Is FOB a fighting word?

Pream Anandarajah is a Canadian born Tamil teenager whose uninsured Scarborough home was recently firebombed, sending his mother Jeyaluckshmi to the burn unit at the hospital [via UB]. And yes, this was an ethnic attack, but not in the way you might think. His attackers weren’t white, they were Sri Lankan Tamils, but FOBs recent immigrants instead of Canadian born. Is FOB as bad a word as n–er?

That’s right — there’s intragroup gang violence between CBD and recent immigrant Sri Lankan Hindu Tamils, serious violence:

Hours before the firebombing, a friend of Anandarajah’s was stabbed … He rattles off the names of gangs that he says recently arrived Sri Lankan youth have formed: EST (East Side Thugs); BNS; BNS Juniors; Tux Boys (Tuxedo Park); Tiger Boys; Gilders (Gilders Street). [Link]

<

p>

The house is now largely destroyed

The firebombing was part of an escalating series of retaliatory attacks, including one where Anandarajah was jumped by 12 students in the high school parking lot and knifed:

Touching his neck he says, “I don’t know how I got this scar. It happened after I was knocked out. They beat me up real bad. My mom couldn’t even recognize my face.” [Link]

<

p>One major beef between the groups is the use of the word FOB:

Frequently tossed around in the escalating feud between the groups is a loaded word, used to bully, label and shame. The mostly Tamil Sri Lankan youth around Scarborough who get called FOBs say the word is used as a weapon against them.

It’s like calling a black man, n—–,” says a Grade 10 student. [Link]

<

p>Apparently, that name calling also played a role in the firebombing:

Anandarajah says it was older youths who were responsible for the attack on his house, most of whom either dropped out or have been expelled. “I understand why they’re angry, calling them FOBs. But they took it too far with this…” [Link]

<

p>The whole thing seems to be about being “square”. Recent immigrants say they get harassed for not fitting in:

… [Recent immigrants] say the tension begins in high school. They get harassed for playing cricket, having unfashionable hairdos, wearing tight-fitting shirts, too high pants and speaking Tamil. [Link]

<

p>Their Canadian born brethren seem to agree. Recent immigrants are just uncool:

They can’t speak English, they have these weird haircuts,” says Chris, a Grade 12 student at nearby L’Amoreaux Collegiate. “The way they walk and they dress bad. It gives Sri Lankans a bad name, it’s embarrassing.”

One of them blurts out that they’re “fresh off the banana boat, they’re all FOBs, Tiger Boys, and they always will be…” The differences seem minor. Unless you’re in high school. “It’s stupid,” Anandarajah says. “But when we’re playing soccer, why do they have to come over and play cricket? We don’t play cricket here…” [Link]

So what say you? Is FOB a highly offensive term? What term would you prefer? NRI is both exclusionary (doesn’t apply here), and imprecise (to the Indian government I’m both an NRI and an ABD). Is there a different term that works better?

Would you start a fight if you got called a “FOB” ?

278 thoughts on “Is FOB a fighting word?

  1. PG, Last I remember your fiance/husband was desi

    Now he has been transformed to African -American.

    Is your sole purpose in coming here to incite trouble?

  2. PG, Last I remember your fiance/husband was desi

    Never!!!

    I had a few desi bfs in India, so perhaps that is what you are remembering. No serious relationships with them though.

  3. I had a few desi bfs in India, so perhaps that is what you are remembering. No serious relationships with them though.

    Unless this was some other PG.

  4. I am white and I dated and married a desi. I would say that I am reasonably attractive, 5 feet 7 and my husband is 5 foot 7 and no, he does not make 386,000$. In fact, I make more than him. He is the most warm, cuddly person I have ever met. The fact that I am a good 3 inches taller than him does not bother him in the least. Without taking too much credit, I can safely say that I have played a very significant role in his personal development and his integration into American society. I could have married someone white and taller than me who made a million dollars a year but I did not. Studies such as this are too simplistic.

    Funny. But not me. It lacks the subtle nuances of my character and writing style.

  5. Funny. But not me. It lacks the subtle nuances of my character and writing style.

    pg:

    what about this, from the same thread?

  6. Manju, that one was me. But still nothing there saying I had a desi fiance/husband.

  7. From my perspective, yes. :) Then again, my experiences are totally skewed, and I doubt I am representative of most folks on this site.

    That’s because you assume people who dont subscribe to your political ideologies can’t have significant experience (intimate, personal, familial etc.)with blacks. Just to make a trivial point, none of the black people I know have read Chang’s book or ‘Bomb the suburbs’.

  8. To dearest iABD ..okay..agree you are not ME. But remember you got desi blood in you and brown skin. Also remember once upon a time our parents/grandparents came to US as FOB..most of them were illegal immigrants from Punjab/Gujarat in persuit of american dream….So don’t try to be smart a**. Be desi……be a man! Happy memorial weekend.

  9. By ‘fit in better’, I mean we IBDs should make more friends beyond our desi circles … There is a lot to learn from American society and the freedom that comes with it. Because there are so many desis like us, we tend to end up with desi company all the time … In our own separate ‘bubbles’ if you may call it. We end up continuing our prejudices (like caste) though we are in a country which is as free as America.

    As a desi who didn’t have any close desi pals until adulthood, I often envy these “newer” kids or ABCDs who have a big community their age to relate to! They should keep their friends (teens stick VERY close to their cliques, no matter where you go), BUT also embrace other people (b/c it’ll equip them for the real world).

  10. On a more important note… FOB should NEVER be equated w/ the n-word b/c (I’m sorry) our ppl DID NOT go through the hell that blacks did in the history of US! Some (probably teens) are overreacting to a word which I always thought to mean “traditional” or “uncool.” Nothing else!

  11. That’s because you assume people who dont subscribe to your political ideologies can’t have significant experience (intimate, personal, familial etc.)with blacks.

    I made no such assumption — YOU made that inference. My statement was that, based on what I have read from the back and forth discussion on this site, I don’t feel that my opinions or experiences represent the “norm” or “median” reader here.

    That doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not folks on this site have extended/intimate/whatever relationships with African Americans. My point is saying my experiences are not “typical” was not that my friendships were “atypical,” but rather that I could only speak for myself. My aim was self-deprecation and an attempt not to generalize my experiences to the readership as a whole, not some ignorant assumption about the friendships or lifestyles of other commenters/readers on this site.

    Remember, when you assume… ;)

  12. To dearest iABD ..okay..agree you are not ME. But remember you got desi blood in you and brown skin. Also remember once upon a time our parents/grandparents came to US as FOB..most of them were illegal immigrants from Punjab/Gujarat in persuit of american dream….So don’t try to be smart a**. Be desi……be a man! Happy memorial weekend.

    iABCD..to be clear, what I meant is GET YOURSELF A NEW HANDLE since I chose mine first.

  13. “Amitabh on May 23, 2007 12:23 PM · Direct link Recently in a suburb of Toronto (Oakville) a Tamil teen stabbed a Sikh teen to death. But apparently the Sikh teen was no angel either…before he was stabbed he was allegedly instigating others to fight. This took place at a party somewhere. The desi gang problems in Canada seem to be getting worse. What’s surprising from your post, Ennis, is that ‘FOB’ kids can form gangs so fast. And some of this is taking place in relatively nice, suburban areas.”

    Going off topic I must correct this as I knew the individuals who were attacked including the late Amrinder. First off the incident took place in Brampton not Oakville, and it was approx 20 Tamil youths who attacked three Punjabi youths, and it was not Amrinder who instigated the fight, it was someone outside of both groups (the Tamil 20 individuals and the three Punjabi individuals). Amrinder was helping his parents financially while working at a wharehouse as well as a factory and completing his secondary education at the same time. I know you used the word “allegedly” but this story was in great need of correction. All print media has twisted the accuracy of the incident, but like all western cultural mediums we must always question it. Desi on Desi violence is no new phenomenon in Canada, in the 90′s in Vancouver BC over 300 Desi youths lost their lives to Desi on Desi violence, it has calmed down a bit since then, but is now rising in the greater Toronto area but especially in Brampton, which is now the 4th fastest growing city in Canada.

    The term fob should be eradicated, no matter how many blonde streaks a Desi girl puts in her hair or no matter how many colour contacts she has, no matter how many pairs of parasuco jeans and no matter how many abercrombie and fitch shirts a Desi guy has, no matter how light your Desi skin colour maybe, no matter how far we change our Desi names from Hardish to Harry, no matter if we stop eating roti and dal switcing to hamburgers and french fries, no matter how many white girls or white boys we fuck, to a white hegemonic society we are all PAKIS!!! The only difference is: Desi’s born in the West are “ACCEPTABLE PAKIS” and the rest “UNACCEPTABLE PAKIS.” And then you have a third category who are the “MODEL PAKIS” who dominant white society just loves!

    Hmm… I guess we forgot about the Komagata Maru in BC, Dot Busters in Jersey, “Islamaphobia” today in the US, Canada and Europe, institutional and systemic racism in Canada, hell even the indiviudal acts of racism still experienced by Desi’s and people of colour alike today in the city of Toronto (the most diverse city in the entire world).

    I think Desi’s who subscribe to the use of the word FOB or REF need a little reminder that they are BROWN NOT WHITE!!! SMELL THE THARKA PEOPLE!!! And FOB and the word REF if uttered by a Desi to a Desi is a HUGE fighting word! But its funny actually, because not only do we already divide ourselves (Desi’s) with these terms, FOB and REF, but then we become further divided when we fight each other…

    brown people are falling…

    …but BIG UP to Sepia Mutiny for lifting us up!!! …Big Tings Agawn!!!! Braaaap!!!!

  14. sorry for the randomness of my comments… on some strong cold medication…

  15. Am i wrong in assuming that alot of the desis on this site do not have intimate and continuous contact with black Americans?
    From my perspective, yes. :)

    Remember, when you assume… :)

  16. I have no trouble with “FOB”. I’m more troubled by being a ‘resident alien’ when I file my ‘tax returns’..

  17. TO ANYONE WHO USES THE TERM FOB TO BELITTLE PEOPLE>

    I don’t think derogatory terms by themselves ever mean anything unless used in a manner in which to cause offense. The ‘n’ word, for instance, is used in various degrees, and so to a term such as FOB. Although, I am an immigrant (8 years here) to the US, there has always been a rift between me and people of Indian origin who are American born (most common users of the FOB term), simply because someone straight out of India could not understand them nor bear any resemblance to their idea of ‘cool’. That surprises me as those same kids probably grew up in a more conservative household then I did and watch more bollywood movies then I ever have. Their (ABDs, ABCDs*) use of the term FOB is used to show how they are different from the stereotypes that are often portrayed by the media of the regular Indian, with the funny accent and the head shaking. If I had a rupee for every time I heard “Oh, I dont even hang out with Indians”…or ” I dont even know that many Indians”…I’d probably have a 1,000 rupees. The term FOB is simply a means to differentiate peoples own existences from a poorly scripted stereotype and the users of the term are often just trying to cover up some insecurity that they have within themselves, hoping, no one will think of them as a person straight out of India. I suppose this rant has no purpose besides asking yourself, when using a controversial term, what is its intended use…? Although I may be from a different country, I haven’t spent my life seeking an identity that is unexpected of me. I don’t care to differentiate myself simply because I have accepted and to a certain extent, romanticized my differences. There is virtue in being different…even if it is a FOB.

    I could also twist Chris Rocks quote of being racist towards your own race…but then again, we already do that enough.

  18. I know it’s a fighting word but I also think it’s a word that can be reclaimed, more so than ‘nigger.’

    I’m not trying to downplay the specific situation discussed in the post,which is serious and needs to be addressed. Fob is a fighting world in that context, but in my part of the world fob is less of a gang insult and more of a joke/reminiscing about your own geeky past/term of endearment…

    I think we can work it more than we can with a word ‘nigger’ or ‘untouchable.’ We’ve all been through that high school stage of wanting to distance ourselves from fobness, but now that I’ve discowered the fobuliciousness I don’t think I’d ever go back :)

    I put chilli paste on a mince and cheese pie and not give a f***…and I’m 19 so prob a bit of a wee one by the standards of most commenters on this blog, but I hope as many of those crazy kids grow out of fob-hatred and move to fob-lurrrrve :)

  19. I know it’s a fighting word but I also think it’s a word that can be reclaimed, more so than ‘nigger.’ I’m not trying to downplay the specific situation discussed in the post,which is serious and needs to be addressed. Fob is a fighting world in that context, but in my part of the world fob is less of a gang insult and more of a joke/reminiscing about your own geeky past/term of endearment… I think we can work it more than we can with a word ‘nigger’ or ‘untouchable.’ We’ve all been through that high school stage of wanting to distance ourselves from fobness, but now that I’ve discowered the fobuliciousness I don’t think I’d ever go back :) I put chilli paste on a mince and cheese pie and not give a f***…and I’m 19 so prob a bit of a wee one by the standards of most commenters on this blog, but I hope as many of those crazy kids grow out of fob-hatred and move to fob-lurrrrve :)

    True. Often words that are meant to be taken as insults are indeed taken as compliments by the person(s) to whom they are aimed.

    Example; “independent woman”

    In the area where I was residing, this is considered a criticism.

  20. As for the whole ABCD vs FOB thing, speaking as a 2nd gen, I think it is true that people who come across too ‘fobby’ make us feel on some level that others might view us in the same way, and reduce our social standing. I know that I used to feel that way when I was younger, and can’t say that I never feel that way now, in rare circumstances. But now I just scold myself and try to get rid of it.

    Very nicely put, Amitabh.

  21. “If I had a rupee for every time I heard “Oh, I dont even hang out with Indians”…or ” I dont even know that many Indians”…I’d probably have a 1,000 rupees.”

    Damn Rathi…

    If you heard that from Desi’s then maybe like I wrote before that these lost Desi’s need to be aqcuainted with the Dot Busters in Jersey (if those bastards are still lurking about) so they know that they are still considered “PAKIS” no matter what! I may be totally off when using this following bell hooks quote (also altering it) but to all these Desi’s living in their racial harmonious, unearned priveleged, white washed, republican, ivory towers (and I hope that they feel the same offence that the people who you call FOBS and REFS feel,” “CHECK YA DAMN SELF!!!!”

  22. first of all ‘dot -busters’ need to be massacred by all desis, be they fob or non-fob. an alliance of necessity needs to be formed for that………..not to mention, this whole argument about us all being pakis to the rest of society….this is just injecting a spurrious argument into the equation…….the real matter at hand is intra-desi community……and this is what i have to say……….when non-fobs go to india, the locals all look at them as soft, docile, non-hardened, non-tough, weaklings who have life easy. the small % that makes it to the real world are very, very, very upper class. they have spent their lives belittling the lower classes and thinking when they get to the real world they will use their sheer toughness to take over. to put it mildly the culture of the locals in india is completely backward and pathetic. (let us not forget this is not india’s true true culture, but what the fallen, devastated remains from centuries of rule by mughals and british assholes). there is nothing wrong with not being “the bigger man” and feeling sympathy for these people when they arrive even though they are our brethren and look just like us…..to say they don’t fit in is an understatement, just as normal dressed, normal behaving desis don’t fit in in india. i know this because i have been here for 4 months….obviously this is not to say sentiments such as “they make us look bad” should be harboured or espoused. anyone who feels that way is a loser, probably with a really small penis, and deserves to get whooped….in conclusion, i am not saying fobs are bad and deserve to be ostracized…..just let nature take its course, they were 100% certain when they came they would kick ass, since they had seen soft desis who come to visit doing so well, and imagine how well tough jatts from the pind could do in that case…..one thing all fobs should strive towards is not burping loudly and frequently when around others.

  23. to put it mildly the culture of the locals in india is completely backward and pathetic.

    Wow … and statements such as this definitely will foster intra- desi co-operation between the great , emancipated american born desis and all us India born, weak ,pathetic FOBs

    Dear trapped, Please save your sympathy The DBDs don’t want it … along with your sheer arrogance , immaturity and ignorance displayed in sweeping statements such as this one:

    to say they don’t fit in is an understatement, just as normal dressed, normal behaving desis don’t fit in in india
  24. First off the incident took place in Brampton not Oakville, and it was approx 20 Tamil youths who attacked three Punjabi youths, and it was not Amrinder who instigated the fight, it was someone outside of both groups (the Tamil 20 individuals and the three Punjabi individuals).

    Name (#264), thanks for your comments. I suspected that there must have been a big imbalance in the numbers for the outcome to be what it was.

  25. normal dressed, normal behaving desis don’t fit in in india. i know this because i have been here for 4 months

    You probably don’t fit in because you can’t string a couple of thoughts together coherently.

  26. in conclusion, i am not saying fobs are bad and deserve to be ostracized…..just let nature take its course

    trapped, don’t be softhearted: please do ostracize any FOBs you find. If you talk the way you write, I am sure they’d be grateful.

  27. Fob– this word is so common in schools and universities that most people have heard it one way or the other… In our school we even had an award for thr biggest FOB( I won it of course) in one of our indian club superlatives. Do i think its derogative…i think it is if you want it to be… I whole heartledly declare myself as a FOB…. And proud of it… When i hear people or my friends make comments about FOBS … i declare myself as one and then the conversation takes an akward turn. I then ask the question ..whts wrong with FOBs… and why should we as fellow desis put someone from our own country down.. We should be helping them instead calling them names…