We like to think of racism as a thing of the past. Truth is, it isn't. All we are is more aware of what's politically correct to voice and what's better kept to ourselves.
On a positive note, we're increasingly willing to look at ourselves, acknowledge our prejudices and work to become more enlightened. But my parents' generation has a much harder time seeing anything wrong with blanketing an entire group of people with a single stereotype. And what's worse, because most of the community believes the same thing, they serve as confirmation for one another that these ignorant beliefs are in fact truths.
As Father's Day is on Sunday, I want to tell you about my dad.
He was born and raised in Uganda, an east African country from which he and 70,000 others were unceremoniously booted in the early 70s by the infamous Idi Amin, simply for being brown South Asian. Sad, yes. But what is usually conveniently left out of this story, is the fact that my family and other South Asians living there, hired the native Africans as their servants, and treated them as such. As a result, within the community I grew up in, there is nothing believed to be strange or wrong about African South Asians thinking they're superior to Black Africans. Obviously (hopefully!), you and I realise this is a load of malarkey.
Some of you may know, my other half is a black African and my daughter is obviously a beautiful fusion of us both. When I first told my dad about my partner nearly 5 years ago, I was afraid of how he would react. I had grown up regularly arguing with my parents about their attitudes in this regard.
To my delight, when my dad saw my partner's photo, he said, "he looks like a very open and nice guy". I couldn't believe it... who was this impostor and where was my real dad, I thought in a panic... "Well, he is," I said. "But I wasn't sure what you would say about the fact that he's black."
My dad's reply is something that will stay with me forever:
"My prejudice is not your problem, that's something I will have to deal with."
And I believe he has. The love, pride and admiration I felt for my dad on that day is indescribable. Many of his friends and family members hold the same prejudices but stubbornly refuse to change. In fact, when faced with opposition from their children or anyone else, they're dismissive, claiming we're the ones perverted by Western culture where we all mix together like hippies! It would have been too easy for my dad to insist this narrow view was the right one, but he's never been one to take the easy road... It's no wonder, he's one of my heroes.
Happy Father's Day daddy, thanks for being someone I can look up to. (And of course a very Happy 1st Father's Day to my gorgeous other half!) You're both very special.
I want to dedicate today's post to my uncle, Shiraz Virani, who passed away in 2002. Your love, laughter and buoyant spirit live on through your daughters. Thanks for the safety of your broad shoulders and for always having a bag of sweets handy.