29/04/2015 8:16 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

The Brown Racists Of America

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Look at the cultural map of India and you'll realise that the country has so many sub-cultures, languages and ethnicities within it that it's asking for trouble. When I say trouble, I am referring to the disgusting but unavoidable thing we call racism. Yes, we're all Indians. Yes, we all look and sound similar. No, wait. We don't. You have the different eyes in the north east and the rolling letters in the south. Then there are the many cuisines that can leave any tourist confused about what is really "Indian".

It is human nature to dislike people who are different from us. Alright, perhaps this isn't always true, but tell me this: How many Indians can stop themselves from pointing out how their kind is superior to the rest? Remember the movie 2 States? Tamil vs. Punjabi at its best. Well, if India is full of a diversity of brown skinned people, consider the United States.

The US has people of every race and ethnicity -- Hispanic, Black, Caucasian and Asian -- spread in its 50 states. Indians living in the United States have a lot of diversity to handle. My parents moved to the US after they got married. That was in the 70s. I've spent a lot of time with their friends during my childhood and college years. Back in my school years, I knew that the Indians got together every weekend and the kids had pizza while the adults had good old home-cooked food. I also never questioned the uniform brownness of our gatherings. Then during my years at the University of Rochester, I met the new generation of Indians, or the Indian-origin Americans who only visited India every few years. This group actually hung out in more colourful groups that included people of Asian, European and African origins. Of course these Indians also had their little club that organised events with Indian food and dances, but they didn't seem opposed to racial mixing.

But the parents were still picky. They worked with people belong to various races, but they drew the line when it came to marriage. I remember hearing the grown-ups talk about somebody's daughter. "She is marrying this black guy!" There was much incredulity. "Are you serious?" They were appalled. Then a couple of years later when the marriage broke up: "This is what she gets for marrying into that race." Indians love fair complexions, so I wasn't surprised. But it wasn't just about skin colour. It was also about stereotypes. They were nicer about another girl's wedding because her African American husband turned out to be a lawyer. Phew!

And then there was a family friend's daughter who married a Hispanic man. She didn't dare tell her parents that she was dating a Hispanic guy until the day he proposed marriage. When she did tell them, all hell broke loose. In fact, her father refused to attend the wedding until her mother convinced him to be nice. Judging from the conversation around me, I understood that marrying a White person was not as bad as marrying a Black or Hispanic one. White people were respectable. Oh, they had such nice pale skin too.