What That @#$%! Nixon Can Teach Us

Much has been made of Winston Churchill’s racial contempt for Indians, whom he described as ‘a beastly people’, which would shape his policy of denying Indians emergency food supplies during the 1943 Bengal famine. But not having to bear the crooked cross of colonialism, racism in the US political leadership (beyond the systemic, historical one against African-Americans) has usually received benign desi neglect. With the latest declassified trove of White House tapes exposing his bigotry against Indians, former US President Richard Nixon posthumously hogs the Racist Leader of the Month title.

Nixon is heard describing Indians as ‘pathetic’, ‘repulsive’ and finding it a surprise ‘how they reproduce’. This is pathological racism. As with Churchill, this personal hatred would also be translated into policy. Calling Indira Gandhi a ‘bitch’ in a private conversation declassified by the US State Department in 2005 is one thing.

But was his refusal to let the US intervene in the massacre in East Pakistan in 1971 really quite another? And yet, it is more noteworthy, more ‘honest,’ for the US — the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, specifically — to (grudgingly) release more of these Nixon tapes.

It is hard to imagine the Indian establishment doing anything remotely similar that ‘exposes’ a past leader in such a light. Indians also tend to protect themselves from charges of their own racism by using the shield of racist victimhood.

Nixon’s expletives made 50 years ago won’t curdle US-India relations today. What it should do is make us aware of all that was real — and much else that is real — and make us less thin-skinned in our condemnations, whether such noxious comments come from past world leaders or present homegrown ones.

Courtesy - The Economic Times.



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