Antiblackness and British South Asians – some cultures are to be judged, but others are not

BP-emeritus Zach posted this piece on Twitter, ‘I’m Bengali, my boyfriend was black – and my mum freaked out’. The piece highlights the reality that anti-black prejudice, in particular, is pervasive among South Asians (Indians, Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, etc.). I’m not super invested in the idea that this is due to colonialism, as I doubt it is. But we all know this is objectively a true prejudice. And the article highlights it in many ways.

But I want to point out another aspect of the piece: many of the warnings, whether racially motivated or not, by the young woman’s family, turned out to be true. In the piece, she notes she had already had one abortion at 18, and now was refusing to at 21. That’s obviously her choice, but her boyfriend had apparently impregnated another young woman at the same time. Finally, “She had another child with the same partner, who later walked out on her for good.”

So she’s left in her mid-20’s to be a single mother. This is almost certainly one of the major worries of the woman’s mother and her relatives, even if they were racist. In England, 24% of black families are single-parent households, while 8% of Asian families are. Asians in England (this means South Asian) may be antiblack as a culture, but black Briton culture is partly defined by a level of family instability which horrifies people from traditional Asian cultures.

I think this near the conclusion is important:

A few months ago there was an interesting development in the family – Salma’s brother started dating a black woman. And to Salma’s surprise, her mother accepted it without hesitation.

“That’s progress for a woman who had never recognised or challenged her anti-black attitudes before,” she says.

“I’m so proud of how far she’s come, although we still have more to go.

“I don’t blame her for thinking the way she did. But it was time I challenged it. It’s time we did as a community.”

One interpretation here is that Salma’s mother is no longer racist. But another interpretation is that Salma’s brother picked a far better person as a romantic partner than Salma did. Throughout the piece the father of Salma’s children is a stand-in for a race, but what if her relatives and her mother knew exactly the kind of man he was going to be? What if they were very worried about the decisions Salma was making in large part because they were worried about her?

I am willing to bet Salma’s brother’s girlfriend raises some eyebrows. I doubt the racism disappeared in a few years. That’s a real thing. But I strongly suspect she is just a much better potential match.

These sorts of stories mix personal stories and social issues. Honestly, I think this is the story less of racism and more of an irresponsible young man and woman. They got pregnant twice. She chose to keep the baby and tried to maintain a relationship with a man who was cheating on her the whole time, to the point of impregnating someone else.  There’s more than just racism going on here.

Disinformation Feudalism

 

When the halls of power echo your voice, when titans of commerce and capital don your colors, when hallowed institutions bow to your ritual, does that make you a revolutionary? Well it does in today’s America.

It’s all a bit odd. Millions of fire-breathing activists believe they are fighting a once in a millennium battle against the forces of oppression stemming from a white supremacist state, greedy capitalist mega-corporations, and various organizations that toe the aforementioned’s line; yet all of the power centers mentioned agree with the ideology of this “resistance.” So what are they really even resisting? History shows its style when it rhymes and repeats. The poetry of the past is a delight but can be a disaster once it reaches the present. I believe we are seeing many of those themes today. What is happening in the digital realm took place centuries ago in the physical realm. The Dark Ages beckon us in order for us to see the light of the day. Continue reading Disinformation Feudalism

Hindutvavadis are not Bhakts

As an atheist, I don’t appreciate and understand religious leanings especially the spiritual and devotional aspects. But from time to time I obsessively listen to Devotional songs especially Marathi Abhangs. One of the earliest Marathi devotional songs I remember seeing is a song titled Tujhe Roop Chitti Raho. The song is a devotional song to the deity Vitthoba by a Bhakti saint Gora Kumbhar. The ghastly incident picturized in the song is

Once, his wife left her child in the courtyard where Gora Kumbhar was working and went to bring water. Gora Kumbhar was busy in preparing the mud required to make the earthen pots and was as usual engrossed in singing bhajans of Pandurang. His child playing near him, fell in the shallow ditch where the mud for preparing the pots was laid. Gora Kumbhar was churning the mud with his feet. While doing so, he accidentally crushed his child under his feet. He was so lost in singing the bhajans of Pandurang that he didn’t even hear the cries of his child.

Though as an 8-9-year-old boy, this song had a profound effect on me, the reaction I felt back then nothing compared to the one I felt last week as a father of an infant in the age of Helicopter parenting. The tale invokes comparisons to the sacrifice of Issac by Abraham to the one God. In the tale of Gora Kumbhar, his boy is brought back to life thanks to Vitthal while in the case of Abraham a messenger of God stops Abraham from sacrificing his son.

For all the 3 major dharmic faiths of the subcontinent at that time, this Bhakti might have been a surprising element. We don’t know much about the Brahminical response to this particular case, but it unlikely that it would have been positive given what we know about the Brahminical response to the Bhakti movement in general. In the Buddhist view of Karma, Gora Kumbhar might be dealt with less harshly as he had not intended to crush his son. The Jaina view however would result in significant negative Karma associated with Gora Kumbhar. In the Bhakti narrative, it’s penance (where Gora Kumbhar broke his arms) that started the annulling of his bad Karma. However, according to the tale, Vitthal only brings his son back to life when Gora Kumbhar’s wife who has been abusing Vitthal and her husband’s blind bhakti for the loss of her son, prays to the Lord Vitthal. The example of Gora Kumbhar crushing his child under the intoxication of Pandurang is extreme and strawman-ish for the sake of the argument but I use it nonetheless as the difference between this and the mainstream Bhakti movement is not one of quality but magnitude alone.

This is not a case of modern morals dissecting and judging medieval tales, but the criticism of the core idea of Bhakti itself. The suspension of belief, apparent transcendence felt while deeply engrossed in the Bhakti is physiologically not very dissimilar to the effects of psychedelics. Why then in a society where the latter is taboo while the earlier is revered? For this particular reason, for all the elements of social progressivism in it, (something I am partial towards), I have never truly had a fully positive outlook towards the Bhakti movement.

Unlike spirituality and religions, politics in general though rife with religion and demagoguery has counter-balancing pragmatic currents, especially in democracies. Coming to the title of the post, sometimes I wonder whether the pejorative “Bhakt” was used for Modi/Hindutva followers (implying their blind faith in Modi and the doctrines of Hindutva) is a harsh use of the word on Hindutvavadis. I have used the word as a pejorative and I have been called out by people of the Hindutva leanings for using a word with positive religious connotations as a pejorative. While I sometimes agree with this criticism, I do so for the exact opposite reason. I find a lot of even most hardline Hindutvavadis, rational in their personal lives and not prone to Bhakti – an exact opposite of the archetypical Bhakt.

For all the criticisms one can have of Modi, he has actually delivered quantifiable benefits to large masses of Indians. I cant totally put a finger on it, but I see a tangible difference between the adulation Narendra Modi receives from his supporters to the adulation South Indian leaders – Amma, MGR, YSR have received in the past. The second has all the tell-tale signs of Bhakti, while Modi’s support base and particularly the broader Hindutvavadis lack it. Though one might argue that the cult of Modi is barely ten years old, and it could reach new heights in the near future making my current assertion out of date – but that’s to be seen.

In retrospect, particularly in the state of Maharashtra, we can see the Bhakti movement as a catalyst that had magnified and spread confessionalism and devotion in a personal god into the ritualistic orthopraxy of elite-driven Hinduism thus making Hinduism competitive with monotheistic faiths. It also enlightened the masses to the political and social currents of their environment thus empowering the Rayat (masses) who got their Raja in the coming centuries. In other words, the Bhakti movement fertilized the ground on which the Maratha Hindavi Swarajya and later Hindutva germinated. This point has been more succinctly and coherently by @kaeshour in Hindutva is the woke culture of India.

Yet it is fair to say a sense of historical injustice and insecurity is the sentiment that drives Hindutva not Bhakti, but that’s a separate discussion. Is it fair to see the term Bhakt as a pejorative, If yes then for whom? Anyways in the woke currents of times we live in, I cannot see any other beneficiary of the current use of the word Bhakt* than Hindutva. Not that any partisan liberal will see this.

Browncast: An Ex-Muslim Bangladeshi convert to Buddhism speaks

Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsynAppleSpotify, and Stitcher (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above.

Today, I talk to “Alex,” a Bangladesh freethinker who reverted to Buddhism from Islam. He’s someone who rubbed shoulders with a lot of activists in Dhaka in the mid-2010’s, while also being a 4chan troll.

We discuss the economic and social situation in Bangladesh, but also the oppression of tribal people in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.

Open Thread – 07/03/2021 – Brown Pundits

Happy birthday soon America.

A lot of the comments on the Pew India survey are quite dumb. Some not so dumb. The problem with stupid and emotional responses is that it makes it more difficult to address real issues of bias.

Indians: A Brief History of a Civilization looks good. Lots of reviews how it is Leftist.

Pew Survey on India (religion, etc.)

The Pew Survey on India is long. Here are my main impressions/surprises:

– The strong emphasis on Hindi in the Gangetic plain is pretty striking (“Central”)

– The stuff about mass conversions to Christianity in South India seems overdone. I understand people can/will lie on Census due to reservations, but this seems less plausible for a pollster. That being said, a disproportionate number of conversions are in the South

– South India is less religious, less nationalistic, etc. This seems to apply across religions (that is, Muslims in the South are less focused on religion just like Hindus in the South are)

– Opposition to “inter-caste” marriage is very strong. And, it is strong among non-Hindu groups too

– All Indians seem rather nationalistic