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Racist Mindset

In an astounding outburst, Prime Minister-hopeful, former cricketer and


feisty head of Pakistans PTI political party Imran Khan has called dark-
skinned cricketing stars who recently visited Pakistan as phateechar
(decrepit) and rayloo-kuttay (a slang used in Pakistan for a player who is
not valued). As if this insult were not graphic enough, the flamboyant
and dashing former Pakistani cricket captain added that these decrepit
and valueless players had been randomly gathered from Africa. Sigh.

First the context. Owing to terrorist activity in Pakistan over the years,
particularly due to an incident in which the visiting Sri Lankan cricket
team was attacked, foreign cricket teams pulled the plug on touring
Pakistan. Consequently, Pakistan was forced to host matches in
neighboring Middle Eastern countries. Recently, on the initiative of both
the Pakistani government and the armed forces, Pakistan decided to host
the finals of the Pakistan Super League in Lahore, a city known as much
for its lush green trees as for its warm hospitality.

The Pakistani public, even the usually bickering politicians and the
querulous TV anchors, fell in love with the idea. Young students and
workers, clerks and professionals, and even women queued up for hours
to get hold of the ticket. The queuing scenes were poignant because
Lahore had just suffered two bloody incidents that had cast a pall over
its beautiful face. With their nerves on edge and earnest prayers in their
hearts, pretty much everyone coalesced to strike a defiant note against
the terrorists.

Everyone. Except of course sweet old Imran. True to character, the


photogenic and effervescently capricious mega-star fired an angry
broadside against the event. In a TV interview on the eve of the finals,
he explained his impending absence from the match by claiming that he
would be mad to stand in the queue. He also bewailed that with security,
the likes of which Lahore had adopted, one could host cricket matches in
Syria and Iraq. Post-event, in a press conference, he directed his ire at
the foreign dark-skinned visitors who had been gathered from Africa.

The Daily Times article Inside the mind of Imran Khan has already
provided a detailed view of how the great leaders mind works. But if it
were only Imran Khan, the outburst could have been explained by one
mans personality. The sad reality is that we in Pakistan are infatuated, if
not obsessed, by our clear-cut hierarchy of this worlds valued and
valueless, at the very top of which sit the Americans. Attention: by
Americans we mean white Americans. Even former president Obama
and former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice do not cut it. For
evidence see the episode in Hasb-e-Haal (TV program) where Shah
Qureshi meets Condoleeza Rice (in parody).

After white Americans are perched all non-American whites. I must


relate here my all-time favorite true story, as narrated by national media,
of the business conference hosted by a Pakistani Prime Minister in the
early 1990s, in which security allowed the white employee to enter the
hall but stopped the Pakistani employer of the white man. The white
employee had to come out himself and guide his boss inside by holding
the latters hand.

After the whites, on the ladder of status, are niched the rich Arabs. In
part because they speak Arabic. But mostly because they are rich. We
revere them. And we place ourselves one rung underneath them. This
means that we are above all the remaining non-blacks the Chinese,
then the non-Chinese, and then the Indians. Then come the blacks
phateechars and rayloo-kuttays of the non-African world. And the last
rung is reserved for the blacks of Africa. Imran Khan revealed our
innermost biases. At least he is honest.
Chinese? Yes. Just look at the newspaper articles on the Chinese.
Recently a famous columnist griped that Islamabads golf-courses were
being flooded by the Chinese. I wonder if he would have aired the same
grievance had these invaders been white Americans; I imagine his smug
smile greeting these honored white guests on the esteemed golf-course.

Nothing illustrates the above better than my personal experience. A long


time ago I was working as a very junior diplomat in China. I was young
but driven, and guided by three amazing bosses I had developed a
reasonable idea of Chinas foreign policy.

At that time Chechnya was being ravaged by terrorism and the Chinese
government had taken a very tough stance against Chechen terrorists. It
so happened that a senior Pakistani diplomat visited China and gave a
strong lecture to our Chinese friends, viewing Chechen terrorists as
freedom fighters.

Later, when alone with him, I humbly pointed out Chinas position to
him. He retorted by telling me that I was not working hard enough to
educate China. At first I thought I had misheard. In my entire life I
have not seen a more professional organization than Chinas Ministry of
Foreign Affairs. I was sure even then that on Chechnya, as on any other
issue, the Chinese would have had hundreds of analysts working day and
night. And here I was being told to educate them. Sigh.

Racism sits deep in ones bones. In our bones. And there is a widely
available online test called Implicit Associative Test (IAT) that can
measure racism inside us. Warning: Even if you try to hide your racist
thoughts this test will capture and ferret out the patheechar inside you.
Try it at your own risk