Today, an acquaintance lumped all Assamese together saying we all look alike. The reflex action is to accuse such a person of racism. Of course he is racist. How dare he call us all alike?

But let’s dig a little deeper. He is lumping a set of people together, based on a shared trait. In this case, geography. What if he cast his net wider?

He could call all North East people alike.

And Indians. Then Asians.

Separated at birth?

This is, of course, absurd. But let’s keep going.

Taking this line of thinking to its logical conclusion should give us the ultimate, extreme form of racism. That will be to lump all humans together in the same group.

But isn’t that humanity? Also, isn’t that science? Homo sapiens and all that?

Let’s retrace our steps carefully then.

When someone lumps a group of people, or a group of something’s together, aren’t they just making a scientific taxonomy?

And the finer one dissects, the smaller the group being classified, the higher the scholarship of the person doing the classification. And thus, by the act of being “racist”, the racist one is paying you the highest compliment possible by being most highly invested in you as a group, or perhaps even as an individual — studying and being familiar with your unique, peculiar characteristics.

The remark about all Assamese being alike, far from being a racist slur, might very well have come from a place of deep erudition and empathy. Maybe the scholar who said this observed deep, common underlying patterns in the psyche or anatomy of human beings from the area. Maybe these unifying traits are not visible to the naked eye but only emerge on scrupulous and diligent scrutiny. We don’t know, but it is a possibility and if we do not account for it, I am sorry but we are the bigots. Maybe even trigots.

To paraphrase Charles Dickens, “It is a far, far better thing that I do (racism), than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”



The less said the better.

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