A gaffe with his staff

When I saw the headline “U.S. Congressman asks Clinton to shah.jpgdemote Rajiv Shah,” I thought that the USAID director had done something seriously wrong. Perhaps Shah had bungled the U.S. relief efforts in Haiti, sending too much rice but not enough beans. Or perhaps he had handed a reconstruction job to an Indian-American Contractor who doesn’t do any contracting. But no, nothing of that sort.

U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Detroit) is calling on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to demote the official coordinating relief efforts in Haiti, Dr. Rajiv Shah, for a lack of diversity on his staff. [Link]

In his letter to Clinton, Conyers wrote: “As you know, the 42 member Congressional Black Caucus met with Rajiv Shah, the Administrator of the U.S. AID yesterday to discuss the crisis in Haiti. I was alarmed and chagrined to learn that none of the approximately dozen staff he brought with him were African American. This is so serious an error in judgement that it warrants his immediate demotion to a subordinate position at AID. It is well known  that there has long been an under-representation of minorities in key positions within the State Department. I am confident this Administration will immediately begin addressing this problem.” [Source: The Hill]

Poor Shah. Perhaps someone had told him that he’d be appearing in front of the Congressional White Caucus. Perhaps he was under the mistaken belief that race doesn’t matter much in 2010, that he just has to surround himself with qualified people. Or perhaps he took his resemblance to Obama a little too seriously and forgot to speak with the right dialect.

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My FB doppelganger…my…self?

Desktop.jpg About a week ago, I noticed that many of my friends on Facebook had changed their profile pictures to images depicting various celebrities. “Maybe they were bored”, I thought. Perhaps there was a current event which was prompting this; when Benazir Bhutto was assassinated, I made an image of her my profile picture. So I barely paid attention and wasn’t super-curious as to what was going on. I prefer Twitter to Facebook, anyway.

I became a little more surprised when I noticed that some of my friends had changed their profiles more than once a day and that each update was accompanied by either accolades or criticism. Despite reading, “that totally looks like you!” a few times, I didn’t immediately figure out that this was [a meme](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meme_(Internet) or a game, and that people were doing this to participate in some greater movement until one of you spelled it out, in the comments section under your newly-changed picture. Don’t blame me, unlike you MIT-alums or Ivy Leaguers, I went to a state school. Suck it, with your superior deductive skills. At least I figured out the “bra color in FB status” thing without googling it. Go me!

Obviously, I’m not writing this to tell you about a “hot, new trend!”. I’d be more than two weeks late for THAT. I’m writing because I noticed something very interesting occurring in my feed, and many of you are responsible for that. It started simply enough, with this:

“I’d participate, but there are no Hollywood celebrities who look like me. :o (“

And with that, so much was conjured. Memories of being at Disneyland or airport souvenir shops, standing next to my sister as I excitedly snatched a license plate or key chain emblazoned with, “A N N A”…while she glumly turned the display to “V”, where there was nothing which read “Veena”.

“Is someone feeling left out because they are Brown?”, I wondered. “Because THAT’S a post!”. I had no idea how much of a post it could be until my own Facebook profile became a hotbed of discussion about why people were participating, what it meant to participate, as well as questions of representation, inclusion and “[passing](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passing_(racial_identity)”. The original point of the game may have been to simply change your profile pic to that of a celebrity whom you allegedly resemble, but I sensed that there was more here than a mere meme. Continue reading

Khan Takes on Manhattan

Dear Mutineers,

There are exciting happenings going on in the bunker nowadays for those interested in all news Bollywood and Hollywood. Taz just came back from Sundance (where she met Aamir Khan and Sendhil Ramamurthy) and today Cicatrix and I will be around in NYC, covering the My Name is Khan press conference featuring Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol and Karan Johar. If you’ll remember, we talked about Khan’s new movie back in August, where we found out he was going to meet President Obama (played by Christopher Duncan). And of course there was that whole Newark airport incident (which some of you suspected was a publicity stunt done to promote the movie, much like his joining Twitter). Continue reading