Racial hatred, in it’s meanest form has been around for hundreds if not thousands of years. I first read about it in school history textbooks and it was quite difficult to grasp the seriousness of such events then.
A few glaring examples I’ve read about over the years are – the slavery of African black persons and the subsequent American Civil War in the 1860’s, the animosity towards ethnic Jews in Nazi Germany during the 1930’s and 40’s and the eventual Holocaust resulting in the gruesome mass-murders of approximately 6,000,000 innocent people in Europe, the military crimes purported against certain Vietnamese towns during the Vietnam War, the racial genocide during the Yugoslav wars in the 1990’s, the long-drawn civil war in Sri Lanka between the Tamil minority and the Sinhalese majority. Back home too racial and caste discrimination has been entrenched in the heart of Indian culture and religion for centuries, though it has been abolished under the Indian Constitution. Branding people as ‘untouchables‘, restricting their entry into temples and other places of divine worship are just a couple of examples of how deep rooted this notion is.
For many years now I have thought hard on what creates this prejudice and how our mind segregates people into the good and the ugly. I’ve often wondered whether it does this intuitively or methodically. Though one cannot downplay the role good and bad experiences play in the formation of this racial bias, the ‘intuition’ factor cannot be neglected. I’ve tried in vain for some time now to come up with an explanation for this intuition, until I came across a few dialogue lines from a movie I saw recently, which really hit the nail on the head!
The following lines are from Quentin Tarantino‘s 2009 directorial venture ‘Inglorious Basterds‘ (which along with winning many awards till date, has also been nominated for 8 ‘Oscars’ categories including Best Motion Picture).
A still from the scene in the movie –
The scene is when SS (German) Colonel Hans Landa, a character brilliantly portrayed by Austria-born actor Christoph Waltz, arrives at the countryside house of farmer Perrier LaPadite in Nazi-occupied France to search for Jews hiding in his sanctuary. Here he explains why Hitler and most of his contemporaries hate the Jewish race. He starts by comparing the Germanic race with ‘hawks’ and the Jewish race with ‘rats’, claiming that he doesn’t consider the comparison as an insult. Then he says…..
COL. Hans Landa: Consider for a moment the world a rat lives in. lt’s a hostile world, indeed. lf a rat were to scamper through your front door, right now, would you greet it with hostility?
Perrier LaPadite: l suppose l would.
COL. Hans Landa: Has a rat ever done anything to you to create this animosity you feel toward them?
Perrier LaPadite: Rats spread disease. They bite people.
COL. Hans Landa: Rats were the cause of the bubonic plague, but that’s some time ago. l propose to you any disease a rat could spread, a squirrel could equally carry. Would you agree?
Perrier LaPadite: Oui (Agrees in French)
COL. Hans Landa: Yet, l assume you don’t share the same animosity with squirrels that you do with rats, do you?
Perrier LaPadite: No.
COL. Hans Landa: Yet, they’re both rodents, are they not? And except for the tail, they even rather look alike, don’t they?
Perrier LaPadite: It’s an interesting thought, Herr Colonel.
COL. Hans Landa: However interesting as the thought may be, it makes not one bit of difference to how you feel. If a rat were to walk in here, right now, as l’m talking would you greet it with a saucer of your delicious milk?
Perrier LaPadite: Probably not.
COL. Hans Landa: l didn’t think so. You don’t like them. You don’t really know why you don’t like them. All you know is you find them repulsive.
Credit must be given to Tarantino (screenplay) for stating this analogy so plainly! Quite frankly, this is the best analogy I’ve ever come across describing the basic notion of racial hatred and it’s intrinsic nature; it is something which comes naturally to everyone of us. Once we accept and understand this fundamental idea, overcoming it becomes a fair bit easier. Obviously, gaining proper knowledge is the only way to stop this racial discrimination and co-exist with each other without brewing hatred in our hearts; only then can we call ourselves a civilized society.
Many recent studies (e.g. the early human migration theory) have proven that we all are descendants of a small group of people who originated in the northern part of the African continent over 70,000 years ago and eventually migrated all over the world. The various races and different physical appearances (e.g. skin color, height, physique, eating habits) we experience in the world population today are due to the varying local environmental conditions these tribes faced during the acclimatization process during these 70,000 years. A recent BBC documentary illustrated this study in more detail. This theory in itself should end the racial debate forever.
As for the movie, I hope it fares well at the ‘Oscars’!