Struggle against discrimination
Reviewed by Kanwalpreet

The Pale King
By David Foster Wallace. Hamish Hamilton. Pages 547. 20.

The downtrodden in every society have to wage a war at local, national and at international levels. The struggle passes through various phases; it mellows down at times and intensifies at other times. New allies are formed and new opportunities are explored to attain equality and justice. This is what this book aims to record.

Gerald Horne brings forth some interesting facts and revelations, which could prove useful to students pursuing serious research. He talks of the alliance between African Americans and Indians with Japan to overthrow the supremacy of the Whites.

The discrimination against the Indians and the African Americans led the leaders of the two communities to seriously ponder to combine their strength though, they knew, the path was strewn with obstacles. "As Indians began streaming to the US shores, particularly to the West Coast, they began to experience a form of discrimination that became pervasive and that mirrored what the US Negroes had endured for centuries." The obstacle that came in the way of their unity were that the Indians were happy to be treated at a little better level than their Negro brethren.

Horne, the author, gives example of Hindus who were refused to be accommodated by Whites at a table in a hotel when the former were thought to be Negroes. When the occupants were told that the people in question were not Negroes but Hindus, they withdrew their objection.

Hindus were told to wear Hindu garments and a turban to avoid confusion with African-Americans. There were many African-Americans who passed off as South Asians by wearing these clothes to avoid severe penalties for being descendants of those formerly enslaved in the US.

Indians in India did not justify discrimination on any ground. Thus, the abject refusal of the Indian leadership to back the British in the war without an immediate guarantee of Independence had "a powerful influence on black American political consciousness".

The influence of Mahatma Gandhi on the African-American is all too well known. Martin Luther King's visit to India was "one of the most rewarding experiences" of his life. He conceded that "the strongest bond of fraternity was the common cause of minority and colonial peoples in America, Africa and Asia struggling to throw off racialism and imperialism".

The book highlights that in a world where people with darker skin were deprived of human rights, things had to be improved upon. The desire of the Indian and the Blacks were the same -self-respect and a life of dignity, emphasising equality and justice. The role of the Blacks in building roads in South Asia which were the lifeline of the powers is highlighted.