The first step towards treatment of an ailment is acknowledging the disease. Let’s face it, we are racist. By racism, Cool Chilli does not mean stereo-typing/pre-judice on the basis of colour or a particular region of origin. As a sociologist pointed out a few decades ago, our social behaviour is influenced by our deeply embedded sub-conscious notion of ‘People-Like-Us’ and ‘People-Like-Them’. PLU could be anything …those persons who speak the same language, those who follow the same religion, those visiting the same church/temple. PLU sometimes covers even co-passengers who just happen to be travelling on the same bus (complete strangers otherwise) as compared to commuters in other vehicles on the road. This PLU Vs PLT concept simplifies our understanding of possible tensions between any two or more groups. It also awakens us to the potential dangers (of our own making) unless we consciously inculcate more tolerance in our lives.
News of racist behaviour whether by policemen on the streets or sportsmen on the field is now commonplace. Not surprising, since for many whites in the US, blacks or non-whites would constitute a PLT segment. Israelites in general and those staying in forcibly occupied Palestinian territories would be a strong PLT group to the Palestinians…and vice versa. Britannia which ruled the waves till the early years of the 20th Century somehow understood this concept and used it to telling effect in their Divide and Rule policy. The more radical among the Muslims and Hindus in India, may think of themselves and the other group as PLU and PLT respectively. Ancient Indian traditions speak of the Gods (Devas) Vs the Demons (Asuras). These days, in Indian metros we witness abuses of persons from Africa or even North-east India.
Man’s ability to stoop as seen above is infinite. But thankfully, just as potent, is his maturity to understand this weakness/ailment of his and consciously work towards bringing a positive frame of mind towards any kind of PLT. A very touching example of this comes from the closing statement of Lawyer Jake Brigance in A Time to Kill (novel and movie). The jury which was fully white and which was anyway leaning towards punishing a black man for murder finally decides to declare him innocent. Innocent of the charges of murdering two white men who had brutally raped and battered his 10 year old daughter. As part of his closing statement, Jake Brigance asks the Jury to close their eyes as he takes them through the ordeal faced by one little 10 year old girl in detail (without referring to her as Black). At the end of his narration, he asks the Jury to “…..now imagine the young girl as White..”. That changes the complexion of the Jury’s stand. It acquits the Black man. It is just a matter of thinking of People-Like-Them more as People-Like-Us. As simple as that.
We have modern day legends like Abdul Sattar Edhi to inspire us. The need of the hour is more tolerance, more kindness. Those in power can lead the way. They could make it easier for the cornered and the oppressed to relax and deliberate, rather than recoil in anger and frustration. One is again drawn to the ancient Indian concept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.