April 26, 2008

Indian Racism

The Washington Post runs a cheerful, upbeat article on the pervasive discrimination in the huge Indian film industry:

Bollywood No Longer A Dream Too Far for India's Lower Castes

Today, a trickle of actors, dancers and screenwriters from India's lower and middle castes are trying to break into a formerly impenetrable star system, full of actors from Bollywood royalty and other insiders hailing from high-caste families. New drama schools are training Indians from all castes. And Bollywood is starting to tackle more serious plots that could potentially star low-caste actors.

"Will you get more attention if you have the right surname and are part of an entrenched star family? Of course," said Anupama Chopra, a film critic and author of several best-selling books on Bollywood. "But there is increasing space now for a booming Bollywood film industry, and there's a feeling that if you are talented enough, well, maybe you will get noticed, no matter what your family ties are."

Across India, Dalits [a.k.a., Untouchables] and members of other low castes [actually, Dalits don't even have a caste -- being low caste would be a massive promotion for them] are struggling to gain access to quality education and better-paying jobs. The economy is booming, and Indians of low caste -- often identifiable by their surnames, birthplaces or parents' status -- want to share in the wealth, or at least the opportunity.

Some aspiring actors from low castes say their confidence is growing. There is more social mobility than ever before, they say, and Bollywood is experiencing its share of change.

"It's something new in the air for young people in some parts of India," said Trisha Karmakar, 24, a member of a lower caste who moved to Mumbai from the poor, densely populated state of Uttar Pradesh. "It's a feeling that at least there's a small chance for lower castes and not just for the star kids who have their godfathers and always get the callbacks."

Karmakar, speaking one recent day in a neighborhood of acting and dance schools, beauty parlors and pawnshops, said she has yet to land a role. But she said she is close to breaking into TV soap operas.

Well, don't call us, we'll call you.

As far as I can tell from reading the article, The Washington Post couldn't actually find an Untouchable, of whom there are 160 million in India, who has acted in a Bollywood movie. The closest they could come was the following:

"One of Bollywood's most beloved stars, Shahrukh Khan, is a middle-class Muslim with no film industry connections. He is often cited as an example of how charisma and sex appeal can trump connections and religious background in a country where Muslims are a minority."

Which doesn't seem very close at all.

But the fact that 160 million Untouchables are virtually shut out of India's most famous export industry is not the point, according to the Post. We shouldn't be thinking that the Bollywood tolerance glass is half empty (or, to be picky, 99.9% empty). The point is that the glass is full ... of Hope. And Change. Change and Hope!

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

27 comments:

TGGP said...

I discussed high-caste Indian supremacists here.

Proofreader said...

For a Western mind, caste is best understood in terms of social class than race, but still...
In India a fair complexion is highly priced.

Jody said...

That's ok. There's massive set asides for the backwards classes everywhere else.

dhoorendhar bhatavadekar said...

Well the Paswan dude who was prominently interviewed is a "dalit" (used to be called "untouchables")...So yeah, the washington post did find the types of people it was looking for.

And well, here are other dalits better placed to break into Bollywood - for instance a guy called Chirag Paswan is scheduled to make his boolywood debut in a major movie soon. But there's a catch - Chirag is the son of Ram Vilas Paswan - a federal minister
who happens to be from the same caste. Check out RVPs wikipedia page

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ram_Vilas_Paswan

Even more interesting - Check out this picture of RVPs (second) wife:

http://www.rediff.com/news/2005/feb/27look.htm

Do isteve readers catch any "biodiversity" issues here (and from reading the wikipedia article)...?

Well, since you folks already have the mexican template: let me point out that through much of indian history (and increasingly today), there was in practice a caste
"gradient" (though in theory there was a caste line).

Ironically, during the Pax Britannica that there was a distinct de-fluidization of the identities - sometimes with direct input from the colonizers ("martial races act" etc.)

Since you already have the mexican template, you might as well as think of india as mexico + 2000 years in practice.... (but without the salve of "La Razza" ideology, unfortunately)

dearieme said...

With just a little ingenuity there must be same way to blame the caste system on the USA.

Johnson said...

Actually probably a majority of Indian male bollywood actors are Muslim, so that's nothing special.

And the premium is, by far, put on light skin, muscles, and attractiveness rather than caste associations it seems.

Just in a biological sense, good luck getting a dalit (with the skin tone of an African) high up in the bollywood stardom.

Dennis Mangan said...

Apparently the article also fails to mention that they can be identified by skin color too, making Bollywood look even more racist.

The first Dalit who breaks through will be a beautiful, young, light-skinned woman. Sex trumps race when you're doing the actress.

Anonymous said...

All that tggp post conveyed to me was "creepy; anti-semitic," which is a really bad sign for tggp, as I don't creep easy. Seriously, anti-semites, you like the pattern-recognition thing, but haven't you noticed the numbers for excellent, outstanding thinkers overlap elegantly with psychometric data? Okay: maybe there's "Jewish" thought like "black" music. There are rhythms to it, you can see patterns, and point out problems. "Sometimes that sort of thing produces a Kafka or Einstein, or even a creditable female intellectual, but waaaa! I don't like it because it has identifiable characteristics, sort of! Waaaa!"

Maybe you like classical music, hate all this rhythmic nonsense. But by all available evidence, this is the best thought-making or music-making hardware available on human beings. Maybe you just hate human beings. I do. Most black musicians suck, most Jewish intellectuals are scum, because people suck. Just because you can point out unique group characteristics amongst the subsets does not stop them from being the most promising subset of human beings in their fields. Admit it and save yourself the sweat. Just be happy you can make your own classic rock out of their rhythm and blues, jazz and spirituals. Otherwise you wouldn't have your idiom at all. God bless us everyone.

Interesting question: sometimes I feel ridiculous reading about the England of old, with a population of 10,000,000, when I could be reading about the India of today. But I run into this problem: there's nothing INTERESTING, anywhere, to read about the India of today, because I like stupidity, corruption, racism, violence and horror coming thick and fast in my history. No shortage of that, in real life. Furthermore, even in local newspapers, to what extent are PC-trained intellectuals in third-world countries retarding progress, by not speaking out against corruption? The PC training feeds into vulgar nationalism. "My job is to boost my countrymen in status and reputation." You can't make statements that show problems that aren't linked to "Great Satan" type forces. All this could be organically shifting, and we could soon see some amazing histories coming out of anyplace. I hope so. I'm really, really bored.

In terms of local newspapers, obviously the Middle East would be the worst on this score, and it's not exactly PC, over there, but just anti-semitism and conspiracy theories. By constantly reframing the same narrative, they create the sensation there's "the man," present in local bureaucracy, dictators, Israel and the U.S, somehow responsible for everything. This allows for narratives of transcendent rebellion, like crashing a plane into a skyscraper, instead of the boring, boring battle against human incompetence, even harder and less glamorous in nations where people are probably a little bit dumber.

I read the contemporary Oxford historians (some of the best ever) talking about Europe, because they're not beholden to spouting comforting garbage. Foreign intellectuals are trained to think their foot soldiers in the great PC war, and avoid telling the truth. What a pernicious ideology!

Lucius Vorenus said...

Steve Sailer: But the fact that 160 million Untouchables are virtually shut out of India's most famous export industry is not the point, according to the Post. We shouldn't be thinking that the Bollywood tolerance glass is half empty (or, to be picky, 99.9% empty). The point is that the glass is full ... of Hope. And Change. Change and Hope!

Okay, usually I don't have much patience with the GNXP/Darwinian point of view, but, c'mon Steve - Lynn & Vanhanen estimate the average Indian IQ at 81 [!!!], and that's after you've thrown in all those high-caste geniuses who are running places like Bangalore.

Which is to say: In all likelihood, the mean IQ for those 160 million Untouchables must lie pretty solidly in the mentally retarded zone.

In turn, that's not to say that we shouldn't love imbeciles [as we love ourselves], but to expect them to grow up to be movie stars & movie starlets is probably axing just a bit too much.

Although I suppose that Mike Judge might disagree.

PS: If that little sarcastic riff about Change and Hope! was intended to make exactly the same point that I'm making, then kindly ignore this comment altogether.

PPS: If anyone has any data on Indian IQ by caste, and, much more importantly, if anyone has any data on Indian total fertility rates [TFR's] by caste, then I'd love to see it.

Anonymous said...

I think the WaPo is just trying to spread the news about racism. There is plenty to go around and America has to fight to bring justice to those 160M indians who are severely discriminated against.

Perhaps we can invite them to the US, or maybe we should invade India if they don't promise to stop being racist.

Maybe President B Hussein Obama can make it a priority.

Bill said...

I've seen an untouchable in a Bollywood film. In Lagaan, where the poor, oppressed villagers play cricket against the British colonials, the bowler is an untouchable. The issue of casteism is addressed in the movie as well.

For some reason, American academics are fascinated by India's caste system, and there seems to be a missionary impulse to get involved.

Here's a long, but interesting article about Bollywood and casteism.

Steve Wood said...

Being Muslim, Shahrukh Khan has no caste. However, here's what Wikipedia says about his family:

Khan was born to Muslim parents. His father, Taj Mohammed Khan was a freedom activist from Peshawar. His mother Lateef Fatima was the adopted daughter of Major General Shah Nawaz Khan of the Janjua Rajput clan, who served as a General in the Indian National Army of Subash Chandra Bose.

That doesn't sound like a particularly underprivileged background to me. And, indeed, Khan's fluent grasp of English indicates that he either received a good education or grew up in a milieu where English was commonly spoken. Neither would be very likely for someone from an impoverished background.

So ... no. Nowhere near close to a low-caste, much less Dalit, background.

Josh said...

"...there is not a high-caste India or a low caste India or a Dalit India;there is only the United India!!"

Anonymous said...

"through much of indian history (and increasingly today), there was in practice a caste
"gradient" (though in theory there was a caste line). "

Close... 'caste' is actually two different concepts.

Varna: Hindu religious concept (4 + 1 castes)
Jati: Social concept of Caste based on occupations. (thousands of different castes based on the occupation, i.e. blacksmith, goldsmith, land owner, toilet cleaner, doctor, preist, regional administrator, grocer etc.)

Jatis are probably best described as family based unions. Entering a Jati was difficult without family

Modern caste is an attempt to reconcile these many occupations into the 4+1 Hindu heirarchy.

Informally this is done through the general socio-economic status of a jati as well as the how well the traditional occupation. Different Jatis attempt to identify themselves with a higher varna, for obvious reasons.

Formally the Indian government uses the socio-economic status of a particular caste to classify them as Forward, Backward, or Dalit/Tribal. Groups representing Jatis usually lobby to have themselves reclassified to a lower group to take advantage of government benefits.

It is not uncommon to have members of the same Jati classified differently for benefit purposes by the government in different states. Depending on the socio-economic status and lobbying power to the jati in a state.

tommy said...

The point is that the glass is full ... of Hope. And Change. Change and Hope!

Never fear! I think the lovely Aishwarya Rai is a member of the Bunt community. The Bunts haven't traditionally slotted into typical caste divisions very easily (or they have had their own internal caste-like system based on a sort of feudalism that has been their tradition). I suppose if Aishwarya can make it, any Dalit can!

More seriously, the Bunts are probably most comparable to the Kshatriyas in social status -- not exactly a cause for optimism for struggling Dalit actors.

Jeff said...

Anon - "Admit it and save yourself the sweat. Just be happy you can make your own classic rock out of their rhythm and blues, jazz and spirituals."

But something is being left out of the picture here. Its an omission we are so used to we dont even notice it anymore. Current popular music is held up as a fusion of black and white input, thats true up to a point but is it 50/50?

No...

Where would these black innovators we are beholden to without the whites who made it possible?

Where did the guitar come from? The electric guitar, amplifiers, microphones, studio technology, pianos, keyboards, synthesizers, computers, mp3s, cds, cassettes, tapes, vinyl etc etc

Its true without black muscians we might not have rock music but its certain without whites all forms of popular music that exist right now would not exist in any shape or form at all.

William said...

Chirag Paswan is scheduled to make his boolywood debut in a major movie soon. But there's a catch - Chirag is the son of Ram Vilas Paswan - a federal minister
who happens to be from the same caste.


So the senior Paswan got his gov't position through AA, and, with private industry pressured to open positions to low castes, they're giving them (conveniently) to kids of powerful officials.

IS that a proper interpretation? I'm just guessing here.

For a Western mind, caste is best understood in terms of social class than race, but still...
In India a fair complexion is highly priced.


But, as in so many other places, race cleaves along the same lines as class, no?

My understanding of Indian history is that the Aryans set up the caste system after invading, so that the Aryans would not mix with the other-raced natives.

Skin color then would be a marker for class because it's also a marker for race.

Proofreader said...

william:
Southern Brahmins are about as dark as southern untouchables. Skin colour in India correlates with latitude, as anywhere else.
The spread of Brahmanism from the North was partly cultural and partly mediated via migration of Northern Brahmins. A drop in the ocean, so to speak.

John of London said...

10 or 15 years ago there were Indian movies in which low caste heroines fought back against upper-caste oppressors. Many of these seem to have starred the late Smita Patil (a fine actress with more sex-appeal in her belly-button than Aishwarya Rai has in her whole body, IMO). I don't know what caste SP herself was. I suspect they're not making films like that any more (Bandit Queen wasn't exactly Bollywood).
It's surprising that Americans are unaware of racism against Dalits (untouchables and Tribals) in India, while Untouchables have drawn the parallel between their situation and that of Black Americans for 100 years, ever since they learent enough about America. In Bihar today there is a group called the Ranvir Sena that is very like the Ku Klux Klan. It uses murder (with impunity) to prevent Dalits getting any land. The RS is run by upper castes, but not only upper caste jatis, but also middle-caste farming jatis are determined to keep the Dalits in their place.
Caste (varna) is not mainly a matter of skin colour, I think. A dark skinned Brahmin is still a Brahmin. But I would like to know where Bollywood gets all these light-skinned actresses. Some are literally white - like paper, not like "White" people.
Another irony: when the Indian cinema started before WWII, acting was not seen as "respectable" and I'd guess the first actors were not upper caste. Anyone know for sure?

William said...

Discussions of Indian cinema always remind me of this.

I'm not making fun of Indians. It was the 70s - we were all high.

On the other hand, I found this, from the 90s movie "Ashoka" with Kareena Kapoor, to be a little more, ahem, stimulating. Actually a very good movie, if you neglect the movie's odd tendency to break out in music videos every so often.

rec1man said...

Indian dalits are no worse than african blacks

I would expect that their IQ in India is 70 and if transplanted to a society with more nutrition and schooling would probably reach IQ = 80

Bhavna said...

You guys are absolutely right- Indians love white supremacy and racism. You see it in every aspect of Indian culture in India and abroad. You could even start with our beloved caste system (sarcasm). Indians live for white supremacy and forever will drool and fall at the feet of whites. Hell it's even in their religion- aka caste system, and worshiping the whiter skin or so called upper class. The love and take pride in being slaves- take for example outsourcing. Talk to any Indian and they will love it and not get through their thick skull that it is modern day slavery. I am Indian myself and have grown up with this BS ideology all around me, but have stayed immune to this self hatred and racism. While it's a sad day in India moving backwards in time to colonialism, meanwhile the US has progressed forward, and elected its first black President. Indians will forever stay in the dark ages and rot in hell if that's what they want.

Indian said...

add this to that.
http://redirectionlink.wordpress.com/

rec1man said...

Chirag Paswan is scheduled to make his boolywood debut in a major movie soon. But there's a catch - Chirag is the son of Ram Vilas Paswan - a federal minister
who happens to be from the same caste
--

Ram Vilas Paswan , an untouchable, originally married own caste homely wife, and produced 2 kids, then he got rich and dumped his wife and picked up an eye-candy, gold-digger Punjabi brahmin as his second wife
Actually it is bigamy since he never actually legally divorced his first wife

Chirag is the son of his second wife, and resembles his punjabi brahmin eye candy mother

rec1man said...

Mangan wrote - The first Dalit who breaks through will be a beautiful, young, light-skinned woman. Sex trumps race when you're doing the actress.

---

I have not seen a single Dalit woman who looks better than a '5' on a scale of 1 - 10

rec1man said...

John of London wrote - But I would like to know where Bollywood gets all these light-skinned actresses
--

Brahmin women, Shia muslim women of persian blood, Punjabi Khatri women ( see porn star Sunny Leone ), Bunt women, Kashmiri women and add lots of make up

rec1man said...

william:
Southern Brahmins are about as dark as southern untouchables. Skin colour in India correlates with latitude, as anywhere else.
--

Wrong
Southern Untouchable are as dark as Nigerians and distinctly darker than the surrounding Dravidian population and I can pick them out by sight

Whereas most Southern Brahmins look like Vish Anand, the world chess champion