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Social Issues

A Black Humour

When Diepiriye Kuku bursted out that “India is Racist,.. and happy about it”, we were confused. He went on to say “Racism in India is systematic”. What he was talking about is the typical Indian attitude towards a black -to be precise a negro (even though the term is not in much usage these days, we seems to enjoy the term). Now that did not raise a lot of eyebrows.  All emperors were naked !


If Kuku used the term racism in the strict sense of  racial discrimination, i.e. he being an African American was denied many services just because of his racial identity. Agreeing to his points, I would like to extract the word ‘systematic’,  which he used to describe the Indian attitude, and place it into a more domestic context. Think about the dark skinned millions in India. Of them many are Dalits. Aren’t we following a ‘systematic’ attitude of discrimination and intimidation towards them? Yes, I would say. This fact is so well known and agreed to that no one likes to talk about it any more !!! Yet, we continue to make fun of those dark skinned brothers and sisters.

Coming back to the point, I want to stress on ‘systematic’. Or rather I’d use the term institutionalized discrimination. Have a look at the pictures on this post. Those pictures were captured from an advertisement campaign currently undergoing in the leading news papers of India. I saw them in The Hindu. Briefly describing the purpose behind the ad: India Info Line (IIFL), a brokerage firm, launched this campaign for  Financial Literacy Agenda for Mass Empowerment (FLAME). The campaign which has 108 parts with one each printed every day. The ads carry a message, sometimes an advice to the people who are into the financial markets intended to make them financially literate or aware of the pitfalls. So far so good.

Fig. 2

But to understand the real issue one should observe these pictures carefully. In all of them why the so called villains are portrayed as dark skinned? “For effective communication..” or “to get this registered in the minds of people” might be the usual answers we get if asked. That is precisely where the issue is. Why do we love to see villains with these features and get ups. No, you cannot get away by justifying that this is just one standalone case and need not be given so much attention. If that was the case why this has been  repeated?  If Fig. 1 depicts the dark man with a moustache  peeping on to the other one to copy down the password, Fig. 2 has the same person attempting a credit card fraud. When it comes to Fig.3 his new avatar is of an “outstanding” portfolio manager!! Different in looks and attitude the designer has kept him at beyond arms length from others. The customer, poor guy with no common-sense, seems to make a ‘wrong’ decision by choosing our guy, the shabby haired, dark skinned man with a moustache and big eyes.  The other images also say the same story. The FLAME website has the complete set of these ads.

Fig 3

Now, the question here is what is the relationship between the skin colour (and consequent looks) and financial fraud. How do you correlate these two? Should we understand that everyone with these features are more or less financial criminals? Or is it that only they do such crimes?

You can see some more images in this post. Those very special dignitaries are known for their track record in financial irregularities and cheating. Unfortunately I don’t see a single person with such physical appearance as seen in those ads. Nor do I generalise that all non-dark skinned persons are engaged in fraudulent acts as these dignitaries did.

Hasan Ali Khan

These ads manifest an advertiser’s confidence that portraying a villain in such manner makes it a lot easier for his creation to penetrate into the minds of the indented recipients – that is we the people. Who is to be blamed?    The ad-designer?  the ad-director?  the firm IIFL? the newspaper? Everyone of us is to be blamed. All emperors are naked. . Why are we so prejudiced? That too in this so called knowledge-society !! How dare somebody draw like this and continue to do that?

The liberal values which we boast of seems to be dumb, deaf and blind against these atrocities. Unless we realize how the markets are playing this dirty game we would end up in deep trouble. Now, if you think why I am pulling the markets into this go back to your TV and wait for an ad. Mostly the ad will be of a cosmetic product. Those fairness cream ads, I mean it. No one cares the dark girl, no one wants to date her… interview panels turn her down..  she looks very gloomy.. a fairer one advises this magical product.. a few days time.. Alas!!  To everyone’s surprise she comes out of the shell in flying colours.. jobs, boy friends waiting in queue. Now, replace ‘she’ with ‘he’. The whole story still holds good. Man, this is the $150 million fairness cream industry of India.

All those dark fellows out there…  Go to hell..  or continue to steal, cheat..  be depressed about your complexion.. you want to get out of this? Try our new……

Ketan Parekh

Fig 5

Fig 4



5 thoughts on “A Black Humour

  1. I enjoyed this piece. Thanks!

    Posted by Diepiriye Sungumote Kuku-Siemons | September 27, 2011, 3:33 pm
  2. did u try mailing them or the advertisers and asking them to change this as it was offensive ? I sent them an email and they have said they will try to change the characters !!!

    Posted by Kart | March 14, 2012, 6:00 am
    • KART,

      I had thought about it.. Then I thought my objective is not to correct this one institution but to bring such institutionalized injustice to the attention of a larger public attention. Now after hearing from you I checked the FLAME website and was disappointed to see that nothing has been changed.. They might still be “thinking” about it.. anyways nice to meet you here..

      Posted by Bijin | ബിജിന്‍ | March 15, 2012, 10:19 am
  3. Dark and spot on. Thank you!

    Posted by Sajish | March 7, 2016, 6:20 am

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