AFRICA IS A COUNTRY

A Visitor’s Guide to India
Achal Prabhala | January 27th, 2014

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Last weekend in Khirki Village, Delhi, a late-night mob led by the Aam Admi Party (AAP) leader and Delhi Law Minister Somnath Bharti went looking for “some Nigerians or Ugandans.” They pulled four young African women out of their home, held them captive in a taxi for hours, probed their “private parts”, forced them to urinate publicly, hustled them to a hospital against their will for “tests”, and reluctantly let them go the next morning.

In lieu of an apology, the AAP and the Delhi Government have dug their heels in. Their bizarre “evidence” appears to hinge on four grainy videos, one of which was charmingly titled “Naked in front of police” where a shirtless man—African, of course—is fighting off the police. That video has since been retitled. In the days since the late-night “raid” both Somnath Bharti and his party have been near-universally slammed in Indian media, and by civil society, for their racism, sexism, and unconscionable egging on of hysterical middle-class vigilantism. Some of the media criticism coming their way is being opportunistically lobbed by rival political parties—from left, right and centre—who are threatened by the AAP’s dramatic rise. The AAP has used this to their advantage, but it neither negates the reprehensible actions of the party that night in Khirki, nor excuses its frighteningly unrepentant stand in the days that followed.

In the light of this event, and given black peoples’ fondness for suspicious activities like studying, working, breathing, etc., many foreigners wish to know if India is worth visiting. This is an inclusive website, so here is a handy guide for potential travellers of all races.

***

Are you white?

Welcome!

Are you brown? Yellow? Any other marginal pigment we disdain?

Don’t worry. Most likely, it’s not your fault.

Are you rich?

Welcome!

Are you from the first world?

Welcome!

Are you poor and/or from the third world?

Thanks for your support. Don’t let the door hit you on your way out.

Are you black?

Worry. It is almost always your fault.

Are you Oprah?

Welcome!

Are you the world’s biggest movie star?

Welcome!

Are you a major sport star?

Welcome!

Are you a major, or minor, pop star?

Welcome!

If you’re still here, we’ve established that you are not white, not even a passably intermediate colour, and not noteworthy in any way we recognise and respect.

Now, ask yourself these simple questions:

Are you gay?

Which part of “criminal offence” do you not understand? Go away; take your disposable income to South Africa or Brazil.

Do you plan to study?

You might seriously want to consider the repercussions of studying while black in India. Again. And again.

Do you plan to work?

You might seriously want to consider the repercussions of working while black in India.

Do you expect justice?

You might seriously want to consider the repercussions of expecting justice while black in India.

Do you expect to go to bars and restaurants?

You might seriously want to consider the repercussions of going to bars and restaurants while black in India. Again. And again. And again. And again.

Do you like living in a house?

You might seriously want to consider the repercussions of living in a house while black in India.

Do you like walking?

You might seriously want to consider the repercussions of walking while black in India. Again. And again. (Yes, it’s been going on a while.)

Do you like being considered human?

You might seriously want to consider the repercussions of watching television while black in India.

No, really: do you like being considered human?

You might seriously want to consider the repercussions of watching movies while black in India. (The upside to representing the nadir of our ancient civilisation? If there’s anyone who can set a desperate drug-addicted model’s career back on track, it’s you.)

Do you enjoy staying alive?

You might seriously want to consider the repercussions of wanting to stay alive while black in India.

Do you know what a Shobhaa De is?

You might seriously want to consider the repercussions of being subjected to Shobhaa De’s stray thoughts on anything.

***

That’s all folks! But take heart. Exactly one year ago, our renowned Indian hospitality was warmly extended towards four ordinary visitors from the African continent. Thousands jostled to see them, dignitaries queued up to get a glimpse, the media went crazy, and it was no wonder. These continental guests were the very model of good manners—cool, calm, and unflappable, impeccably poised and immaculately polished. Surely there’s a lesson in here for the modern African traveller? Indeed. With a little advance planning, despite being black, you too can have a nice time in India—just as long as you’ve made the effort to be dead for 3000 years.

A version of this piece first appeared in Mint Lounge on January 24th.

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Achal Prabhala

A writer and researcher in Bangalore, India.

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9 thoughts on “A Visitor’s Guide to India

  1. as much as i recognize the racism present in India (not just towards black people, but also towards some of their own ethnic groups) and am disgusted by it, I am disappointed about the overload of assumptions and generalization in this article. I have lived and worked in Punjab, India, WITH Indians, “rich white people”, africans and asians and we were all treated the same.. actually my african, black colleague had friends everywhere and was treated like some kind of movie star (which made him uncomfortable at times i must add). Point is though, that as much as I concur with the fact racism in India seems to be on the rise and we must all be aware of that, your article is one of those that, if was written on another blog, Africa is a Country, would have been highly critical of, due to the overload of assumptions and therefor weak journalism.

    • I am Indian and I’ve lived/studied/ worked in India all my life and yes I have been racially abused by Indians all my life ! Do not universalize your privileged experience !

  2. Thanks for writing this- it’s a bitter, bitter pill to swallow even though one has known and witnessed and experienced this for many years. (I’m also flabbergasted by the sheer amount of idiocy and casually racist and sexist crap all the parties, & pretty much any politician, has spouted around this.)

    I don’t want to take anything away from the uncomfortable truths in this piece (and bloody hell do we need more of these deeply importantly, as-uncomfortable-as-possible conversations around race, colour, and inequity in India) but I do want to add that a lot of the things in the guide- whether you expect justice, want to go to a pub, want to study & etc- are also applicable to women and pretty much anybody else in India that isn’t a rich/connected (usually old), heterosexual (or presenting as such) Hindu man.

    Of course, I think there is the whole analysis of the ‘Other’, as well as an ingrained superiority complex (we’re better than ‘them’); but I also think there are elements of how the patriarchy and kyriarchy also link in to racism and racist ideology and systematise it. There are multiple systems of oppression at play and I think to actively tackle and shift this, we have to understand how the damn matrix works and fits together.

    (sorry about the somewhat rambly response!)

  3. the real question is not whether “you should visit india?” but whether Africa Not a Country would publish such simplistic self-hating bile if it came to other countries in er….africa? ………………..should hutus visit their home country, rwanda? should nigerians and mozambiqans visit south africa? should any black africans visit north africa? of course as we all know europe and the usa have solved the racism problem and they treat black people so nicely there, no refugees killed or massacred or anything. would appreciate seeing visitors guides to all countries in africa before you train your sights on the easiest and may i also add historical target for black rage———–indians. thank you?

  4. This website is really a joke along with its authors and editors. You used to display some sanity and quality writing, but in the past year the site has turned into the wet dream of Ta-Nehisi Coates, who himself thinks the world is made up of no one else, but Africans and People-Who-Dislike-Africans-And-Want-To-Make-Bad-Things-Happen-To-Them. You are ridiculously swift to call out on any generalization or -isms against your kind, but post about a country of 1.2 billion shit like this? Get out of here, you dumbfucks. I’m sure this is actually your biggest problem in life, sitting in your basement office in your Tier 3 liberal arts school somewhere in Vermont or Iowa, but you need to do some living first to not sound as far removed from reality as you do now.

  5. Hmmm…no, what about the rhinos? Why only Indians all the time? Because they are an easy and historical target? I would like you to first do a piece on whether Africans should visit rhinos, because they are endangered and please think of the environment and zzzzzz.

    Ignore the crazy peeps. Searing questionnaire…and thanks writer person, thank you aiac. Some of us actually get it. even while brown.

  6. In my home country we have similar problems with the blacks Africans. There is also a stereotype that they are grotty and do not bathe. We should endeavour to bridge our divides and have no more lists like the list above.

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