Four African nationals were attacked in Rajpkhurd village of Chhatarpur, South Delhi on Thursday night. The attacks triggered a major diplomatic face-off between India and Africa. Express photo by Cheena Kapoor 280516

Which Africans Are You Talking About?

[In the light of the recent attacks on people of African origins living in India, which is a part of a long chain of racially motivated violence against the African community here, a lot has been said about India’s problem with racism. This includes Ashley Tellis’ views on Africans and how they are equal participants in the causes leading to the discrimination they face. Intersectional politics asks us to be cognizant of the struggles of others, whether they be queer, Dalit, or of African origin. This is a response to Tellis’ article from one of the members of our Collective.]

Ashley Tellis,

It must be easy, sitting in your own country, with the tag of an LGBT activist, to be able to write such a sordid article and still be given credence. However, let me try to explore the disturbing issues you have pointed out against us Africans. (Although who exactly we are seems to be of little or no importance to you, we’re all just one big race of drug abusing, sex crazed, loud music loving, low lives.)
First, the claim that we Africans do not mix with Indians. In my experience as a person of African origin, Nigerian (and proud), Indians are neither the nicest nor the most welcoming people that I have come across. The racism, bigotry, blatant insults to my person that I had faced (at 13) made me reconsider going back to a less than ideal situation in Nigeria. The racism born from both ignorance and prejudice that African people have to face, (from being asked if they lived in jungles, to automatically assuming that African womyn are prostitutes) is not reassuring. And guess who else also faces this kind of treatment in this country? That’s right. People from the North East, another recipient of your attention. Having lived in Shillong, I realised that despite the initial prejudices, people still came out with good intentions and accepted me (somewhat) as a person. In Mumbai as a student, I was denied a flat. My only crime was, and still is, looking the way I do.

Africans are extremely homophobic, no doubt. But are all Africans homophobic? No. They are not. Just like not all Indians are homophobic. But many still are. This puritanical behaviour towards homosexuality is definitely a by-product of our colonial legacy (Nigerians saying homosexuality is un-African, biko, do some reading because I do not entertain stupid arguments about this).
(We still don’t know which part of Africa you’re talking about.)

We turn to the accusation of drug use. Do Indians, and even white foreigners, not consume and often purchase drugs, sometimes from those said Africans? Again, I do not appreciate your assumption that all Africans are drug peddlers. I know many Africans who had come here with the hope to study and gain a better education and who left, disheartened by being treated as criminals in their campuses and outside. The prejudice is real for them. But they don’t count for you. Because to you Africans are a problem.

You complain of girls coming out of cars full of Punjabi guys at 3 am in the morning. I fear to ask but, are you passing moral judgment on womyn and what they do with their bodies? I am amused by your automatic assumption that they are indeed sex workers. I have to admit, I am a little confused that you mention how sex work and drugs do not bother you. It clearly does as long as Africans do it.

Yes, Africans will carry big fat Bibles on Sundays, go to churches and praise the lord. Religion has always confused me because I see Hindus, Muslims, and Christians do the same thing. Party, use drugs and have sex and still attend the religious ceremonies expected of them. That hypocrisy is something that I’ve seen across religions. But your prejudice seems aimed at us Africans (Can we specify who already?!). I am surprised that you mention fundamentalism among Africans and yet simply refuse to look at your own front yard. I appreciate that irony. Also, not all Africans are Catholic. In fact many are not even Christians, and some, believe it or not, are atheists (will wonders never cease!) .

To say Indians know nothing about Africans is grossly unfair. To assume the same of Africans is equally unfair. There may be a cultural gap, but if one party is staunch in its rejection of the other, that gap will never be filled. If Africans coming into a new country with good intentions (and I know a fair number that do) are abused, threatened, treated like criminals and are refused access to basic necessities (like a place to live in, for example), why would we want to be friendly? Would you be friendly to people who treat you with so much disrespect?

Blaming the ‘system’ will not remove the trace of bigotry, racism or prejudice in your article. At least you are honest in sharing how you feel and something must be said for that. But to me sir, you are a racist as bad as the KKK, and you share the same prejudices and sentiments that allowed a mob to beat an innocent Congolese man to death in Delhi and strip naked and beat up an innocent Tanzanian woman in Bangalore. That is the category into which you fall. I hope you’ve gained the readership you so desired with a poorly written article such as that. I leave you but with one saying of my people, He who throws a stone in the market will hit his relative.


Jennifer Fatogun

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