Race is the most salient fact or feature about a person – if not about a nation – that we try to ignore & to equalise & to relativise all the time. But why? What are we afraid of? To me, race is a kind of ethnological scar, a mark of the evolutionary branding that all of us went through. To deny race is to say that all the animals in the forest are the same – yes, they are, but they are also different.
Nations are/were formed on the basis of race but are geographical & political entities, in the final analysis. Hence nationality may or may not correspond to race. One cannot change one’s race but one can change one’s nationality. Whatever nationality you have, it is the race that shines through. You have the passport in your hand but the race is in your face. It’s what they don’t teach border guards & policemen & customs and immigration officials because they don’t have to: border guards & policemen & customs and immigration officials are born with that instinct (maybe all of us?). Imagine Barack Obama arriving in a torn T-shirt and a pair of worn jeans, with a seven-day stubble, by dinghy on a deserted beach on Spain’s Costa del Merde. What d’you think a bored and slightly short-sighted member of the Guardia Civil would do with him? Call out the guard of honour?
Racism manifests itself mostly as facism, we conclude – not to be confused with fascism, though certain similarities cannot be denied.
Why talk of Barack Obama, take us South Asians in Germany. Even the sub-Saharan (a terrible word I picked up from Sacha Baron Cohen) toilet attendant in a Kaufhaus does not expect me to put down that fifty cent piece on his plate simply because I look like what I am viz. a South Asian. And he expects a South Asian to be either ungenerous or poor, possibly both. Reminds me of this Indian friend of mine who got held up after dark by a black person, might have been in Chicago: “Gimme whatch’u got!” My friend fished out the small change he was carrying in his pocket. “Where are you from?” the holdup artist was asking. From India – my friend submitted. “You keep it. You need it more than I do.”
I live in Germany, which consists mainly of Germans and then the rest of us from almost every conceivable continent, country, nation & race on earth. We, the non-Germans, are not particularly fond of each other. For example, we South Asians want the Germans to realise that we are not like the – well, sub-Saharans, say. And that we are better than the Turks, in many respects. The Syrians and the Iranians are fairer than us, we must acknowledge, which gives them an advantage. But none of them know English as well as we do. Who needs English in Germany, you say? Well, you may be having a point there but don’t tell it to the Germans. We still impress them with our subcontinental English.
Talking of the Germans, before I accuse any or all of them of being patronising & condescending to us ‘outlanders’, I have to remember how we outlanders in Germany treat each other. There’s this Italian who used to look down upon me, the midget, his only qualification being that he baked the best pizza in Ober-wherever-it-was. He could afford to look down upon me because I was sitting while he was standing. This was in his restaurant. I was sitting at our table when he turned up with the menu cards and some of the rottenest German in Germany, all adorned with his Gorgonzola smile. I could have made him aware of the fact that he was looking at the proud son of a proud nation, the proud progeny of a proud race whose history went back some six thousand years to the sewage systems of Harappa & Mohenjo-Daro (though there are not enough toilets in India today). I praised his pizza instead. We’ve been friends ever since and spend our time cursing the Germans in broken German whenever I visit his restaurant.
Oh yes, we hate the Germans, we hate the Germans because they do not love us or do not love us as much as we’d like them to. We hate them for not having stopped all immigration immediately after Signor Zucarelli (naturally not his real name) or at the latest after me. Signor Zucarelli’s father came on a Vespa over the Alps to Germany as one of the first Guest Workers whereas I am in my thirty-fourth year of asile d’amour or romantic asylum in Germany. So we are like the first child & the second child watching more siblings arrive by the year while our (imagined) share of the (imagined) cake gets smaller and smaller.
The new ones or the old ones, it is not as if we outlanders hurl insults at each other and go at each other’s throats all the time. As there is honour among thieves, there is a kind of tolerance among the outlanders here in Germany which is the exact opposite of ‘integration’, the beloved buzzword of the German government as well as of the German public. We outlanders leave the other outlanders be. On any particular evening in Bonn, there’s a different kind of food being cooked in every outlander kitchen which none of the other outlanders would like to eat on a regular basis – except as a more exotic form of waterboarding. All those smells are streaming or steaming out of the kitchen windows and mingling with the summer fragrance to create a mixture so potent that the Germans are wishing they were in some other place than Germany.
Why do you think the Balearic Islands are tipped to be the next Deutschland?