian dialects. According to the Indian census figures for 2010, 73% of Indians still live in the types of small towns and villages where everybody knows almost everybody. So India if for the most part a very agrarian society, although that is hard to believe when you see India's super-congested, mega cities. As a visitor to India, you will likely be dealing with lots of unsophisticated, small-town hicks who are likely 'rustics' from the countryside. Such Indians are not sophisticated in the ways of the world outside their countryside villages."

3. Niladri Seth
Dave, you should know that 'kalu' and 'kale' and 'kala' ARE insults - not just neutral descriptors. They are hostile and contemptuous descriptors of skin colour. There are neutral ways of describing skin colour in Hindi (eg 'saanvla') but 'kalu', 'kale' and 'kala' are insulting and loaded with contempt. Just letting you know, so you can take care and know who's your friend and who isn't."

4. Ikram Khan
"Haha, well the thing is, anyone who's uncommon or unique among the majority faces this! Even, the North eastern Indian's who look pretty similar to Chinese, face this issue, of being stared at idiotically. Weird, but hope thing's change ASAP."

5. Sanjay Sabnani
"You are absolutely correct- India's obsession with skin color is disgusting and wholly unnecessary. I have two daughters who are darker skinned than I am and I avoid going to India with them because I wouldn't know how to explain why the place their ancestors are from is so repressed be judgemental."

7. Dave Adali
"I know one Tamil doctor who married an African-America woman and they had three kids, one son and a set of identical twin daughters. After a lot of 'hassling' and pestering, this doctor finally took his wife and kids to Tamil Nadu for a long overdue reunion with their Tamil cousins and assorted relatives. The boy was in his early teens and his sisters were like around ten or eleven years old. Before they left, the doctor sat his kids and wife down and gave them some serious talking to. The doctor stressed that India has a serious problem with color-obsession. He let the kids know that they are perfectly fine, and that India is the problem, not them. After the family came back from Tamil Nadu, the kids used to laugh uproariously when they recall the antics of color-struck 'Indian Hillbillies' they met in India.

Maybe you should wait till your kids are old enough to understand such things. You must also let your relatives know, in no uncertain terms, that they cannot put your kids down and still expect to remain a part of your life. The problem with Indians in such matters is they can so blissfully clueless about the harm they are doing to others."

8. Vijay Tak
"I absolutely agree with your observations. As a dark skinned North Indian, if i had a rupee for every time i have been called a "kaaliya" ( derogatory term for black guy) or questioned in jest as " are you sure you are north Indian? there must have been a mixup in the hospital" , id be a millionaire! We used to have an african group of students who played football with us local guys. The insane amounts of racist prejudice they faced put me to shame. Some were even beaten up by the local self anointed culture conservatives. I shuddered to read the comments section of this answer expecting high handed and delusional comments but i am very glad to see acceptance from fellow Indians. This is the first step towards setting things right. To rather enjoy the diversity than to stop wasting time in judgments against our very own countrymen and then to every other human being. I applaud your courage for expressing the blatant truth."

9. Achyut Bihani
"Very well-written! I was expecting a lot of defensive comments but I'm glad there aren't any. I think deep down, we Indians are aware that this is true. Regrettable, and unfortunately I doubt this will change anytime soon.

As a child, I learned that the lower-caste servants were to always sit on the floor. You were to take a bath if you touched a sweeper. At the same time, when the Brahmin lady came to take her monthly share of our home's charity, I was to touch her feet in reverence.

When I questioned these disparities, I was just told "this is how things are". And so we took it in our stride. For generations."

10. Jayita Bhattacharya
"I am a dark skinned Indian girl and I can't tell you how many times I have been told in my face that I was by default bad-looking because of my skin colour. I have been asked to try on 'remedies' to make my skin colour lighter by numerous people including close friends and relatives. Worse, I have been told that I'll have a tough time finding a husband if I don't make efforts to 'cure' my dark skin. All hail Fair and Lovely. I of course never paid any heed to such remarks nor did I ever think any less of myself because of my skin colour, on the other hand used this to filter out such unwanted racist people from life."

11. Jishnu Debnath
"As a North East Indian this is something I have been subjected to all my life. I agree the racial bias hurts a lot. One thing which can help is Indians are racist even within themselves so its not that unusual that they make derogatory remarks on foreigners. Funnily I have been living in Thailand and over here I'm more integrated and most Indians and Thai mistake me as a local Thai resident."

12. Sift Singh
"Like all the people who have mentioned this before, I agree with you 100%. And it's not even so much about colour, anyone who's different in some way or the other has experienced this. I have a light brown skin tone so I didn't face any discrimination in that domain. But because I was an openly baptised sikh and kept my beard, I was mocked for that and called names all my life. Sometimes even by people who belonged to my religion but cut their beards and hair. And this is especially quite rampant in Punjab. I think we as a society have a lot to grow and to be honest, I don't see it happening in my lifetime. But I would say that it is really heartwarming to see that so many people here are accepting this harsh reality and being introspective rather than being ignorant and rude about it. And this gives me hope for us as Indians."

13. Vikram Shenoy Handiru
"Indians' respect for foreigners is correlated with their skin tone :P We are weird in the sense that we can be xenophilic to Caucasian (or similar looking race), while xenophobic to Africans. It could also be because of the British influence during their colonial period. Although many may not agree with this, Indians have a huge obsession with skin color. I think it is safe to say we have an amalgamation of superiority complex and inferiority complex with respect to different races."

14. Sundari Ganapathy
"Dark skinned discrimination in India is one of the problems we face due to unconscious bias or implicit bias. And this is a dangerous problem than being openly Racist!

Only now (being outside India), I realise it was not my dark skinned sister that had a problem, but everyone else who never failed to irritate her by comparing with me (brown skinned). The result of that she still thinks I am her first enemy and we never met/spoke for last 7 years!

My African-American friend: Thanks for making your point without any rant / disrespect. But please remember that colour discrimination was historically a global problem...Dont you agree? And we Indians will hopefully learn and grow out of it."

15. Dave Adali
"I am truly saddened that you and your sister have not spoken in 7 years and hope the 2 of you reconcile soon. Do not blame yourself for this because you are NOT at fault. It is the fault of the society that worships white skin. Here in the US, I actually know Indian women (usually born or raised in the US) who lay in the sun to get a suntan. Contrast that to India where a suntan is to be avoided at all costs. Also here in the US, I know Indians (mostly north Indians), who date and are married to the darkest of Blacks / African Americans. To be truthful, I do not see India's obsession with fair skin going away anytime soon. It seems so stamped into the DNA of its people. By the way, my answer has been collapsed and hidden away. But you can still find it if you looked under 'collapsed answers'. Apparently, my answer offended some powerful Indians."

16. Joe Wandy
"East asian people tend to have lighter skins than Indians, so I'm surprised they're also discriminated against in India?"

17. Vineet Kumar
"The 200 years of rule by Europeans preceded by 700 years of rule by 'light-skinned' Afghans and Turks - along-with a millenia-old obsession with the Caucasian look may have some helping hand in that. The Mongoloid features on the other hand are associated with Nepali servants and guards and looked down upon (compare this with how Hispanics may be looked at if US was much more racist). We Indians are true Hypocrites :("

18. Sameena Kader
"Someone on Quora put it really well when they said Indians suffer from a form of Stockholm Syndrome."

19. Robert Harris
"While this may well be true, a counter point is that China and Japan were also obsessed by whiteness of the skin for centuries. Well before Europeans had any impact on their culture."

20. Sameena Kader
"Fair enough. Of the top of my head, one theory is that in the early stages of humanity, gene mutations caused lighter skin in a few among many dark skinned people, and they've been deified since. From where do you think this obsession originated?"

21. Robert Harris
"I think it is an indication of wealth and status.

I thought about this for a while and here's my hypothesis. If you read historical novels both about England and Japan (think Pride and Prejudice - I realise this doesn't sound the best basis for an idea!), girls especially are urged not to go out into the sun (or at least use parasols) so they don't get tanned. They also look down on men who appear too tanned. This is because being out in the sun indicates you are a manual labourer and you have to go outside to work for a living. Having whiter skin (whatever race you are) indicates that you are wealthy enough to stay inside during the heat of the day. And, particularly in the case of women, indicates your family is wealthy enough that you can live a life of leisure.

My thought is that whiteness (similar to plumpness in some cultures) is an indication of wealth, because you are not outside labouring in the sun. And this is true of both Indians and Englishmen.

So do you buy it :D?
P.S. I think deified is a bit of a strong term!
Edit: The binding of Chinese women's feet (which makes them more or less unable to work or go outside), may come from a similar cultural push.

In India this mentality would have been exacerbated by the noticeable whiter Mughals - who also would have turned noticeably darker in the sun. (And thinking of all the Mughal art, they are always being depicted as sitting under shaded pavilions etc)."

22. Sameena Kader
"Hey, 19th century romances are as legitimate a source of ideas as any. :)

It could very well be an indication of wealth and status, but funny how being light skinned continues to be that way, while plumpness has lost most of its steam, as far as I know. I'm glad the mentality is changing, albeit quite slowly, in some countries.

Interesting point about the binding of Chinese women's feet - sort of shows how intertwined the different types of discrimination are.

P.S. Do you think a strong term wasn't warranted? Perhaps it's not that fair skin is deified but that dark skin is vilified and it's so ingrained. At least in India - vast generalisation, I know. I have about a hundred anecdotes, here's one of them - I was visiting a friend's house when I was young and heard one of the adults (who I know is highly educated) chastising a boy with "don't stand around where the guests can see you, nobody wants to see your black face first thing in the morning". The boy can't have been more than 10 years old. The worst part of this incident is that I did/ said nothing. Nobody who witnessed it did."

23. Robert Harris
"There are a number of things here :

Number one, I was merely challenging the perception that there was a form of Stockholm syndrome going on. I think that my hypotheses have at least shown there are other possible origins.. Which is very different from the maintenance of glorification of white skin. I do think that current European-American hegemony (at least in terms of wealth and power) could certainly explain why it's still extant, I was merely arguing about its origins. At this point we're really getting into social and anthropological questions of the origin of notions of beauty. Not only is that well out of my expertise, but I wouldn't want to postulate anything (except perhaps the genetics of symmetry!)

Secondly vilification of darker skinned people is certainly seen as horrifying by the more educated populations in Europe and America (now!), so what your seeing in India is not exactly worldwide (these days ...). However I would like to point out that the caste system in India more or less shows that this sort of vilification of any sector of the populace is a general problem and not (always) solely related to skin colour (basically humans want to feel superior to other groups and the way they do this is with just about every artificial construct ... religion, for example!)

You point to the perception of fatness and how it's changed. I would almost say that that proves my point, as truly morbid obesity (which is seen as revolting) is now (in the "West") highly correlated with poverty and eating cheap high calorie fast foods. So now in America being fat is low status and vilified. I could see this new cultural paradigm as being exported!

As for the word deified - well basically I have a problem with any word that brings god(s) into a conversation about humans (I don't much like the word glorify which I used above).

Like I say I think that there is such a tie up with "what is beauty" that simplistic explanations about Stockholm Syndrome, European colonialism etc should be seen as scientifically dubious (basically because they're TOO simple). Which is not to say there is not some contribution from those factors!

P.S. I really appreciate your very civil discussion of these hard cultural questions."

24. Sameena Kader
"By that measure, none of this can be classified as my areas of expertise, merely areas of interest and curiosity. Of course there are multiple origins for these issues; I thought I had conceded that my comment made the issue seem too simplistic, I apologise for not being explicit.

I do think that social and anthropological issues about the origins of standards of beauty cannot possibly be mutually exclusive from the issue at hand. What I see in India is most definitely not world-wide (thankfully), but it's certainly not unique to India either, if some of the answers to this question are an indication. I really liked your point about humans just wanting to feel superior - we'll basically find ways to feel superior by inventing what it takes to do so (I'm extrapolating, of course) - sadly one of the connotations is that progress in this regard is basically doomed.

P.S. Linguistic disagreements aside, I agree with most of what you said. Appreciate the civility as well - if strangers on the internet, with absolutely no stakes, can't be civil then..."

25.Chandral Thakor
"I knew sooner or later someone was going to write this answer here and I agree with the points you've made. The only reason India is not generally considered a racist country (and it's not) is because although we discriminate people based on skin color, state or religion, we never went to the level of building concentration camps, conquered a foreign land after "cleaning up" the natives or brought the Africans to create a slave economy and also establish a constitution saying "All men are created equal". On the contrary, we have been on the receiving end, Bengal famine of 1943. [

26. Mathi S Manian
"I knew sooner or later someone was going to write this comment here in complete denial. The only reason Indians don't think of themselves as racist is because, it is built into the system. Our religion, our way of living, our social structure all have bigotry ingrained into their DNA.

Other countries having done horrible things, does not excuse our racism, however mild flavoured you think it is.

Learn why Prevention of Atrocities against SC/STs Act was passed. And how many massacres/riots were reported even after independence. We've had this discrimination for more than 2500 years, so imagine how much cruelty must have gone to pass and how many people must have suffered because of it."

27. Chandral Thakor
"Complete denial??? Did I say there is no racism at all in the Indian society? Even if we have some form of racism, does that really make us the most racist country as the question asks? Someone could also refer the Tibetans as "chinkis" but do you think India as a country was racist towards them when they came here trying to save their lives? Or to the Bene Israeli Jews who fled the Middle East and have a synagogue surrounded by Muslim neighborhood in my city? For the record I belong to the SC category and have faced discrimination first hand just because of my caste but then I have people coming to my defense as well. The kind of racism Dave talks about in his answer here exists across the world, people just find different group they get racist towards and by that standard a lot of countries would qualify as the most racist, not just India. Ask the black people in South Chicago or Chiraq as they call it or the Mexicans whom the Mr. Drumpf referred to as rapists and murderers. Never heard Nepalis or Bangladeshis being insulted like that."

28. Mathi S Manian
"Well, even a partial denial is troublesome. Let me explain why.

Excusing a flavor of racism, because it is mild or because it is prevalent throughout the world or because it does not reach the level of atrocities that are perpetuated by some other group, is doing a tremendous disservice to the disenfranchised.

Who are we to judge whether the discrimination against them is to acceptable levels or that they are overreacting to a simple and common problem.

If we don't accept that we are a racist country then we'll never change. If we are too proud to admit our mistakes then we are doomed.

For example, in India we don't study about the atrocities and cruelties against the dalits. Untouchability is mentioned in passing in one history lesson in 7th grade. But the German students learn about the Holocaust, in detail, and in the US they learn about slavery and native american genocides. And surprise when these kids grow up they accept Affirmative Action and Reparations. Meanwhile in India, we've most people crying foul over Reservations and only understanding it as vote bank politics.

I'll error on the side of accusation instead of being defensive when it comes to racism. We've to shine a light on it and expose it for what it is, ignoring it and saying "I refuse to fully accept it because it makes my country look bad" is purposely trying to make sure nobody talks about because it makes you uncomfortable when you know how real it is."

29. Jayita Bhattacharya
"I am a dark skinned Indian girl and I can't tell you how many times I have been told in my face that I was by default bad-looking because of my skin colour. I have been asked to try on 'remedies' to make my skin colour lighter by numerous people including close friends and relatives. Worse, I have been told that I'll have a tough time finding a husband if I don't make efforts to 'cure' my dark skin. All hail Fair and Lovely. I of course never paid any heed to such remarks nor did I ever think any less of myself because of my skin colour, on the other hand used this to filter out such unwanted racist people from life."

30. Raghupathy Srinivasan
"Your answer sums up India very accurately! I would really appreciate it though if you could remove the last line. No apologies whatsoever are necessary and a lot of toes need to be stepped on for the situation to improve!!!

P.S. Apart from discrimination based on race, religion, class and language - India also has another way to discriminate - caste! Caste - I am ashamed to say - is a 100% purely Indian construct, and serves to allow the vilest form of discrimination!"

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.

No comments:

Post a Comment