Friday, November 11, 2005

A Rebuttal to My Impressions

I have been getting a good amount of traffic from an Indian Discussion Forum, so I thought that I would address some of the issues brought up there. First of all, I am thankful that you came. The comment bar is open for your thoughts, and as long as you keep the language clean, whatever you say will stay. Secondly, I want to say that what I am saying are only my thoughts and impressions, not those of any other person or persons.

A writer from that forum takes me to task for my assessment of the Hindu caste system. The justification of the oppression that occurs because of that system seems to be that white people are worse at "caste" than Indians. Or at least that a white person should not open his or her mouth about the caste system because we do it in a worse way, and that white people have historically suppressed people of other races. This is a fallacious ad hominem attack, but I will go with what is presented.

Here is an example of what this writer has to say:

The Christian caste system is so much superior. Sure, Dalit Christians have to stand in a separate line to get into church, but you know it's superior to Hindus.
So how does this poverty = caste system. He must know something that most Indians don't, he seems to actually know the caste of people by looking at them.

The Phillipines is an example of Christian superiority, where slums house Jesus followers. The author conveniently forgets to mention Brazil's Casta system. Anyone else notice the caste system in Latin America where White leaders rule over hordes of poor natives/non white races. Vincente Fox a White Irish guy (White's are 7% of Mexico) rules over a country that's 92% non white!
This is what they want for India, make no mistake about it.

First thing I want to deal with is the accussation that Dalit Christians (A Dalit is the lowest of the castes) have to stand in a seperate line to attend Church. I never observed this, but I cannot speak for every Church in India. I know for certain that this is not the case with the ministry that I was associated with, and that great pains are taken to make certain that people from all backgrounds are treated with equal respect.

Secondly, I cannot tell caste by looking, nor can anyone else. But to pretend that people are not relagated to poverty because of their caste is even more naive than such an assertion. I daresay that no one would attempt to argue the contrary.

Thirdly, it is true that some "Jesus Followers" live in slums. In point of fact, some of the pastors I met chose to live in such places in order to minister to the needs of that community. They serve the lepers as well. I am not upset simply at the poverty; it is no crime to be poor. What I find revolting is the oppression instigated by the caste system, and the resistance to the poor bettering themselves that I encountered in India. I would oppose this regardless of race, religion, or country, as does the gospel of Jesus Christ. I did not forget the "casta" system of Brazil...I was there far longer than I was in India, and I have closer friends from that country. It is that I never observed it even once. I do not even know if it exists. If it does, it is shameful. But I can tell you that if it does, it is negligible compared to the blatant discrimination found in India.

Fourthly, it is asserted that white people wish to take over India just as they have other countries. For the record, I have no ambition to see any white guys running India. I certainly did not leave my family and go to the poor of India to instigate some sort of ridiculous "whitey" take over.

The reason that there is no caste system in Christianity is because the Bible teaches plainly that every man, woman and child is made in the image of God. That levels the ground. I am not superior to any Dalit in India, nor am I inferior to any Brahmin. The Bible teaches "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus...There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:26, 28). God is no respecter of persons according to birth, intelligence, wealth, race, or country. We are all share in the image of God. Any people who come short of this ideal, whether they be Hindu or Christian, fall short of the truth of God's Word.

Let me close this by adding that while I was in India I witnessed the persecution of Christians. My own life was threatened on a visit to a certain city in India to the point that I and my comrades were escorted out of town under police protection. The militant Hindus surrounded the bus going in to the pastor's conference, armed with staffs, in order to intimidate Indian Christians. Last year, many of the pastors were beaten. I know for certain that over the past thirty years, some pastors have been killed.

The reason is not very complicated. One is that certain Hindus do not like it when other Hindus convert to Christianity. Further, some in India find it hard to deal with the fact that Christians are taking orphan children, dalit children, low caste children, and they are raising them and loving them. They teach them that they are made in the image of God and that they can do or be whatever they wish. They can be doctors or lawyers or farmers or anything. Certain people do not like to see people elevated above their perceived station. So, they persecute them to "keep them in line." This is not an issue of white people oppressing Indians. This is an issue of Indians oppressing Indians. Actually, what I observed were Indian Hindus oppressing Indian Christians.

Hopefully some of the visitors from the forum will leave their input here. It would certainly be enlightening for many of the readers of this blog. As I said, if you keep the language clean, your comments are welcome and desired. I look forward to hearing from you.


Anonymous said...

Mr. Brad Williams,

I understand your religion's doctrine (like Islam) requires you to confront other religions. Your conversion efforts have not been effective for the most part despite the billions of dollars spent over the years, including from British rule.
In the past missionaries were openly racist, with separate seating in church, which might partly explain the lack of success in the past.

Now to talk about the caste system,
Let's begin by stating that the word caste is portuguese, and it's implication is based upon the 19th century colonial propaganda theory, "The Aryan invastion theory". This theory as you know states that Hindusim was created by a Central Asian White Race, which created the caste system to preserve their identity from the non Whites (Living in Lousiana, this probably sounds very familiar, I am sure).

You pointed to the presence of poor people in India as proof of the caste system. I will venture to say that there is more upward mobility in India than any other country in the world, with the exception of maybe China due to their slightly higher economic growth rate. At the street level, poor people belong to various clans in India. In fact the government has an affirmative action type program to benefit underrepresented communities. When you see poverty in the Phillipines you don't talk about caste, then why bring it up in India.

Even Dalit is a fake identity, India is divided into hundreds of jati's, clans and ethnicities, where the problems of discrimination are local and not national as many people think. This explains why India did not see any American style Black/White racial divisions, because the levels of diversity are much higher and the issues are local and regional. Poverty in India cuts across all communities.

I would like you to point out specific discrimination in the Industrialized/ Urbanized areas of India, where someone of a specific ethnic group was denied a job. Also the notion of Upper and lower caste was created in 1947 in what the government determined was poor or slightly better off communities.
When I see the civil service, military service, and the Industrial private sector, I don't see any discrimination at all. The problem I see is more Industrialization is needed. With India's rapid economic growth rates, the per capita GDP will very likely equal that of a middle income country in 15 years. In this situation, many Christian African and Latin American (ex. Brazil) countries will be poorer than India. I will be curious to hear your explanations then.

I am also curious to your explanation of the caste system in Latin America, which you said were very familiar with, why is it that White people are always the the leaders and wealthy classes there when they are a minority in many of these countries (ex: Mexico, Bolivia etc..). Is Hugo Chavez feared because he is upsetting the Christian caste system in Latin America ? Please answer.

How do you feel about the caste system in Japan , such as the treatment of Burakamin. (Doesn't bother you, cause it's a rich country ?)

Anonymous said...

Comparative American Studies, Vol. 2, No. 1, 61-73 (2004)
DOI: 10.1177/1477570004041288
© 2004 SAGE Publications

The Enduring Function of Caste: Colonial and Modern Haiti, Jamaica, and Brazil
The Economy of Race, the Social Organization of Caste, and the Formulation of Racial Societies
Tekla Ali Johnson

University of Nebraska-Lincoln, USA

Modern day social hierarchies in Jamaica, Brazil and, to a degree, Haiti find their roots in the colonial context, where planters stratified laborers in order to maximize control. During slavery planters found artificial ways of influencing African identity, dividing enslaved Africans by their occupations and by skin color. These distinctions created divisions among workers and color proved a singularly powerful and enduring symbol of social and economic mobility. The American propensity for creating racial classifications for Africans and further divisions for ‘mixed-race’ offspring traditionally served economic interests. Their perpetuation into the present may signal the continued utility of dividing Africans into subgroups as a means of maintaining control of racial politics in the Americas.

Daniel said...

One might argue that the fact that something exists elsewhere does not legitimize it anywhere. Slavery is still practiced in some cultures - does this make it right?

I have yet to see a valid defense for any caste system. I don't think the Indian caste system is any worse or better than any other caste system - and I don't expect anyone really does.