Just a few days ago Ashley Tellis wrote a Trollish piece called ‘Indians are Racists but Africans not nice Either’, and so we decided to feed the troll
Let me, at the outset state that I feel almost about bad taking on such a soft target . I say soft because there is nothing redeemable about Ashley Tellis’ hatred towards ‘dangerous’, ‘morally corrupt’, ‘threatening’ and most importantly “unfriendly” Africans. However, because we are dealing with someone who stakes claim in political -critical thought (or so I am told) this is important to do.
While Tellis cursorily signposts the odd murder and some statements made by a few ministers, he dedicates the rest of the article to creating a portrait of who these “Africans” (an all subsuming term that can accommodate an entire continent) are. By having been a resident of Kishangarh, a colony in Delhi where also some ‘Africans’ happen to live, he takes on the role of the expert in ‘African’ behavior. He produces eye witness accounts of the depravity of these people.
“I also saw them do drugs at 3am in the middle of the street, snorting stuff from the tops of cars, I saw them striking deals with the local police on a regular basis, I saw them harassing women, I saw African women getting out of cars full of Punjabi boys at 3am with the African men on guard.”
My heart goes out to the trauma Tellis would have witnessed by seeing such unprecedented events unfolding before his eyes. Never before, perhaps, he has seen a “Mainland Indian” (another wonderful concept) snorting drugs ( I will buy him a ticket to Udta Punjab whenever it releases) or a walking out of a car late in the night which has men in it. Apart from the assumption that a black woman, couldn’t just be friends with ‘Punjabi’ boys – it is very clear that he doesn’t know how to mind his own business. In fact the tone of his reportage is comfortingly familiar. It reminds me of Chopra uncle from my childhood who was more interested in what the nieghbour’s were having for dinner, who the watchman was sleeping with and whether the new car we had was bought from bribe money. We don’t remember him as the most minding his own business type neighbor. Perhaps, the nameless Africans of Kishangarh think about our author in the same way.
Further, it is confusing what Tellis actually has a problem with – is it drugs and sex ( because he also makes a cautionary declaration that he is not against drug use and sexual work), is it blaring music played in cars ( which I also have a problem with), is it Punjabi boys (who I have mixed feelings about), is it the Bible (which I am going to stay out of), is it Sunday ( I like them) , is it Christianity , is it fundamentalism ?
While this is not clear, what is clear is that by Africans doing “unregulated” activities which is a polite term for illegal things, Tellis has felt harassed. This becomes amply clear in his comparison of Singapore, an openly dictatorial system to India. While according to Tellis Singapore has been able to keep these trouble makers away, India has a lot of catching up to do. I would like to ask him if he would also like to embrace with equal enthusiasm Singapore’s policy towards homosexuals? Is he excited at the prospect of undertaking compulsory military service and be put into the same category as pedophiles? It is amazing that someone who calls themselves consciously Queer and is on the receiving end of the barbarity of legal systems, would be unable to understand how slippages in regulations sometimes help the most marginalized communities survive. Apart from the reinforcement of the worst stereotype of the African as the drug peddler, Tellis’ call for regulation is joke devoid of all irony.
This is however, not the only stereotype that is hurled at the reader of this article. Very seamlessly we move to the North-East of India, who much like Africans are “endogamous” and “unfriendly”. Perhaps in protecting his identity as a gay man (obviously North-Easterners and Africans are all aggressively hetero-sexual) Tellis has forgotten the relationship that ‘mainland’ India has had with the North- East (as generalized in his narrative as Africa). Or maybe he doesn’t know of the looting, murders, rapes, bombings, draconian laws – that have been witnessed by these unfriendly people, in our names.
Obviously according to Tellis, the onus of fitting in, is on them. In the end I just have one question- if they are so terrible, why do you even want to be friends with them? Please go play with your lassi drinking, virginal, sleeping at 8 pm friends Tellis. We are here to have some fun and fight tooth and nail the violence that is unleashed by your kind of narrow minded hatred.