As part of our learning events at NHSF Warwick Hindu Society, we hold weekly aartis and discussions on Monday evenings. In early March we had a variety of different students and Jaimal Patel, Vice President & Sabbatical Officer of NHSF, join us to take part in our discussion on racism. We have found collaborations with other societies, both faith-based and non-faith-based, was valuable to ensuring our members gain a holistic and insightful picture into each discussion topic; this week, we collaborated with Warwick Sikh Society to deliver this discussion.
The planning of this discussion was extensive; as the Learning Coordinator, I created a presentation posing some key questions around the issue of racism. Is racism still prevalent today? Do you ever have racist thoughts? Can we abolish racism? These questions triggered widespread discussion, with a variety of differing viewpoints being discussed. Whilst the majority of people came to the conclusion that racism is still prevalent today, if not visibly and tangibly, but at least in the psyche of many in the racial majority in countries around the world. In relation to the question on racist thoughts, the group came to the conclusion that despite the existence of racially motivated jokes, in order for thoughts to be considered racist there had to be an element of hatred or antagonism towards those of another race, and therefore – at least for those who spoke in the session – their thoughts were not racist. Similarly, racism, as it is embedded in the psyche of some individuals in society, is a form of discrimination that we cannot completely abolish; whilst it may seem as if racism has been abolished as it is not visible or as actively prevalent, to alter the psyche of individuals is impossible.
Hinduism’s view on racism is somewhat ambiguous, and not directly talked about in many Hindu scriptures. However, Gandhi, as is common knowledge, was subject to many racial attacks, perhaps the most publicised of which being thrown off a First Class train carriage in South Africa. The lessons of this can be gleaned from Gandhi’s reaction; his call for nonviolence and peaceful protest to counter racism not only epitomises the Hindu value of ahimsa but also gives us valuable insight into how to react to such situations today. Indeed, whilst not directly racism related, a study by the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad discovered that the caste system had a “profound influence on skin pigmentation”, suggesting how Hindu traditions have developed racial separation in India, which could be considered a potential influencing factor towards racism. Although many different studying and saying can be said about racism and the Hindu faith I believe The Bhagavad Gita states how we should like as Krishna says “I look upon creatures equally’ (Bhagavad Gita 9.29). this means that it doesn’t matter if it is an insect, animal or a human you can always be treated equally in the eyes of Krishna.
This discussion was particularly insightful, well-informed and interesting for our members. A variety of viewpoints were discussed, and not only was the discussion a good opportunity to learn more about racism, but it was also a valuable opportunity to understand the viewpoint of Hinduism on such a topical issue.
— Niam Radia, Learning Coordinator, NHSF Warwick Hindu Society