“It’s not just the girls, even guys feel the need to use fairness creams now”, she said as a matter of fact. “Females need to stop acting like the victims here. Tell me, would you date a black guy!?”
This was a conversation between a friend and our professor, during a class.
“I have dated black guys” said my friend, visibly controlling her anger.
“Yeah sure, but would your mom ever accept one?” the teacher exclaimed, as if the answer was an obvious no.
We looked at each other in shock and uncertainty. Was this really happening? A teacher in one of the most reputed institutions in the country was freely being racist. How does someone even react to that?
We have all been in situations like these. Situations against racism, sexism and every other ‘ism’ there is. People like you and me do stand up against these comments and views, but somehow its only in a non threatening situation. We easily lash out on our friends for their inappropriate remarks of casual sexism, making our point with pride and vigor. But why is this limited to conversations in the canteen? Why don’t we stand up to people where it really matters?
It’s because our morals and principles of equality and justice are also principles of convenience. Like every principle, this too has a law. It’s called the Law of Power.
The Law of Power states that principles can be applied freely and effectively only if the power (between the two parties) resides with you, or is equal between the two parties. Between two friends, the status is that of equals, where none hold power over the other. Whereas, if the same conversation takes place between you and a person of higher authority, our morals turn into principles of convenience.
In the previous example of my friend and our professor, we should have probably called her out as a racist. Made our point about how she was living in the dark ages (no pun intended) and we even tried. But we gave up in a minute because she had power over us. Our grades, our research thesis, were all in her hands. Now who wants to screw something that important over a silly racist woman, right?
I’m not saying it isn’t important to do the same among a group of friends, because it is. But why are we so inconsistent and powerless in situations where some of higher authority is involved?
I still regret not telling that teacher where to shove it. But maybe I can say that now because she has already graded my research.