It is mindboggling how many still quibble over skin colour, incognizant of the facts that we all belong to the same species, possess 99.9 per cent of similar DNA, grapple with global challenges and that we are all stuck on one fragile planet. The harrowing extrajudicial killing of George Floyd on May 25 at the hands of the brutal policeman who transgressed his powers has convinced me that many of us might be evolving backwards as we keep revolving on a merry go round of racial and social justice issues which should have been buried in the history books long ago - but perhaps I live in a utopian world. It is nothing but a disgrace to humanity if we segregate and marginalize people on the basis of melanin levels in our skin. George's murder is emblematic of the bigger problem of pervasive racism and state repression  — latter is no alien concept to the natives of Pakistan.

Our ancestors lived on the sprawling jungles of Africa and then slowly home sapiens began migrating to every nook and corner of the world. They acclimatized to different climatic conditions over many centuries which led to variance in some morphological features. Come to think of it, If we were taught about human's evolutionary history and it was instilled in us to appreciate diversity and pluralism right from an early age, we may not have been conditioned to discriminate, draw lines and would have more likely developed a more diverse worldview.

Growing up, I picked cues from my surroundings on how making fun of people of African descent was a norm in my society where the majority exhibited an obsession over fair skin. In hindsight, that was the time when active intervention and counselling from teachers, elders, and parents should have barred me from differentiating humans on the basis of colour and race. It should have been ingrained in my mind that equality, justice and upholding human rights is our duty. I had the privilege of studying at one of the relatively better schools in Lahore but none of my teachers ever talked at length about the prevalence of racism and inculcated praiseworthy values and shed light on how all humans beings are born equal in dignity and rights. This shows the negligence on part of our academia and media as well in addressing these fundamental issues that divide and polarize. Fair skin is adored and mothers often scold their kids for spending too much time outside in the Sun. It will take time to unconditional ourselves from these detestable ideologies. Subcontinent people still find it hard to get rid of the colonial hangover and perhaps it's one of the reasons why fair skin is deemed desirable.

Lack of counselling leads to entrenchment of flawed ideas and racial abuse and jibes are then seen even in adulthood when one would expect the ability to reason and independent thinking to take over. We South Asians continue to perpetuate anti-Black ideologies by going after skin whitening and bleach creams, applying Haldi on the skin when somebody is preparing for a wedding, the beauty soaps have never featured a dark skin model and a general repugnance towards African Americans are prevalent in the society. 

George Floyd's tragic incident could very well be a tipping point and could change the way we think on the basis of colour. The seed of racial discrimination is planted at a very early age, either through peer pressure or simply by conforming to societal standards, and the ideas become entrenched in our adulthood which adversely jeopardizes the health of a society. We see discrimination on the basis of colour, caste, religion, geographical background on a regular basis but there is little attempt to break these regressive tendencies. How many times have you come across despicable advertisements from matrimonial services asking for bride or bridegroom with fair complexion and tall height, not to mention, specific mention of the cast? 

The US has made giant strides in curbing the menace of racism in the aftermath of Civil Rights Movement and the efforts to eradicate racial discrimination make me sanguine about the future of America but where do Pakistan fares in tackling religious discrimination and the deplorable condition of minorities in Pakistan? Forced conversions, target killings, and limited opportunities for professional growth for minorities paint a bleak picture. Factions on the basis of ethnicity, religion and caste are weakening the very social fabric of our society. Voices of dissent are often muffled and censorship is widespread in this seemingly sham democracy.