by Zoe Pollock

Namit Arora writes on caste privilege:

An early goal of British imperialists in India was to create a class of local elites in their own image. They would be, wrote Macaulay, ‘interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect.’ An elite class did emerge, not surprisingly from the socially dominant upper-caste Hindus of urban India...

It is often said that caste is to India what race is to America. Yet, the attitudes of the dominant social class in the two countries couldn’t be more different...

Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat, continues to thrive after calling the Dalits [formerly the untouchables] ‘mentally retarded children’ who gain ‘spiritual experience’ from manual scavenging. The media has little interest or insight into Dalit lives, nor hires low-caste journalists. Major atrocities against Dalits still go unreported. Law enforcement is often indifferent or worse. There is no effective prosecution for discrimination in employment and housing. A Dalit politician can’t get a majority of upper-caste votes even in South Mumbai. Even among those few elites who read books, how many have read a single novel or memoir by a Dalit? In what is perhaps the most diverse country in the world, there is no commitment to diversity in the elite institutions that decide what is worthy art, music, and literature, or what is the content of history textbooks. In book after book of stories for children, both the protagonist and the implicit audience are elite and upper-caste. Much the same is true of sitcoms, soap operas, and commercials on TV. Dalits are invisible from all popular culture that gets any airtime. The Indian army still has many upper-caste-only regiments. There is nothing like an Indian ACLU. Or a Dalit history month on public TV, or exhibits in museums, that seek to educate the upper-castes about a long and dark chapter of their past (and present).

(Hat tip: 3QD)

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