With anti-racism protests gripping the United States and other countries, young activists in Myanmar see it as the right time to challenge racism in the Buddhist-majority country.
Launching a campaign called ‘Don’t call me ‘Kalar’’ on Facebook, the effort seeks to end the use of a term that historically referred to people from the Indian subcontinent. But today the K-word is often used as a racist term for people with dark skin.
The word has helped fuel hatred against the Rohingya, a long-persecuted Muslim minority who are denied citizenship in Myanmar. Thousands of Rohingya have been forced to flee to Bangladesh by violent military assaults.
A group of young activists started the anti-racism campaign by changing their profile pictures. They told said they were inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement protests that rippled globally following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died when he was pinned to the ground by a Minnesota police officer.
Zay Linn Mon is among the activists. He said the campaign aims to highlight racism in Myanmar. “Does the Indian community accept this word? The problem is privileged people who don’t see this as an issue,” Zay Linn said.
He said the term also has been used to describe Tamils and Muslims. Parents often warn their children that “a big Kalar” will come and get them if they misbehave.