Racial attitudes and the Anglo‐Indians perceptions of a community before and after independence

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, History, Media Archive on 2011-08-09 03:41Z by Steven

Racial attitudes and the Anglo‐Indians perceptions of a community before and after independence

South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies
Volume 6, Issue 2 (1983)
pages 34-45
DOI: 10.1080/00856408308723045

Coralie Younger
University of Sydney

The question of racial attitudes between the rulers and the ruled, and whites and non-whites has evoked attention from numerous authors. E. Said maintains that ‘the White man was always on the alert to keep the coloured at bay’ while Northrop Frye notes a “garrison mentality” whereby,

‘there is a need for the projection of an unbroken surface, an apparently flawless morale, to be presented not merely to the outside world where the subject races crowd but also to one’s companions’

As Ballhatchet has argued in Race, Sex and Classunder the Rajt ‘the preservation of social distance seemed essential to the maintenance of structures of power and authority.’ Given such attitudes, what was the place of those who were neither black nor white? What, in other words, were attitudes towards Anglo-Indians? British ideas of racial supremacy evolved during the nineteenth century and reached their apotheosis during the imperial heyday of the Victorian age with a belief in white superiority over the inferior coloured races. The British rigidly maintained a distance between themselves and those over whom they ruled. They frowned upon anyone who attempted to bridge the gap.

Anglo-Indians are a minority community in India of mixed European and Indian blood, claiming European descent through the male line. They are legally defined in the Indian Constitution and have concomitant educational and political rights. Economically they are a depressed community, placing little emphasis upon education. Their traditional neglect of education was a result of the paternalistic practice of the British, who gave them preference in upper-subordinate positions in government service regardless of educational attainments. However the reforms that followed the Montagu-Chelmsford Report of 1919 saw the end of reserved positions for Anglo-Indians and led to the Indianisation of all government departments.

Did the British maintain their distance from Anglo-Indians in quite the same way as they did in regard to Indians? In general it would seem that the British response was complex. Racial attitudes had sexual and class overtones. They were contemptuous of Anglo-Indians because of their “native’* blood. The British felt ashamed of Anglo-Indians because they were the products of sexual relations between themselves and Indian women…

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