Racist attitudes

Source: Dawn

The writer is a freelance journalist.

ONE of the most beautiful images of George Floyd that I have seen is painted in an unexpected place: on the wall of truck artist Haider Ali’s home in Karachi. Floyd’s portrait is adorned with the bright flowers and fluorescent flourishes typical of truck art, and the words ‘equality’ and ‘justice’. Ali told the press the image is a “message of love … from all of Pakistan”.

The image stands out because Pakistan’s response to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement in the US and elsewhere has been muted. Solidarity protests have been small and sporadic, and frequently dominated by images of under-curfew Kashmiris and the Indian prime minister — the appropriation of a global debate in a regional context.

The movement is still largely perceived as America’s problem. Most countries have taken the turmoil in the US as an opportunity to point out that country’s double standards. Developing countries’ leaders have condemned the harsh treatment of US protesters in the same way the superpower has historically critiqued rights violations in their own countries.

This is a fair response, but the concerns of the BLM movement are closer to Pakistan than we may care to admit. BLM is anti-racist, and that core issue is relevant for us. Pakistan is imbued with post-colonial racist attitudes; these are embedded in our language, in our preference for fair skin, in the sales of skin-lightening creams. We are home to South Asia’s largest African diaspora community, but rather than celebrate this diversity we have, at best, treated it as a curiosity, and at worst discriminated against Sheedis, leaving them marginalised and in poverty.

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Categories: Asia, Pakistan

1 reply

  1. The complacency Pakistani society exhibits to its poor extends to discrimination along linguistic, religious, sectarian and sexuality lines — and more. The first step toward tackling these deep-rooted inequalities is accepting our complicity.
    Rightly pointed out first and foremost is to recognize the complicity. Along with recognition of the problem why not to expand the scope of the effort. BLM (Black Lives Matter) movement in true sense restricts itself to a specific colour class of mankind. While the facts indicate, elsewhere,  even in the absence of black people, the atrocities are still committed against weak and poor class. So why not start a new movement as Innocent Lives Matter (ILM). New name will include the whole mankind irrespective of language, religion, sectarian and sexuality lines. Why not try from Pakistan.

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