Minority Lives Matter

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Something has happened to us all. Police atrocities that killed a black man in the US have made us think of the same kinds of brutalities in the country. Several people have rightly drawn a parallel with the torture and custodial of a father and the son in Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu. We are rightly outraged by these atrocious events and are awakening to the movement that proclaims that black life matters. More and more people are standing up to the rights of backs and reject the darkness of white racism. The darkness of white racism which we saw ritually re-enacted on George Floyd aroused us to the horror of racism and we have rightly offered our voice to the black lives matter movement.

We have reached our own Socratic moment. We lost our innocence and saw our corruption and feel guilty and want to make amends. This loss of naivety is welcome. It has the power to call us to examine our life. Socrates has rightly told us that unexamined life is not worth living. Maybe it’s time to examine our several obsessions with whiteness. We have to examine how our black skins demand white masks and learn to leave with our real selves. Black lives matter. The truth of this slogan can open us to the truth of our own phobia of blackness in us that we seem to cover by looking up for white masks. While still battling the coronavirus, we have to come to terms with our own entanglements with the whiteness of several shades and examine how it operates in the several locales of our life. We have gets over this fascination with whiteness so we can overcome our estrangement from our true selves.

While it may be easy to understand how racism has converted a black man into an object of hate, it is difficult to see how blackness has become an object of phobia that is deeply afflicting us. We need to conquer this anxiety that affects our culture. We have to come to terms with this elusive fantasy that ruins our lives at several levels as we try to mimic several shades of whiteness that never seem to become our very own. This phobia of the black operates in diverse ways over us. We are living a white mythology triggered by the black phobia that seems to have taken a grip over us. Jean-Paul Sartre startled us by saying, ‘an anti-Semite would have invented a Jew if Jews did not exist’. May be we too would have invented ‘whiteness’ if it did not exist. Whiteness thus serves as anticipation into which we want to enter. It is a mirror of the future where the escape from the true self becomes complete. It is what Jacques Lacan calls ideal-ego. Whiteness and its several shades operate as ideal-ego provide us the model of being humans to us.

Thinking whiteness carefully brings us to the fact of its radical otherness with us. The black phobia that we tried to discuss above manifest that we seem to depend of shades of whiteness to validate our ways of being human. Our heroes and heroines in our cinema have to white. Girls walking the fashion ramp have to be white and girls in adverts have to be white. The list can go on. In several ways whiteness has become a balm for our anxiety with our colour. This manifests that a culture of privileged location of whiteness rules us. It produces desire for whiteness and inferiorizes our coloured selves. This is why the moment that brought us to intense attention that shows that black lives matter is therapeutic and emancipative. It can liberate us at several levels. It can open us how we are enjoying our drifting towards whiteness. Perhaps this realisation is an important step to set ourselves free from its chains.

We do not enjoy the theft of our enjoyment. Whiteness is not just our ideal-ego, the best possible way of being human, it is also ego-ideal, the point at which we can see ourselves as likeable. This is why any theft of ideal-ego becomes traumatic to us. Whiteness, therefore, seems to have become Das Ding , the thing for us in Indians. But this thing is never really our own. It always slips out of our hands. It is radically other to us. This is why when the Das Ding slips away it is easy to feel its theft by some demonised and minoritized other. We saw how Jews suffered this fate as demonized others who were then punished for the supposed theft of enjoyment under Hitler’s Nazi regime. While a corporate nationalism is hiding its face as Hindu nationalism in our country, we seem to have displaced our anxiety of loss of the Das Ding. The minorities, particularly our Muslim brethren then have taken the place of those responsible for the theft of our enjoyment.

Often we fall victim to the propaganda that state that the minorities rob our jobs while the real reasons of job losses lay in the embrace of technology that eliminate the workforce. The economic pie is becoming smaller because steps taken to downsize labour and increase profits by a corporate nationalism that depends on the demonization of part of the nation as enemies to hide its face. This is why the movement that stands for black lives can also unmask the lie that we are living. Real theft of our enjoyment is happening and is actively done by the economic forces and their political bosses. They are taking away the part of the enjoyment that enables us to live fully by dividing us. This is why we have to come to terms with black anxiety. It has traces of economic as well as political anxiety as the majority community is worried of loss of power by loss of demography. It does work complexly and we can simply submit to the propaganda that darkens the minorities and constructs them as thieves of our enjoyment of the nation. This is why we have to come to realization that minority lives matters as we stand shoulder to shoulder to counter white supremacist racism. Until we do not disentangle ourselves from our own anxiety with our coloured skins we will not be truly liberating ourselves from the white myth that enslaves us. As long as we are enslaved by this myth we will mistake an authoritarian corporate nationalism as a Hindu nationalism when in reality it is far from the truth. This is why we need to deal with our desiring whiteness at a time of fighting for black lives.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao