Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. I read this quote a few years back and if kept in mind, it will save you from numerous conflicts and pointless arguments.

So, two months ago I received this query. Some parts redacted for brevity and privacy.

I am racially Indian but I was born and grew up in {redacted}.

Swamiji, as you probably know that in {redacted} there are 3 main races. Malay, Chinese and Indians. I have some friends who are Malays and Chinese and they have openly said that they are racially superior to the Indians.

To prove their argument, they cite evidence such as their economy is much better than India’s, their people win more Olympic medals than Indians, they win more mathematics and physics olympiads than Indians, they are more pale skinned than Indians etc.

As these are factually correct statements, I cannot give them any proper arguments. But it is also difficult and painful for me to accept that my race is inferior and their race is superior.

Swamiji, what is your view on this racial concept? Which race is superior and which race is inferior? I have read your memoir and from your descriptions, India does seem to be a very backward country. Why is that? Why is India so backward? Why is India always invaded by others? Why can’t India progress and defend themselves like the Chinese?

Are we truly racially inferior to other races?

I am writing this question to you from a position of tremendous emotional turmoil. I don’t want condolences. I want the truth. I hope you will not be indifferent to my sincere aspiration.

Just so we are on the same page, here’s the definition of race:

“One of the main groups to which people are often considered to belong, based on physical characteristics that they are perceived to share such as skin colour, eye shape, etc.”

The notion of one race being superior to another is so deeply drilled into us by our environment that I wonder if it’s possible to ever rise above it completely. Sometimes the terms ethnicity and race are used interchangeably. Even within India, with all the education and advancement, we are still worried about religions, race and caste when making friends, hiring people or particularly when getting married. So first things first, differences exist and they are here to stay for centuries if not millennia (at which time they will be replaced with other kinds of differences, probably).

But does that mean that one ethnic or racial group is superior to the other? As much as anyone would like to believe that, the truth is, it has no scientific evidence whatsoever. I quote:

Race is a powerful social category forged historically through oppression, slavery, and conquest. Most geneticists agree that racial taxonomies at the DNA level are invalid. Genetic differences within any designated racial group are often greater than differences between racial groups. Most genetic markers do not differ sufficiently by race to be useful in medical research (Duster, 2009; Cosmides, 2003). 

Or what about the following in this short article from Nat Geo.

Neither race nor ethnicity is detectable in the human genome. Humans do have genetic variations, some of which were once associated with ancestry from different parts of the world. But those variations cannot be tracked to distinct biological categories.

So let me say this categorically: no one is racially superior, in any way at all. My opinion is backed by science.

Besides, if one race was superior to another could any of the following events occur?

  1. Barack Obama of mostly African ancestry becoming the president of the USA.
  2. Eleven people of Indian origin winning the Nobel prize including Tagore, C.V. Raman, Har Gobind Khurana, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar and others.
  3. Sundar Pichai, Satya Nadella, Ajay Banga or Indra Nooyi and others leading some of the most iconic organizations.
  4. Or China well on its way to becoming the biggest economy in the world? (They already are at the top spot if PPP is factored in.)
  5. What about the numerous stories of immigrants who outperformed everyone else to ascend right to the top of the food chain in their careers and industries?

When people bring to you the argument of a superior race, it’s rarely because they want to know more or validate the truth. It’s often that they already believe in something and their intention is to simply exert the supremacy of their misplaced belief. When that happens, you have two choices. Do you want to simply ignore what they said and choose peace? Or do you want to challenge their beliefs? The approach you take in your response depends on the outcome you seek.

To help you with your turmoil, I could have taken the approach of proving with data that what the ignorant ones perceive as racial superiority is not because of some genetic inheritance but good governance. The countries that have progressed are the ones where they have worked tirelessly to rid the country of corrupt politicians and office bearers. You will be amazed what all is possible when corruption is dealt with a heavy hand. India is not backward. Yes, India is behind on many fronts, just how China was 50 years ago or Europe was a few hundred years ago or Arabia was at one time. But being behind is not the same as being backward. Behind is a position whereas backward is a mentality. And wherever we are behind, it’s due to poor governance driven directly by corruption or political agendas, often both. India is an extraordinary nation that has the world’s largest youth population, the world’s biggest democracy. It’s a civilization that has withstood the test of time, has held its fort against the constant invasions and onslaught of external crusaders. The root cause of our slow progress is that we have plenty of corrupt maggots spread throughout the judiciary, executive and legislature. We have a lot of corrupt officials in administration and in every government department. 

Of course, we also have plenty of honest operators too and they are like tigers. Rare.

So as a nation, we are paying a huge price today for letting this corruption fester. Every shortcut that was taken by the corrupt people in power is coming back to haunt us, whether that’s in education, healthcare, taxation, banking, infrastructure or anything else at all.

As we improve governance with better transparency, as we say no to divisions in the name of languages, religions and political machinations, our growth rate will be off the charts. There is no dearth of brainpower, intelligence or motivation. The youth of India today wants to do amazing things with their life. They are unafraid and they have dreams. So something magnificent is happening in India, with India. Wait and watch. But yes, India’s growth could be expedited in unimaginable ways if we could introduce swift and strictest punishment for corruption so that no one drunk on power or wealth ever gets to make a mockery of law. The only thing we lack is the maturity of governance. But, there’s hope. It’s all happening. 

And by the way, if you have friends who are telling you that they are racially superior to you, I hope you know that they are not your friends. Reminds me of Desmond Tutu who often said the following in mirth.

When the missionaries came to Africa, they had the Bible and we had the land. They said ‘let us close our eyes and pray.’ When we opened our eyes, we had the Bible, and they had the land.

The missionaries too had come as friends and well-wishers. The whole idea of friendship is based on equality. Friends don’t look down upon other friends, they don’t mock or make remarks laced with sarcasm. If they do, you can tell them that you find it offensive. If they persist, leave them and move on.

As for the color of your skin, a clove of garlic too is paler than a cinnamon stick. Does that mean garlic is superior and you can garnish your coffee or apple pie with it? Since when did the day decide it was more beautiful than the night?

How contemporary media and folklore predating written history, going back to ancient Mesopotamian mythology, is responsible for introducing the forces of “darkness” as evil is for another time. And while I’m at it, I hope you know that the Caucasians are called so because they originated from the Caucasus region, which includes parts of present-day Russia, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. Countries with harsh winters. Same as parts of North India. Somewhere along the evolution, due to the extremely cold temperatures and less exposure to the sun, melanin levels depleted in their bodies. As a result, their skin lost the natural pigmentation and acquired a lighter skin tone (hence a higher rate of skin cancer too). It should, therefore, be no surprise that you meet many fair-complexioned people in all the Himalayan regions of India too. Even a patient of vitiligo looks just as white as any Caucasian.

Yes, first impression matters. Yes, we live with stereotypes. Yes, we find certain people more beautiful than others. But, my dear, what matters a lot more is how you make others feel, how you carry yourself, how you groom yourself. What matters more is if you love yourself and if you respect others, if you make them feel loved.

If you have a beautiful heart, if your speech is beautiful, if your actions are beautiful, people around you will find you beautiful. If you are a flight attendant or a waiter, whom would you want to serve: a rude white man or a polite brown man?

Do you know Evelyn Nesbit? Dorian Leigh? Or, Gia Carangi? No? Nobody does. They were supermodels. But you do know Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, or Ramakrishna Paramahansa. Who would you rather be? A supermodel or a super leader? 

I doubt it’s a difficult question. But, the choice is yours.



There were four members in a household. Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. A bill was overdue. Everybody thought Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it but Nobody did it.
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