By Darshan Maharaja
The anti-racism protests that swept through the US and later parts of Canada in wake of the killing of George Floyd while in police custody have given rise to some unusual developments. For example, demands to ‘defund’ the police departments are unprecedented. Initially, there was some confusion as to the exact meaning and scope of the term ‘defund’. To any ordinary person, it may sound like doing away with police departments altogether. Some proponents of the demand to ‘defund the police’ argued that what was being asked was a reallocation of city budgets, where services like mental health and community engagement would receive part of the funding that has hitherto gone into policing. The logic was that these reallocations would reduce the number and intensity of citizens’ interactions with the police. However, these proponents’ voices got quickly sidelined, and the more-hardline protesters are now stridently demanding that cities do away with their police forces altogether.
That may sound like an extreme stance, it pales in comparison with the absolute doozy that The National Museum of African American History came up with in a graphic they created on “Aspects and Assumptions of White Culture”. The graphic claims that the following are ‘white values’: the scientific method, rational thinking, the nuclear family, being polite, self-reliance and the belief that hard work is the key to success.
I am sure the intention of the museum and everyone involved in creating the graphic was good, but any non-white person would, I am sure, be appalled and enraged at the suggestion it is not their value to be polite to others or to follow ‘rigid’ time schedules. I am sure all of us – non-white and white alike – are guilty of not being punctual at times, but the claim that it is not a value for non-whites to be punctual is offensive to them. The effect of this graphic can therefore be understood in terms of the adage that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. In the name of advocating for the equal treatment of people of color, the graphic has only succeeded in inflicting a grave insult on them.
Among the list of the so-called ‘white values’, one that I am sure would resonate strongly (in a negative way) among South Asians is the claim about the nuclear family. I was in a discussion on social media last week where someone pointed out that one of the reasons for the success of South Asians in the western world was the fact that most of the children grow up in families that are intact. The positive impact of an unbroken family on children has been studied by scientists and proved by empirical data. Even within the black community, prominent activists and opinion makers point to the strong correlation between broken families and the poor prospects for the children in these families. They know, by firsthand experience, what is hurting their community. It is the (often white) so-called progressives who are creating a narrative where non-whites are perpetually victims of the seemingly omnipotent and hostile white race. Apart from painting the entire white population as a monolithic block, the narrative also assumes that people of color lack any agency. In that sense, it advances exactly what it claims to be fighting – racism.