Role Of Racism And Casteism In Mental Health In India

The reason I am writing this post is to share with you how disturbing race or caste discrimination is on mental health.

I was born as an Adivasi in the Santhal community of India and I love my race and religion. But I also feel discrimination in society. And the reason is because of my birth.

From childhood I lived in an urban setting and my parents moved locations due to their jobs. I did not live in segregation from society in my tribal community. I lived with mainstream society. 

When I was in class 6 one of my classmates said to me in a bad language a slang followed by the word “Adivasi”. This had an impact on my thinking. 

I never felt like I could be myself when I am with non-tribal people. Because if I do become myself and act like myself I will be judged not based on my appearance or character but by race.

And they say that caste and race does not exist!

When I was a kid, I was not very social. And I did not assert myself very much. And race, in my case, had a big part to play in it.

And so when I was in a private engineering college I had to face even more racism. My labmates won’t let me do any lab work. They would outright ignore me and dominate through making groups inside the group and basically seeing me as a filth. I never felt at home there.

I am not saying my life is the way it is because of racism. I am not blaming racism or declaring myself a victim. I am saying that  racism and casteism is a serious issue. Ignoring it is not going to make it go away.

Even in high school I was being point to as the guy with Scheduled Tribe quota which created discrimination. I remember thinking,”How can I be myself here? They dislike me for my race. They dislike me because of a misconception of reservation quotas. They don’t realize that reservation is there so that we can represent ourselves in the parliament. Our communities, races and castes are far behind, economically, socially and education-wise. We don’t need a handout. We want our right- representation. That’s what reservation is for.”  I still remember the class teacher saying out aloud in class that the SC/ST people are taking away their seats. 

Some upper caste people say that their forefathers were the ones who did us wrong and they being their sons have nothing to do with their atrocities.

A thing about forgiveness is we cannot forgive. Forgiveness won’t bring our martyrs back. It won’t give us representation. Forgiveness won’t give us our rights in a democracy. Forgiveness will not undo the injustice that’s been done to us. So we cannot forgive. We want, we demand our place on the seat whether in university or parliament.

Racism and casteism has a tremendous impact on mental health. I cannot speak for others but I can speak for myself.

I never felt like I could be myself among non-tribal people. I never feel free to speak up or assert myself among them. 

In India if there is a movement where lower caste people and other races are accepted as part of India and not seen as the other, then maybe people like me can assert our identities more openly and be ourselves. That will improve the mental health of people like me.

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