india untouched

“I am insulted that this anime did/didn’t do a thing with race! POC deserve respect! I want them to change it to be more like I want!”

The Japanese have a completely different racial and social history, so it may be that they are making it based on their own experiences. Are you basing this idea on Western ideas of race and racial relations? Wouldn’t making the Japanese make media that reflects a Western idea of race be cultural imperialism? Here’s a good way of knowing if you are informed of Japanese racial politics:

Are you aware that Okinawa was not originally a part of Japan, was conquered, and is often referred to as the Ryukyu Islands? That it has it’s own ethnic minority with its own rapidly-dying language, and Okinawa also has by far the largest concentration of detested American army bases? Here is a photo from the 19th century of a Ryukyu Island native, taken by a Japanese man to sell “ethnic photos” back on the mainland.

Did you know that the “Japanese” we know of are not technically native to the island at all, but arrived sometime in prehistory to displace the original inhabitants? This would be the Ainu, and genetic studies have shown they’re actually more closely related to Caucasians. They now mostly live in Hokkaido, most of their land having been taken and many been killed due to historic wars and slavery.

Did you know that countless ethnic Koreans and Chinese have lived in Japan since the colonial period, often because of having their land ownership and livelihoods forcibly taken and moved to Japan? That they were forced to not speak their native language and had to go by Japanese names? That even though many of them have lived there for generations, they could not obtain citizenship until 1980 without getting a Japanese name? That there were hate crimes committed against Korean schoolgirls as early as the late 1990’s?

And the ultimate taboo, did you know that Japan had its own class of “untouchables” like India? These are known as Burakumin, or at least that’s the nicest word for them. They were often relegated to “unclean” professions like tanning and butchery, and in premodern Japan someone could literally cut down a Burakumin in the street in broad daylight and receive no reprisal.  While they are legally no different from anyone anymore, socially is a different story. If you have Burakumin ancestry, chances are, you live in certain districts–because no one else will rent or sell a house to you. Employers use your address to openly discriminate against you. If you marry, your family may hire someone to trace your family history to make sure you have no Burakumin ancestors. To many, it’s taboo to even discuss them. Below is Jiichiro Matsumoto, a burakumin and considered to be the father of burakumin liberation.

There’s more, of course, but you get the idea. Most people outside of Japan are simply considered gaijin–whether you’re a black gaijin or a white gaijin. You’re a foreigner. Sure, due to imperialism, a Japanese is going to think of a white English-speaker first and there are some differences within the category, but know that this is the category the rest of the world has been placed in. We’re a goofy novelty sure, but there are random gaijin of all colors being the “talento” of Japanese television. Outside of the extreme Japanese right, we’re not very controversial.

As you can see, the Japanese are racial-ideology-wise far from perfect. But for someone to come in with no knowledge of this long and complicated history and insist that having more Hispanic/Black/POC(a meaningless term in a country full of POC) characters in anime, it’s saying that American racial ideas and politics are more important. Sure, I love when anime has diversity of any kind. But if you think an anime with a “POC” is more progressive and ignore something like Samurai Champloo–which has both a Ryukyu island native main character and several episodes devoted to the Ainu–then I’m sorry, but you’re being culturally ignorant and contributing to cultural imperialism. That yet again, the gaijin should be the star. And the West has a very, very long history of imposing its own sense of morality on everyone else. I can find way more foreigners of any color portrayed in anime than any Ainu, let me tell ya. I have no right to tell a foreign industry to stop making media that reflects them and their racial identity and instead make stuff that looks like an American sitcom.

This doesn’t mean let Japan off the hook. But that means that if you want to have your own opinion, if you want to be taken seriously, and if you want to promote social justice without doing the exact same white man’s burden act we’ve always done, then you have a responsibility to educate yourself.


In the Name of God

The Ramnamis are a small hindu sect from central India. As leather-workers they are on the lowest rung of the caste-system, because they process the skins of dead cows and are considered ‘untouchable’. Traditionally this status meant that they were prevented from entering Hindu temples along with the other castes. So, in an expression of their own proud religious convictions, the Ramnamis began the practice of tattooing the name of the god, (Ram) all over their faces and bodies. In this way they wished to show that everyone is equal in the eyes of God and that they have no need of temples to confess their faith. Today the Ramnami tradition continues with its own strand of Hindu belief and outdoor prayer areas, and its members hold their heads high in the knowledge of their devotion to their faith.

Olivia Arthur 2005

Check Your Caste Privilege

By Sinthujan and Ram

The social, political, and economic arrangements of a society can place some people in a privileged position relative to others, particularly with respect to important goods, like institutional representation, economic resources, and even less tangible goods like “respect” and “welfare”. Since societal arrangements are not always brought into reflective awareness, it is unsurprising when even well meaning and well-intentioned members of privileged groups are unaware of how they may benefit from social arrangements relative to members of other groups. Many times have we experienced “upper-caste” Tamils unable and unwilling to recognize the privilege they hold vis-à-vis “lower-caste” Tamils in Sri Lanka and beyond. Sometimes they may well be aware of some of the difficulties faced by oppressed caste members. Sometimes they may even work for the betterment of other communities in the island, but this hardly ever translates into wider acknowledgment of the privilege centred around their “upper-caste” Tamil identity.

The denial of these privileges is widespread. Often we find “upper-caste” people relativising the inequalities felt by deprived caste Tamils, deflecting the undercurrent of casteism that produces systemic and sociocultural inequalities which continue to haunt the island and its diasporas.

This list attempts to highlight some of the privileges provided to “upper-caste” Tamils in Sri Lanka and beyond just because they are, yes, Tamils of “upper-caste” origin. Noting these privileges are not meant to antagonize or alienate people of privileged caste origin but rather raise awareness and self-consciousness about how caste identities indeed do play a role in the way they perceive, interact, and ultimately, politicize minorities on the island as well as its diasporas. It is also meant to show the extensive ways that caste identities can track inequalities in opportunity and welfare within a society and displacement. With this compilation we hope to ignite meaningful conversations and introspections into what it means to be a Tamil of “upper-caste” origin and ultimately what it means to not be of “upper-caste” origin in Sri Lanka and beyond.

Caste Privilege 

1) You don’t have to ever acknowledge your caste identity and its attendant privileges.

2) You can think that the invisibility of your caste identity speaks to the erasure of caste as a relevant social system of organisation and segregation.

3) You can think that not being aware of your caste stems from progressive education.

4) You think that not speaking about caste is an act against the caste system, and you do so without having to consider that silencing caste makes it more difficult to challenge the caste system and easier to recode, invisibilise and mainstream it.

5) You can talk about anti-casteism without ever having to name the social group that holds power and sway over every other caste group in the diasporas and homeland (here: Vellalar caste group).

6) You can think that to say that you are against caste already translates into social change.

7) You can claim that the caste system has become obliterate with time while simultaneously continuing to enjoy the fruits of century-old socially constructed inequalities and exclusion.

8) You are able to increasingly replace caste with class in your socio-economic analysis without acknowledging that the historic caste/class overlap, particularly in the homeland, continues through long-term structural effects to affect questions of access and opportunity even years, decades, and centuries later.

9) You can emphasise class over caste as a means to deflect from the importance of caste as a contemporary social marker.

10) You can deny the historic, contemporary, physical and social violence of casteism amongst island Tamils by pointing to the severity of the caste system in neighbouring India.

11) You can oversimplify by saying that “untouchability”, as understood in the Indian context, never existed in Sri Lanka, therefore caste injustices “can’t have been as bad as in India”(although “untouchability” still existed on the island).

12) You can reduce oppression, inequalities and injustices felt by the Tamil people to those committed by the Sri Lankan state. 

13) You can be progressive enough to talk about intersectionality with regards to race, ethnicity, gender, class and sexuality while erasing the question of caste from your analysis.

14) You can become an authority on caste without ever having to acknowledge your own privileged caste background and its resulting limits and subjectivities.

15) You can question the “objectivity” of oppressed caste members’ activism, research and work on caste issues based on their own membership in stigmatized caste groups.

Education and Employment

16) You can think of your parent’s aspiration for your (future) job to be completely isolated from the century old caste traditions and aspirations they grew up with.

17) You often have better support mechanisms to access and complete higher education based on the historic proximity of privileged caste members to educational institutions.

18) You can face little or less pressure to perform well or outperform others in education and employement based on your caste identity and history.

19) You can deny that caste discrimination in the employment sector continues to exist amongst Tamils, particularly amongst diasporic communities.

20) You can normalize the casteist organisation of society according to occupational practices.

Migration & Diaspora

20) You can denounce the importance of anti-caste activism in diaspora because apparently “caste doesn’t exist anymore”

21) You can overlook that migration meant for many (upper) caste-Tamils the loss of secular status by losing their inherital socioeconomic privileges on arrival in diaspora and ritual purity by having crossed the Indian Ocean.

22) You can overlook that migration meant for many deprived caste Tamils the relative liberation from caste stratified societies and socioeconomic as well as sociocultural diktats.

23) You can claim that patterns of migration from Sri Lanka had no caste linkage.

24) You can claim that the remittance economy that links diasporas and the homeland today does not reflect caste patterns and allegiances.

25) You can deny that the remittance economy further amplifies social divisions and inequalities between different caste groups in the homeland.

25) You can claim that all refugees experienced flight and integration the same without acknowledging how questions of caste and class altered or limited some people’s choices, opportunities, and adaptabilities.

26) You can deny that caste assumptions and prejudices are recreated and projected in the Tamil vernacular onto new diasporic geographies.

27) You can think of the question of “what’s your ‘ur’(home)?” as an uncritical and sentimental reflection of curiosity/nostalgia without having to consider the socioeconomically profiling/castefying as well as social violence that is hidden behind questions of geographic belonging in Sri Lanka.

Individual Histories & Memories

28) You don’t have to hide your personal biographies or rewrite your own personal history in order to circumvent the possibility of experiencing discrimination.

29) You don’t have to constantly fear for your web of lies and social buffers to be discovered and revealed.

30) You can challenge the reinvention and rewriting of identities and social histories of deprived caste members in diaspora as you consider your history as socially incontestable and free of social stigma.

31) You can proudly attest to your history without having to care about the social consequences.

32) You can publicly remember and mourn your social position back home without ever having to acknowledge how your privileged caste background entitled and made you inherit your place in society.

33) You can remember your socioeconomic background without having to acknowledge how you benefited from caste inequalities, and how you were inherently embedded and complicit in the exploitation of “lower caste groups”.

Society & Culture

34) You don’t have to fear discrimination amongst larger groups of Tamils based on your caste background.

35) You don’t have to acknowledge that caste is as deeply embedded in Tamil language as it is embodied within and by Tamil culture as a whole.

36) You can deny that negative caste assumptions and associations are made in regards to skin complexion.

37) You can deny that aesthetics, particularly regarding women, in the Tamil community are based on a history of casteification of body and mind.

38) You can disregard the ways caste shapes aesthetic ideals by pointing to European colonialism.

39) You have normalized the social violence that lies underneath everyday relations between different caste groups, including in the diasporas.

40) You can hide casteist mentalities by coding caste-based languages to hide caste attributions and judgements made in regards to social behaviourism.

40) You are quick to challenge any caste group that assumes to hold equal power to your own caste group (here: Vellalar caste group).

41) You can deny that your social surrounding is, with most likelihood, already caste gentrified.


42) Your religious identity isn’t challenged by Hinduism’s socially discriminatory practices.

43) You don’t have to question the extent of Brahmanism within Tamil Hindu culture and beliefs.

44) You can deflect from personal responsibilities in regards to caste-based inequalities by pointing to Brahmins as the gatekeeper of caste structures and hierarchies.

45) You can be quick to point to the lower secular status of Brahmins in regards to socioeconomic parameters in Sri Lanka (unlike India), without having to acknowledge that your secular superiority equals to greater responsibilities in regards to caste inequalities and violence.

46) You’re able to be religious without feeling the need to interrogate or critique Hinduism’s role in creating caste as a way organizing societies.

47) You can assume that anyone who converted to Christianity or another religion must be of deprived caste status.

48) You can say that discrimination in religious institutions have ceased to exist with the 1968 Temple Entry Movement. 

49) You can  locate discriminations in religious institution to Sri Lanka while being ignorant about the existence and importance of casteism in temples abroad. 


50) You can say that caste doesn’t matter in diaspora while the majority of intra-communal marriages continue to be along caste-based lines.

51) You can say you don’t believe or care for caste but have no remorse over your family arranging marriage proposals according to caste-based lines.

52) You can claim that matrimonial sites and outlets’ insistence on caste doesn’t reflect the reality of marriages to be engineered according to caste ideology.

53) You can think the absence of the usage of the word “jaati/saathi” indicates to the erosion of the importance of caste as an ideology.

Intercaste Marriages 

54) You can arbitrarily judge or force someone from an inter-caste marriage to decide between caste identities

55) You can assume someone’s caste identity based on prejudicial viewpoints

56) You don’t have to deal with the consequences of being unaccepted amongst both privileged and oppressed castes.

57) You can challenge someone from an inter-caste marriage on their “authenticity” if they choose to identify with one identity over the other.

58) You can live a life without negotiating identities and histories based on caste fault lines.

Writing of History

59) You don’t have to question the writing of history of the people because your presence won’t be unsettled or threatened by the current and dominant upper-caste narrative.

60) You are more comfortable in remembering anti-Tamil violence that affected the centres of upper-caste, (upper) middle class, urban life than those of deprived caste, low class and rural background.

61) You can be sure to encounter narratives and other forms of expression that reflect a similar experience as yours/your family’s than one of caste-difference.

62) You can think the mainstream postcolonial history of Tamils in Sri Lanka vis-à-vis the Sinhalese’s national building project is reflective of the experience of all subgroups within the heterogenous Tamil community.


63) You can be certain that identity politics and politics of representation only matter in inter-ethnic relations, but not in intra-ethnic relations.

64) You can claim that we all suffered the same without acknowledging that deprived caste groups were disproportionally affected by war, violence, displacement and destitution.

65) You are quick to incorporate the injustices committed against Hill Tamils by the Sri Lankan state (i.e. 1949 Citizenship Act, Repatriation Act) into your narrative on oppression and genocide of Tamils of the island as a whole (yes, we concur IT IS a genocide), but fail to acknowledge the “upper-caste” “Ceylon Tamil’s” complicity in these legislations as well as forms of social ostracization and exclusion of Hill Tamils based on the social parameter of caste.

66) Some of you may acknowledge the preferential role and benefits enjoyed by the Tamil “upper-caste” society during British colonialism, but fail to acknowledge that not all Tamils were equally positioned during colonialism (and thereafter).

67) You can say that Tamil nationalism has successfully eradicated caste without ever attempting to enquire into the lived reality of deprived caste members today.

68) You can claim that the LTTE’s anti-caste politics were built upon a general social consensus instead of a socio-political and socio-economic diktat imposed upon society.

69) You can externalize the Hill Tamils on the national question (on the basis of caste) while failing to acknowledge their contribution to anti-Sri Lankan state resistance.

70) You can conveniently divorce the history of Tamil resistance from its origin in anti-caste resistance.

71) You can deny that caste politics continue to be part and parcel of electoral politics in the homeland.

72) You can blame deprived caste members for, at times, deviating from the popular Tamil vote without acknowledging the common disregard most Tamil political parties have for deprived castes and their concerns.

73) You can call the TNA the representatives of the Tamil people without ever having to acknowledge that the TNA represents the old boys club of highly educated “upper-caste”, (urban) men who have more often than not inherited their positions of power from an ancestry of privilege.

74) You can be suspicious of the formation of caste allegiances and parties based on caste identity as it challenges the status quo of power relations.

75) You can be sure to find representation of your caste group in almost every meaningful and powerful avenue within the community.

76) You can easily deny that diasporic Tamil political organisations are reflective of an “upper-caste” demographic majority in diaspora.

77) You can deny that the caste background of representatives’of Tamil political organisations has an impact on the political and social position these political institutions take.

78) You think school alumni groups and village groups in diaspora aren’t drawing back on caste identities.

79) You can conveniently deprioritise caste as a social issue that needs less attention than does the national question.

80) You can accuse anyone who raises the question of caste as being a Sri Lankan state or Indian state stooge, thereby making them social and political outcasts.

Follow Sinthujan on Twitter via @varathas 

anonymous asked:

Wait, people hate Gandhi? Seriously? Why?

He told the Jews of Europe to sacrifice themselves to the Nazis or commit mass suicide.

“I do not consider Hitler to be as bad as depicted. He is showing an ability that is amazing, and he seems to be gaining his victories without much bloodshed” - Gandhi

He also was a misogynist that cheated on his wife and refused to let his wife receive treatment when she was dying of a perfectly curable ailment. He compared the native people of South Africa to the untouchables of India and considered himself above them.

Here, read more about it

  • Sruthi Herbert: Recently there have been a few documentaries from the Dalit perspective. Do you think they all have this problem of the directors not facing the camera to reveal their identity?
  • Rupesh Kumar: The problem of the director not coming to the front is that when documentaries have been made on Dalit issues, many patronizing characters are inserted into them. Whether that is Dalit cinema or mainstream cinema, there is a clear detachment and this is even 'manipulative'. For example, in Stalin's documentary, he shows some scenes where he is asking questions behind the camera - do we have caste here? In the Indian context, this question is irrelevant; it is the last question that should be asked. So when this question is asked, another question too arises: what is the location of the director who is behind the camera?
  • The camera becomes an equipment to pose questions and the people who experience caste become 'victimized', to have the responsibility of answering these questions. So, the Dalit people in India have answered this long ago, and assert themselves in huge debates, even today. In many of the colonies, even amongst the uneducated Indian society, there are huge explosions in the personal spaces against these daily experiences of caste. These are never reported or documented.
  • But in this scenario, going with a camera and asking them whether there is caste is, in my view, untouchability using the camera. Many of the cinematic texts that the savarna filmmakers make are like this. Another important point is that there are many environmental documentaries – they talk about the nature, river, hills etc., They ignore the Dalit experiences that are closely associated with the environment.
  • Also, I don't have to talk about caste in cinema here. it has been discussed elsewhere. But in my view when we make a documentary, it is important to see who is addressing these issues. If this is a savarna, then from which point of view is their camera and direction? Also, who is talking about the marginalized in their films? How much political identity and compassion is there? In my documentaries, my identity and experiences as a 'Dalit' is asserted in this documentary.

Everyone should watch this. It’s a documentary about the caste systems in India, and how it affects society. 

India Untouched: Research Documentary! (Screened in Satyamev Jayate 8th July 2012) (by indiaawakening)