Author- Tanya Sinha, Thakur Ramnarayan College of Law, Mumbai University.
“We were all humans until race disconnected us, religion separated us, politics divides us and wealth classified us.”
Many people underestimate the depths of racism. According to an American Psychologist “Steven O Roberts”, “People often define racism as disliking or mistreating others on the basis of race. This definition is wrong.” He adds “Racism is a system of advantage based on race. It is a hierarchy. Racism is so deeply embedded within our society that it is virtually impossible to escape. The Recent case of “George Floyd” a black man who was killed by 4 white officers in US has resulted into massive protests against the racism in US. The security footage, videos of witnesses, official documents and statements have made it clear how the officers killed George Floyd. Yes, the attention is rightfully put on the recent murders no doubt but one has to understand that those horrific events are consequence to a larger system.
The #blacklivesmatter movement across the streets, social media is a movement for demanding justice which has spread all around the world. Despite of the laws made for racism yet the fear of laws doesn’t exist in the minds of racists. The hatred in their minds are upto a level that they are ready to risks their lives to destroy lives of victims.
Before moving on to any conclusions let see the facts of the case of George Floyd:
What happened to George Floyd?
1) George Floyd was a 46 year old black man. On May 25, George Floyd bought some cigarettes from a convenient store at Minneapolis with a counterfeit $20 bill.
2) The store owner caught him and called 911 for help. After 17 minutes the first squad of police arrived. Floyd was handcuffed face down in the street by a white police officer Derek Chauvin, while other 2 officers restrained Floyd and the 4th one prevented onlookers from intervening.
3) When Floyd claimed that he was claustrophobic and denied to enter the car Derek Chauvin, pressed his knee to Floyd’s neck for nearly 8 minutes and 46 seconds during the arrest.
4) George cried, that he cant breathe for multiple times, yet Derek wont lift his knee. Last 3 minutes Floyd was motionless and had no pulse also the officers made no attempts to revive him.
5) The actions of the officer caused cardiopulmonary arrest due to sub dual and restraint.
6) Next day of George’s death the police department fired all the 4 officers involved in the killing of the George Floyd.
7) The death of George Floyd led to massive protests across the streets in US demanding justice not just for George but people like George who are facing racial discrimination in their daily lives.
International Laws Governing Racism
The principle of non-discrimination is fundamental to international law. The etiology of racism is the fake similarities of the human body with the personality. These reasons of racism germinates a misconception that generates conflicts of gender, religion, race. Individually , human body is blessed with many features and characteristics that are attributed to the human body based on these fake similarities. Under international law prohibition of racial discrimination has been ensured in all nine core international human rights treaty. International court of justice (ICJ) opined in Barcelona traction case (Belgium v Spain, 1970)[i] that “prohibition of racial discrimination” constitutes a legal obligation which all states have an interest in ensuring.
Therefore, the 1965 UN Convention on Elimination of All Firms Racial Discrimination (CERD)[ii] defines, “ racial discrimination” as any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, color, descent, national or ethnic origin which has the effect of nullifying of human rights and fundamental freedom in any other field of public life.
Racism in India
Discrimination on the basis of skin color has been prevalent in India since ages. There was a time when Britishers ruled India, where skin color defined social status of the people. The fairer individuals enjoyed the privileges that were given by the British rulers and the dark-skinned people were the unprivileged ones. Racism is deep rooted and it has to be uprooted.
Laws governing Racism in India
The Constitution of India is called as the Supreme law of land that bequests civil liberties and human freedoms to all the Indians to lead their lives in peace and harmony.
Ø Article 14 in The Constitution Of India 1949 [iii]
Equality before law The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth
Ø Article 15 in The Constitution Of India 1949 [iv]
Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth
1) The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them
2) No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them, be subject to any disability, liability, restriction or condition with regard to
a) access to shops, public restaurants, hotels and palaces of public entertainment; or
b) the use of wells, tanks, bathing ghats, roads and places of public resort maintained wholly or partly out of State funds or dedicated to the use of the general public
3) Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any special provision for women and children
4) Nothing in this article or in clause ( 2 ) of Article 29 shall prevent the State from making any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.
However , the biggest irony against the menace of racism is that these rights are available to the citizens of India only against the state and not against the discrimination practiced and committed by the individuals.
Ø Article 16 in The Constitution Of India 19494[v]
Equality of opportunity in matters of public employment
1) There shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State
2) No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence or any of them, be ineligible for, or discriminated against in respect or, any employment or office under the State
3) Nothing in this article shall prevent Parliament from making any law prescribing, in regard to a class or classes of employment or appointment to an office under the Government of, or any local or other authority within, a State or Union territory, any requirement as to residence within that State or Union territory prior to such employment or appointment
4) Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favor of any backward class of citizens which, in the opinion of the State, is not adequately represented in the services under the State
5) Nothing in this article shall affect the operation of any law which provides that the incumbent of an office in connection with the affairs of any religious or denominational institution or any member of the governing body thereof shall be a person professing a particular religion or belonging to a particular denomination.
Ø Universal declaration of Human Rights[vi]
Article 2 of UDHR
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
· Irony of Indian society
Indians are supporting the black lives matters protest. In both the societies, injustices have deep historical roots. Looking at Indian in the mirror of American protest makes clear that India should also address its problems of racial discrimination. But this unprecedented support for the fight against racism from Indians isn’t just enough for the students and others of African origin living in India who has to face racism in their everyday life. Thousands of African nationals currently live In India. In recent years the country has made a lot of efforts to attract them to the countries universities but the continuous facing of racism also resulting in violence sometimes has put a serious dent to these efforts.
The biggest irony is that if beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder then why are we suppose to a fixed beauty standard which is considered as an idol. We have been witnessing sentences like “fair complexion is beautiful”, “dark skin is the new beauty” but in reality beauty has no skin tone. Why discriminate on the basis of skin color when we all bleed the same color. #justice for chutki went popular when chota bheem dumbed chutki for princess indumati, but nobody paid attention to a boy named “kalia” who was shown with a darken skin tone as enemy of chota bheem. A dark skinned person carries a heavy burden of discrimination – being called as kalu, regardless of how much affection its said with, cannot be harmless.
· Making business out of fair complexion
We were quite small when were taught that the oil crayons had a shade called “skin color” despite that color wasn’t the most prevalent skin color of Indians. Indian are quite obsessed with fair complexion. This colorism has pushed many Indians to lighten their skin tone in order to look more prettier and powerful. The growing market of whitening creams that promises to lighten our skin tone are in fact a dangerous mix of steroids, hydroquinone and prepinoin, the long term use of which can lead to health concern like permanent pigmentation, skin cancer, liver damage and poisoning among other things. And to our surprise many Bollywood star regularly endorse and promote these creams.
India’s traditional ayurvedic medical system teaches that pregnant women can improve their fetuses complexion by drinking saffron- laced milk and eating coconut pieces.
If you are tired hearing about the racism imagine how tired some people must be experiencing it. Equal rights for others does not mean less rights for you it is not a cake. Being racist towards someone can impact that person a lot as it can cause depression, low self esteem, losses in psychological sense and a sense of helplessness.
There are thousands of teenagers and adult that commit suicide due to facing racial discrimination in the society because they felt isolated, hated, not accepted in their own society.
Their Human Rights have to be protected at any cost so they will have the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, right to work and education to eradicate poverty. Racism and discrimination should be stopped because we should be one to make this world a greater place.
[i] ICJ GL No 50  [ii] https://ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CERD.aspx [iii] https://indiankanoon.org/doc/367586/ [iv] https://indiankanoon.org/doc/609295/ [v] https://indiankanoon.org/doc/211089/ [vi] https://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/index.html