I cannot bring myself to call my parents bigots, but their beliefs are bigoted indeed.

Our parents are often horribly bigoted and we need to call them out
Blog Blog Saturday, June 18, 2016 - 11:59

Post inspired by Dhruv Deshpande

One positive fallout of WhatsApp, which by no stretch can make up for the family groups we are subject to but must be acknowledged and appreciated, is that it has made possible certain conversations which were otherwise taboo, and that too at a macro-family level.  

Subjects which were usually cast away from the dinner table - like caste, politics of religion, gender and sexuality - now find some voice in the chat windows of WhatsApp. And with the entire spectrum of cousins, uncles and aunts in attendance, it makes for exciting optics.

Recently, during a typical WhatsApp debate, yours truly decided to wage war with his parents asking them to openly state on the group that they will be happy with whomever I choose to spend my life with – whether she is a Hindu, Muslim, Christian or Dalit.

When you grow up in a conservative family, you are aware of their medieval views. But the more you get used to it, the more you tend to give them a break. And sometimes, the lack of conversation creates such a distance that you lead yourself to believe that they have changed with time. “Come on, my parents are not bigots,” we think.

The sad reality is that they remain capable of bigotry – whatever the justification may be.

Till today, having harangued my parents over texts for days to give me their word that they will not have a problem in accepting a Muslim or Dalit as my partner, I have not got a response from them. It is either silence, or ‘we will talk about it later’.

We can come up with endless justification for it – that it is their generational thinking or that it is their ‘culture’ – but their views are no doubt rooted in the same casteism, communalism and homophobia which is all around us. And yet, we tend to go easy on them, we do not take them head-on.

If our society is the cricket-stadium for bigoted racism, communalism, casteism and general social regression, then our families are the practice nets.

This is where we are taught to make generalizations about people from other religion. Members of our own family are the first to tell us how people of other castes are either unhygienic or deserve what they get. Mingling with the opposite sex beyond friendship is wrong. Sex before marriage is a crime, especially for women, we are told. Gays, lesbians and transgenders are freaks. 

The kid wouldn’t be old enough to understand calculus, but his family would have taught him how to identify the ‘other’ kids and stay away. They are taught to ask if one is a vegetarian to identify their caste or religion.

Our parents fill us with casteist-hatred by blaming reservations for what is essentially a supply issue, and they teach us to endlessly victimize ourselves with false narratives even if we belong to the most privileged caste in society.

It is our family which teaches us that liberating oneself in the field of arts or humanities is for ‘weak students’, but being dumbed-down, wage-slaving keyboard warriors for a multinational is the ‘perfect life’.

It was a family member who first told me that what is wrong with my generation is that we are too choosy. Since he had learned to ‘adjust’ with the wife who was thrust upon him, so should I. Sorry for not wanting to live my life as an adjustment.

It is by witnessing the lazy, unhelping, arrogant, bigoted, abusive and condescending men of our family that we learn patriarchy.

All mindless superstitions we know or believe in are thrust on us by our families.

For nearly everything which is wrong with our world, our family is the training ground, and our parents, with all their good intentions, are the main culprits.

Needless to say, I am eternally thankful and respectful towards my parents. They have thought me a lot of good things too. But respect can be no excuse for bigotry, nor do some rights wash away the damage cause by the rest.

What I have also learned is that they are open to change. It is difficult to snap out of social conditioning. They are products of their own environment, and it will take them time to change. But for that, we need to stand up to them and call them out. We don’t even have to convince them always – we cannot. But every conversation has an impact, and with every argument they move a step closer to being sensible and progressive. If we confront the bigotry within our family on the dinner tables, we will be doing ourselves a favour. It is an endless battle, but it is worth it.