By: Jeremi L.Khawbung
Hi people from mainland . Before you ask, I’m a north-easterner. You addressed me a Chinky.
Let me make something clear right up front: you have no real idea what it’s like to be discriminated against on the basis of race. You know why? Because we’re from Northeast India. We’r Schedule Tribes (Hills) in India. It’s absurd because mainlanders don’t need an extra reminder of their value, race and identity unlike me…because it’s reaffirmed for them every single day by the people we see in the media, by the people that run this country, and yes, even by the people that act as our educators. Indian education has long been under fire by people who use their brains over the continued teaching that all the Hindu mythology is great and all the Hindu saints are a dude and a heroes and someone we should all celebrate year after year. But you probably still think that, don’t you?
Probably before you got to college, most of your teachers taught the version of Indian history, a history book you won't find a single chapter of Northeast India. I imagine college courses might have been a bit of a shock for you, with discussions that maybe didn’t valorize violent colonization and actually shone a light on the perspective of people who weren’t from the Mainlands.
Is this where things started to get uncomfortable for you, India, and you don't want to recognized us as a true Indian? I imagine the first lecture on Indian’s legacy of brutality and oppression left me shock, way back in college. Maybe i thought that particular professor was just a wayward nut job. But then another class discussed institutional racism, and another. And i began to squirm in my seat because whoa this wasn’t just one time where your Mongoloid Indian face took you to troubles. I see petitions and articles on the Internet talking about racism and bias and…gasp…mainland Indians privilege. And I'm sick of it. Because who wants to sit in a room full of people, people who don’t all look and sound like you, and talk about the ways that you are flawed? That’s uncomfortable. That’s awkward. That doesn’t feel good. It feels like being singled out; it feels like being held accountable for things you don’t feel responsible for; it feels like being defined by the color of your skin; it feels like being blamed; it feels like being…discriminated against.
Look, India. I see why non - north-easterners are uncomfortable towards North-easterners. You have been taught your entire life that non northeastern is always right. Your formal education has revolved around Delhi and Haryana, the championing of racist brutes, and the marginalization of people of color. You have grown up insulated from racism and discrimination and what those words truly mean. You have been trained to see your community as the norm, the default, the center of the world: you think that Other people have a race, but you are just…you. Your sharp nose has been an invisible tool that you have wielded your entire life, mostly without really realizing it, but now that when we fought back and people are criticizing the invisible tool, you are pissed, defensive, and maybe even afraid. I would say that’s normal. Because I am a victim of being a flat nose. Everything you’ve been taught is being contradicted, so a little discomfort is expected.
That the discussion of structural racism made you uncomfortable? I have a simple question for you India: how do you think people of color feel? What if that college or place that you felt was hostile was your world, your life? It’s odd, you see. It’s odd that you want your voice to be heard and your pain acknowledged, but you don’t want to acknowledge the suffering of people of being a NORTH-EASTERNERS. You want to talk about discrimination against yourself—but you don’t want to talk about discrimination against people of NORTHEAST. Interesting.
Bottom line: India, I want you to be uncomfortable. It means you’re being challenged. I know that mental growth, like physical growth, comes with growing pains. It’s not always easy. It’s not always fun. It’s going to hurt and you’re going to come out the other side bumped and bruised…but better. What have you done lately, INDIA?