These days in India many up-and-coming families have miraculously discovered noble backgrounds—famous relatives who worked with Mahatma Gandhi in the early days of South Africa—but I have no such genteel heritage. We were poor Muslims. (1.2)
The family's destiny is defined by race from the get-go. They don't have the advantage of having the right kind of blood to have automatic success, so they have to work really hard.
We were not of the shantytown, or of the upper class of Malabar Hill, but instead lived on the exposed fault line between the two worlds. (2.75)
For the Hajis in Mumbai, it's a dangerous thing to not belong to either side. The family has worked itself into a nice position, but Papa is kind of playing with fire by not belonging to either the upper or lower class. Because he tries to breach the gap and please both worlds, the family ends up with tragedy.
When we arrived, a few streets of Southall were also in the throes of gentrification, worked over by ambitious second-generation immigrants. Papa called them the "Anglo-Peacocks". (3.11)
Papa refers to people of their race who have acclimated to Western life "Anglo Peacocks." It's a negative name for those who he sees as having abandoned their old way of life and adopted a new culture.
It was a look that I would see many times again as I made my way through France in the coming years—a uniquely Gallic look of nuclear contempt for one's inferiors. (6.7)
Hassan remembers the first time that Mallory looks down on his family by glaring at them from across the street. The basis for her initial dislike of them is based on racial prejudice. She assumes certain things about them, and also assumes that she's better. Not okay.
"Christians," Uncle Mayur snorted contemptuously. "Come, let us go." (6.150)
Hassan's uncle looks across the street at the pig-slaying ceremony and does not find it interesting. He writes it off because it is a practice that's not allowed in their culture (as Muslims, they can't eat pork).
Madame Mallory had never before been called "uncivilized." […] So to be called a barbarian, and by this Indian, to boot, was just too much for her and she smashed Papa on the chest with her fist. (9.40)
Mallory associates her French breeding with automatic good behavior. Not only is it wrong to make such an assumption, but her behavior is generally so terrible that she's, like, extra wrong. She is outraged when Papa calls her out on this—and even her outrage has racist tones to it.
I heard a male voice asking what had happened to her "negre blanc", followed by all the other men laughing. I remember pausing—listening intently—but I never heard Margaret challenge the remark. She just ignored it. (12.206)
While on a date, Margaret runs into a few old friends, who make a backhand comment about Hassan's race. It's a little moment in the story and Margaret chooses to pretend it didn't happen rather than make it an issue. But it still happens.
The woman's curse—"You dirty Arab"—brought me abruptly back to the Rue des Carmes, and for the first time I really looked around at the Parisian indifference surrounding me in the market, so typically offhand, as if nothing of true significance had actually occurred. (14.11)
Even though he is now successful and established in Paris, Hassan still encounters racial discrimination. Chances are, this lady does not know that he's a hugely successful chef that probably makes way more money than her. Even if he didn't, though, she's still be way out of line.
Madame Verdun's old-fashioned way of talking always sounded to me like a deliberate attempt to let Paul's friends know that she was of "better" stock than her self-made husband. (15.10)
Paul Verdun's aristocratic wife shows prejudice toward those who aren't of the same high blood and upbringing as she is. This prejudice is less based on race or talent, and more about the fact that she inherited her money rather than having had to earn it. We shudder to imagine what she thinks of people who don't have much money at all.