The Racism of Higher Expectations | Pakistan Today

The Racism of Higher Expectations

Everybody needs room to make mistakes and evolve socially.

The counter-movement against political correctness frequently makes use of the term, ‘bigotry of reduced expectations’. Also known as ‘benevolent bigotry’, the term implies that people are more lenient towards certain groups of people because they consider them less capable of behaving as well as the dominant groups.

It’s a complex thought that probably doesn’t deserve to be outright rejected. Male rights activists often complain of ‘androgyny’ in cultures where men are encouraged to vacate their seats for women, hold doors open for them, or allow them to form separate queues with shorter waiting times. Ignoring the senselessness of the fact that this is even considered a fair trade against rape culture and constant harassment that women may face, feminists sometimes reject these attitudes as ‘benevolent sexism’ borne of an assumption that women are weaker and less capable beings.

But by far, the most common form of bigotry still remains to be that of higher expectations.

Recently, the Swiss government has decided to deny citizenship to two Muslim girls for failing to attend mandatory swimming lessons in school. Citing religious reasons, the girls aged 12 and 14, refused to swim next to boys. The authorities saw this as a failure to integrate and respect local customs, and denied the family’s naturalisation application.

Earlier, the Swiss did the same to Muslim brothers who refused to shake hands with their female teachers, also citing cultural reasons.

I personally have little patience for gender segregation. I have often compared this with racial segregation in the past which, despite obvious differences, serves the basic purpose of marginalising the politically disadvantage group. The theory that we can be separate yet equal, neglects the fact that the politically disadvantaged always have a greater need to collaborate and work with the privileged, than the other way around. Not all who are separated suffer equally.

People, however, are perfectly within their rights to make bad choices. The system may encourage them to avoid it, but it cannot outright trespass on their autonomy over their own bodies and lifestyles.

As it happens, white people make mistakes and bad decisions too. But they do so with the assurance that their patriotism, citizenship, and civil rights would not be challenged as a result of these errors in judgment.

In Pakistan, a Pakhtun terrorist will inevitably bring into question our ‘generosity’ towards our neighbour to the West, and will result in vicious campaigns vying to collectively punish the Afghan refugees. Scores of Punjabi terrorists, however, do little to change our opinion of Punjabis. Legions of Saudi-sponsored Sunni radicals would not bring one’s ‘Sunnism’ under scrutiny. There will be no calls for Sunni Muslims to be collectively punished for the unacceptable behaviours of some, nor would there be a national debate on the political repercussions of having “too many Punjabis” in the country.

Similar biases are found against people of colour in the Western world. It is being observed with great bitterness that the ring of fire South Asians have to jump through to demonstrate their English-language proficiency when applying to work or study in the UK, isn’t there for non-English speaking white Europeans. Yet, Pakistani-British families are constantly scrutinized for not learning the language well enough and not ‘adjusting’ to their new environment – at times, by fellow Pakistanis themselves. A white American’s lack of comprehension of the difference between “there” and “their” is less noticeable than an Indian man’s mispronunciation of a common English world.

I wonder; how many British diplomats and expatriates learn fluent Punjabi when living or working in Pakistan? That’s okay. Our need to assimilate in their world is greater than their need to mix into ours.

Many liberals would be rightly incensed by the Pakistani government denying residency or citizenship to an American woman who refuses to wear a dupatta in respect of local customs. But few tend to express sympathy for a Muslim boy in Switzerland being denied a citizenship for nodding politely rather than physically shaking his female teacher’s hand.

A white Christian priest giving homophobic sermons may be lambasted by even a marginally liberal Western person, but it is unlikely that there will be many calling for him to be thrown “out of the country”. Neo-Nazi “skinheads” with swastikas tattooed on their bodies, may provoke disgust; but they will not be chided for ‘not assimilating’. The citizenship of the white Amish people may hardly be contested for their refusal to use modern appliances, nor would a Jehovah’s Witness’s refusal to get a blood transfusion for religious reasons, be a cause for national uproar.

Syrian refugees did not invent the patriarchy. Feminists have long struggled to have the ‘rape culture’ and ‘male privilege’ acknowledged as a real deal; to remind the public of the acres upon acres of mental territory dedicated in an average woman’s head on how to deal with everyday sexism, and get home safe from work without being stalked. But it is only until ‘foreign’ men were let loose upon the unsuspecting female population by Merkel’s allegedly careless immigration policies, that ‘misogyny’ became an issue both sides of the aisle could agree upon.

Nobody hates ethnic minorities; as long as they get up early in the morning, maintain good hygiene, smile a lot, behave like model citizens, and never complain. It is when the race of the person, somehow makes his criminality or stupidity appear worse. Racism isn’t the act of hating a person of colour unconditionally. It is the act of denying the minorities the room for indecent behaviour, which you may otherwise ignore in people of the dominant race.

Faraz Talat

Faraz Talat is a medical doctor from Rawalpindi and an ardent traveller who writes frequently about science, social politics and international relations.



4 Comments

  1. Adil said:

    Well even in India Parsi women were made to wear saris and Parsis had to speak Gujrati to get settled in India. In medieval times these refugees might have had to leave Islam for Christianity.

    • Rekha said:

      Parsi women were Zoroastrians who were being forced out of their religion to become Muslims. India sheltered them, an they thrived here.

  2. Rekha said:

    Why keep complaining and philosophising? Isn't their fate much better than that of Hindus in Pakistan? Remember that they were 20% of the population, and they have just evaporated, This is a pattern in so many Muslim majority countries, and yet that does not seem to bother any one at all. Human mind is indeed strange.

  3. Fawad Raza said:

    Good article. What I understood in past decade here in West. These Germanic nations are on the verge of being completely black-n-white, in my view, they either like you and admit you in (Merkel) or they don't (Switzerland, Hungary, Austria) but they are very honest about it (unlike French and Brits etc.) and will say it and do it quite openly. This instance however, opened them right up with their silly thoughts.

    This backlash against migrants goes deeper still, but reactionary steps don't necessary mean correct steps, as article explained.

    I specially liked this part:

    Similar biases are found against people of colour in the Western world. It is being observed with great bitterness that the ring of fire South Asians have to jump through to demonstrate their English-language proficiency when applying to work or study in the UK, isn’t there for non-English speaking white Europeans. Yet, Pakistani-British families are constantly scrutinized for not learning the language well enough and not ‘adjusting’ to their new environment – at times, by fellow Pakistanis themselves. A white American’s lack of comprehension of the difference between “there” and “their” is less noticeable than an Indian man’s mispronunciation of a common English world.

    Good effort Faraz, keep it up. 🙂

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