Shooting to be White!

This week’s reading, “Shooting an Elephant”, suggests an interesting relationship between the colonist and their subjects. There is this sense of racialization, but in this story, the racialization of White man and its subversion. This does raise a lot of questions on what white man see themselves to be – rational, civilized, knowledgeable etc. In the story, there presents this situation where white men have to constantly prove themselves worthy to be white man, marking themselves as the superiors – “A white man mustn’t be frightened in front of “natives”. As seen from the quote, there is this constant need to reassure their status and avoid diminishing their image. This preoccupation, I feel, becomes a driving force to irrationality for the white police officer. I suggest this as the elephant is understood to be harmless already. However, the need to ‘please’ the natives created only “one alternative” – to shoot! The revelation of the police officer’s thoughts provides us with the contrast in what people expected and what exactly happened. All the other white men – young or old, were debating whether it was worth killing the elephant over an Indian man. They naturally assumed that the police officer, being one of them would react rationally – in this case, the debate over legitimacy versus the financial valuation of the elephant and the Indian man. Many questions arise from the act of the white police officer. Is the white man essentially that different from the natives? If there is no difference, wouldn’t the colonist be ruling irrationally? Their belief in their superiority would then be a fallacy after all. Personally, the only difference between the white police officer and the natives would be the “beautiful German [rifle]” that the white man is holding.

Thoughts on Race and Superiority

While reading Passage to India, one aspect that caught my eye was Forster’s treatment of race and the practice of racialization. It becomes obvious that the idea of race comes to taint the view and attitude of what each group of people have towards others. Racialization is, in the text, characterized to be a misconception and as a result, a cause of much tension between the different ‘races’. But I think race becomes a conviction of which these people hedge to in order to find some certainty to cope with the flux and changes around them. For instance, even when Aziz was dressed in European costumes and speaks English, Ronny, who was probably intimidated by him previously, refuses to see him as an equal. Immediately jumping on Aziz’s skin colour which categorizes him to be an Indian – categorized to be fundamentally slack (75), and this is when Ronny does not even know Aziz or work with him.

Naturally, this act of categorizing people along racial lines is not limited to the English as it is clear that everyone is complicit. The elusiveness of race is extensively discussed in the text. This is especially highlighted in Forster’s mockery of a ‘White’ man through Fieldings, who called his own race, “pinko-gray” (57). The colour of skin is in reality just a colour, but has become connotated with superiority, however, as we would have come to realize after many events in the text – it is something that is baseless and illusionary.