What’s up with this fear of brown people?

Coin of the Gupta king Samudragupta.
Coin of the Gupta king Samudragupta. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One thing I can’t avoid noticing is the problem some in my country have with brown people, particularly those of South Asian and Middle Eastern descent, that shows itself in racial, ethnic, and religious stereotyping in the media and the occasional hate crime by those whose main personal qualifications seem to be being white, racist, bigoted, and angry, not necessarily in that order.

Yes, I’m perfectly aware of the difference between ethnic bigotry and racism – let’s be perfectly clear on that – racism is a species of bigotry with many forms and based in a pseudoscientific view of human diversity, superficial resemblances and differences from regional descent, with religion and ethnicity often heavily intertwined with regional culture, and all too often associated with one’s superficial regional ancestry – so many of those of Middle Eastern descent are often and mistakenly considered Muslim by default in this country, while many of South Asian descent are typically stereotyped as Hindus, Muslims, or Buddhists whether they actually are or not.

Far too few here in the states have enough broad-mindedness to know the difference between Sikhs, Muslims, Jains, Zoroastrians and other Eastern religions and their respective cultural groups.

To some, every guy with a turban looks alike. This often leads to a lot of ugly confrontation involving self-styled patriots and innocent people.

One effect of this is that brown people – aside from being pigeonholed and profiled as terrorists, evil wizened viziers in badly-scripted Disney flicks, or out-of-period saree-dressed love interests unconvincingly played by Caucasian actresses in makeup – are made to be more ‘other’ and less human by the simplistic (to the point of falsity), unthinking connection of their ancestry with religious extremism and existential evil by the latest media-fed shark frenzy.

Consider that it was the mathematicians of India during the Gupta empire who invented much of today’s base-ten arithmetic, and its use of the zero as a placeholder for a number’s value.

Let’s also credit the Muslim scholars who not only carried to the West that same base-ten maths and their own sciences, but also preserved classical writings without which the European Renaissance and Enlightenment would never have happened.

I don’t think the world would be worth living in if none of that happened and we were forced to use Roman numerals in calculating long division problems, or being deprived of the literature of the pre-Socratic and post-Socratic philosophers to liven things up.

For my part, these people are some of my best online friends, can count among themselves many of the most beautiful women on the planet, some of the best artists, writers, musicians, a lot of the most brilliant scientists and mathematicians, past and present, and really, really good comedians…

I rest my case…

Maz Jobrani: A Saudi, an Indian and an Iranian walk into a Qatari bar …

5 thoughts on “What’s up with this fear of brown people?

  1. Troythulu thanks for such a nice write up. Indeed myself as a brown Indian. I born Hindu, and studied all major religions and I think people are mixed up with different ethnic races throughout the centuries and these brown people are the result! Genetic science says cross mix-up races are more intelligent and intellectual. The past civilizations are bound by kingly marriage to build good relation with the neighboring countries. Once the king marries a princess the two different races start outcast mariage. In that way the world of human races are mixed up. Except the pure white and pure black the outcast marriage brings peace, as well as terrorism. The difference occurs because of the faith and believe in different religions. The Sikh, Buddhist, Jains, and many other South East religions are based on The Hindu religion, later diverted by different religious Gurus. The muslims are Areans mainly hard struggled people. Before Prophet Muhammad they had the same believe before the Christ. These are the people desperate to change their fate by using force and fraud. Brown European and Asian’s are also mixed up by the Muslims of the Middle East Asia because they crossed the borders to connect Rome, Iran and India. 🙂


  2. wonderful post, troy. i live in a region of great ethnic and cultural diversity. i still find myself appalled and taken back by the narrow-minded bigotry of caucasians in general. i could never figure it out. it’s so prevalent even tho it’s often cloaked with subtlety. i have never noticed skin color. as far as i’m concerned it irrelevant. it’s what people radiate that counts…good vibes, bad vibes…that’s what i’m talking about. anyway, keep sockin’ it to us, troy! 😉


  3. abutcherswife

    I agree. There is so much fear out there that people don’t bother to learn from each other and share what wonderful culture there is to absorb. What scares me most is the violent reactions based upon the very things you point out, such as misguided patriotism.


    1. This probably comes as no surprise, but I’ve been interested in Eastern cultures via Carl Sagan, and his son Nick, who’s a damn good science fiction writer. There was the segment in Cosmos where Carl discusses the Indian festival of Pongal. The other source was a graphic novel version of one of Nick’s stories about revolutionaries in the future where we’ve colonized the solar system.


  4. Cyndi and I got some interesting looks on the DCMetro when we made room for an apparently muslim family to sit down when we were there for Glen Becks Restoring Honor event on the mall. True, that train was probably 95%+ attendees, but this was common courtesy allowing a lady with a family a seat. A different trip we saw some ‘guys’ harrassing a shopper who appeared to be a Sikh in Tyson’s Corner II Mall on th upper deck, calling him a muslim and to go home. These things have been disappointing, particularly in the DC area with its mixture of peoples, but yeah. Some folks bigoted ideas are obviously out there.


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