Pakistan’s Structural Racism Will Remain Intact If We Continue To Deny Its Existence
By Sumaira Feroz
I have experienced faced countless instances of cultural or racial bias. It is tough to describe to how demeaning those gestures and behaviours are. I often try to act like they don’t bother me, but no matter how hard you pretend to be strong, or wear a thick skin, it affects you. No matter how educated you are, how much effort you put in to reach the prestigious institutions, in this land of self-avowed superior people, you will always be discriminated against your race, colour, gender or social status.
There are some rules and customs that are consciously and subconsciously followed and practiced to divide humans and societies. One element used by those in power to segregate people is ‘race’. Originally designed to belittle certain humans, instead, it distinguishes them.
Race is an ‘idea based on the culture, based on how a person looks, and how to feel a sense of belonging to the family and friends.’ When used for political purposes, it becomes racism, which is prejudice and discrimination based on the concept that some are superior and some inferior due to their race.
Power dynamics are everywhere, our past and our present that routinely favours the powerful. This is why some effortlessly get access to better healthcare, good jobs, and the best education, and others are deprived of even basic necessities.
Racism is a real and destructive force, especially for indigenous peoples. People of colour are victim of this menace everywhere.
There are many levels of racism practiced in Pakistan as well: racial, religious, sectarian, tribal, provincial, and ethnic. Pakistan is a diverse country, which encompasses physical variations, from shades of skin to varieties of hair, textures and facial features.
Here, unfortunately, marriages fail to materialise, because of differences in caste or creed, even though these concepts do not exist in Islam. Also, many in Pakistan disgrace their maids and house help because they clean their dirty houses and wash their grubby dishes. Many act as though they have purchased an individual if they pay them a monthly wage and treat them like slaves, often resulting in violence.
Systematic racist structures advantage strong people over the weak. The powerful maintain hegemony in every sector leaving the weaker deprived.
Have you ever thought why wealthy, rich and people of European origin, live longer compared to people of colour and the marginalised worldwide? The marginalised communities have less access to housing and healthcare. They suffer injustices amid daily instances of racism, which exist just because of acceptance for a supremacist idea, which persists in Pakistan as well.
My heart misses a beat when I hear racist remarks against the Pashtuns, Sindhis, Seraikis, Punjabis, Baloch or anyone else. I wonder why people cannot respect each other, even though they are living in the same country. Why are they so insecure and create obstacles for others?
Courage is needed to acknowledge the existence of these discriminations. Education systems, and all forms of media, should take responsibility in addressing and eliminating racism in Pakistan.