During the colonial era, the British proclaimed that everything that was good about India came from Europe, and everything bad came from its own culture, its own religions, its own people.
When Indians were fighting to be free of British rule, the American government frequently sided with the British; “troublesome” Indians in America were deported and handed over to British authorities. The British in turn helped America and Canada remain white by preventing Indians from traveling to North America.
California’s own racist past rivals the American South’s. The Native Californian population was decimated not only by starvation and disease but also through mission-led slavery and target practice. Shooting natives was a pastime for some. The Chinese, who helped build the railroad, were forbidden to own property, marry, or settle down. Indians were banned from immigration altogether. Media reports of the time describe “Hindoos” in the most demeaning and vile terms.
The California of today is a far better place, but it can be better. Its school textbooks still demonize and ridicule Hinduism in ways that are reminiscent of the past. If you are a young student in this state’s educational system, by the time you graduate, you will have developed a disdain for all things Hindu.
The California textbooks are currently under review, and revisions of their Indian content have become the subject of controversy. The efforts of one group to revise the anti-Hindu bias are being described by others as reactionary and sectarian.
Ask yourself this: Why does Milpitas mother Madhulika Singh’s 11-year-old son come home dejected, not wanting to be a Hindu? Is it because of the divisions in his own community? Or a failure of Hindus to own up to their past? Hardly. It is because of what the textbooks contain, what the teachers teach, and what the kids taunt him about. Our schoolchildren are taught, systematically and at an early age, to belittle and demean Hinduism.
The fact is that Hindus did not write the textbooks that portray them in such unflattering terms. Hindu children are constantly teased and bullied in the classroom and outside for being different. Hinduism is vilified by so-called Christians like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, and hardly anyone protests their bigoted statements.
I was born into a Hindu family, and am a practicing agnostic and Buddhist. I hardly fit the mold of a Hindu fundamentalist. There is no doubt in my mind that the textbooks in their current form are anti-Hindu. Such bias has no place in the classroom, and parents of all backgrounds should demand they be revised.