Dhaka, Bangladesh
Fifty Shades of Black

Off the Track

Fifty Shades of Black

Vinati Sukhdev

And my final lesson was learnt the day the tragic news about George Floyd broke: when I realized that I felt for him not just as another human being but also at another level: I felt angry about the systemic violence and exploitation against all people of colour. Colonization, slavery, murder, do not happen to 'others', writes Vinati Sukhdev As I write this, there are thousands of protestors right outside my work-from-home desk - in London's Hyde Park. If I open the windows, I can probably hear them but it is a damp, grey day and I don't want to feel cold, in addition to feeling gloomy. The crowds carry placards saying 'Black Lives Matter' and social distancing seems to have been sacrificed at the more sacred altar of solidarity. London stands united with the American people in their grief and anger at the horrific killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man in the US. I wonder whether there are any British Indians in that crowd. Whether any of my Facebook friends who have promptly adopted the 'Black Lives Matter' frame for their profile photos have made it there in London's cold and damp - standing shoulder to shoulder with their black brothers and sisters and their white friends. If I were to hazard a guess, probably very few. I use the term 'black brothers and sisters' with a lot of careful thought. As Indians living in the UK, we are clearly a non-white race living in a white country. We are not black yes, but we are people of colour. We look different, whether we like it or not. This fact was something I woke up to 30 years ago when my little daughter emerged from the school door, hand in hand with a white classmate. Even with the school uniform on, she was well… different. Under the chocolate brown felt hat and above the yellow striped tie, there was a brown face! All my delusions about being white (we are a Kashmiri family and very lightskinned by Indian standards), went out of that school door. In that sea of strawberries and cream and blonde hair, my daughter was different, I could spot that from the school gate. The subtle gradation of colour that made us almost white in our own eyes and those of other Indians did not exist. We might be beige, brown or burnt sienna but we are non-white. And nowhere is that more apparent than in white countries. This is the primary reason why non-Indians can never tell the subtle gradations of skin colour that we Indians are so good at spotting.

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