I was sulking about global discrimination and inequality when my son squealed that we are no less xenophobic than any other nationality. I rejected it outright, but reflected later. We do actually divide our world into good, bad, valuable and worthless depending upon how some people make us feel. Would it be more constructive if we classify them as substantial and hollow states of mind wherever and whoever they are? Equality, no doubt, is a basic human expectation. Wind, sunshine and rain do not discriminate — they caress everyone. Being aware of racism does not mean one is a racist. Similarly, it cannot just be in your head because no sane person would like to feel that way. Racism is the belief that certain groups are superior to others, based on birth or cultural differences in their values, norms and behaviours. All religions and nations reject racism. Denying racism is nonsensical in the face of racial inequity in our society. We observe it daily in our neighbourhoods and in the disparaging questions raised about someone’s roots as soon as he or she comes into limelight. The origins of this cultural madness lie in the ancient Indian caste system. It adversely influenced relationships among different Hindu casts, between Hindus and non-Hindus (especially Muslims), Muslims and Muslims, and so forth. It gets appalling when Hindus and Muslims cannot eat or drink together. Both are used to employing each other and lower casts (‘untouchables’) to do their demeaning jobs where they can. An unwritten rule is that these employees are neither allowed to share cutlery with their employers nor prepare tea/food because they are ‘unhygienic’. The genius of this caste system is that it appears ‘natural’ and is widely accepted. Attitudes of hatred are based on fear. They stem from defence mechanisms seeking to avoid danger and dread anything that is different, which leads to a fear of the outgroups. People hate things about others that they fear exist within them. The individual who hates believes subconsciously that these things are true about him. Exaggerated negative beliefs are, therefore, created about other races to justify actions securing self-survival. People with low self-consciousness, fail to recognise the injustice of their inferior position, and become tools of the oppressors. The dominating class, owing to its desire to conserve or to enlarge its power, finds it expedient to promote racial hatred. Attitudes of hatred are based on fear. They stem from defence mechanisms seeking to avoid danger, and dread anything that is different, which leads to a fear of outgroups In terms of their outlook, people grow into whatever their religion, culture and society make of them. Racism is essentially an unconscious unqualified bias. We feel more comfortable with familiar people and ideas, but there are also some genetic reasons to distrust ‘others’. It functions like anger though — people may be hardwired genetically but it doesn’t mean they have no control over their behaviour. This is not just due to a deep-seated evil heart that is fostered in childhood. Unless parents actively teach children not to be racists, they will be — it is a product of their milieu. From a racist’s point of view, what determines the gist of a person is his exterior and not true self. We prefer fair-skinned people over dark-skinned perhaps because we, subconsciously, identified with our white foreign rulers than the natives. Dark skinned people make up most of the poorest working class, and do menial jobs with exposure to harsh weather and toxic conditions. Most people of African origin and the Christians are deprived of their economic, social and political rights as they are not perceived as equal citizens. Racist jokes are frequently made against lower castes and ethnicities, which cause hurt and strengthen the stereotypes. Unfortunately, in a patriarchal society, there are always social pressures to participate in sexism, racism, and elitism. When the economic outlook is negative, there is more prejudice toward outgroups. Socio-political upheavals and foreign influence have also contributed to a deterioration of communal and interprovincial harmony. Ask anyone other than Punjabis about them and you would only come across swearwords and antipathy. The same is true, to some extent, about the Urdu-speaking community. People from Punjab often feel confused about it as they get persecuted (and killed) in other provinces due to this hate. Urdu-speaking community also feels aggrieved because they were among the architects of Pakistan. Racist belief and action, however, say far more about the person they originate from than the person they are directed at. Common agony is an experience which can be worked through. Our differences do not divide us; it is our inability to recognise, accept, and celebrate those differences which sets up apart. It is time to ask what kind of a nation we are and what kind of world we want to leave for our children? One of bitterness, with hatred and revenge, or that of love and wisdom, and justice for those who suffer, irrespective of their postcode, cast or creed. This can be achieved through the very education which has long been denied — about civil rights, gender equality and fair distribution of wealth. The thinking that regards one race superior to another should be permanently discredited and abandoned. Our true nationality should be mankind. The writer is a Consultant Psychiatrist and Visiting Professor. He tweets @AamerSarfarz Published in Daily Times, April 22nd 2018.