Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

There’s nothing more uncomfortable than accepting an invitation to a dinner party only to discover over the salad course that your host’s girlfriend is a virulent racist. Just ask Sir Ben Kingsley.

Gawker.com published this blind item a few days ago:

“Ben Kingsley told a story on The View this morning about an unpleasant dinner he had at the home of a Hollywood actor: ‘There are times when I wish I could have said or done something differently. [For example] The last time I was here, there was an old Hollywood actor who invited me back to his home. He was with his aging German girlfriend. I was instantly nervous around her. During the meal, she said “Are you Jewish?” And I said, “No as a matter of fact, I’m half Indian and half English.” And she said “Oh my god, that’s even worse.” [audience gasps] So, I did not drop my knife and fork and say “F* you.” I stayed in a state of rage throughout the dinner. Why? Because everything happens for a reason. And now here I am with you and [pointing at the camera] if you’re still around, you racist old witch…[gesturing to The View panel] these girls have now heard it, and you know who you are! You know who you are!’

Nearly everyone reading this can relate to this story at least a little. I certainly know what it is like to silently sit in a state of rage after hearing a racist remark at a party, wishing I had either a) called the person out, b) immediately gone home, or c) both. I have to admit that I’m a bit jealous that Kingsley got to verbally tear this woman to shreds on national television. Who hasn’t imagined doing that?

Watch the video below for the full effect of Kingsley’s tale (complete with faux German accent.) The look on his face as he shouts “You know who you are!” is priceless.

How have mutineers handled situations like this? What would you have done differently if given a do-over? And any guesses as to who hosted this ill-fated dinner party? (Most of the Gawker commenters think it’s this Hollywood legend, which, if true, would make me more than a little sad.)

74 thoughts on “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

  1. Yes, you pretty much did. Your comment suggests that most Europeans would not find this kind of comment offensive, which is patently not true. And a racist comment it is.

    However this question has nothing to do with being German or not being German. The knowledge of Europe and European history of most SM’ers is appalling. You think such comments are not made in the USA? Think again. Racism is well and alive in the USA, only maybe it is more behind closed doors. Maybe.

  2. Everyone is show biz changes their name! Even Rush Limbaugh wasn’t born Rush Limbaugh.

    Incorrect…from wiki:

    Rush Hudson Limbaugh III was born in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, the son of Mildred Carolyn “Millie” (née Armstrong) and Rush Hudson Limbaugh, Jr. His father was a lawyer and a World War II fighter pilot who served in the China-Burma-India theater. His mother was a native of Searcy, Arkansas. The use of family name “Rush” was originally chosen for his grandfather to honor the maiden name of family member Edna Rush.[1]

    We repubs keep it real, yo.

  3. 28 · Neha on May 29, 2010 8:07 PM · Direct link People like Ben Kingsley who white-wash their heritage — like Nikki Haley and Bobby Jindal — are much more insidious racists because they not only internalize the racism, they perpetuate it. Now that being brown isn’t as uncool, especially with Indian actors in side characters in shows, etc., suddenly Ben is half-Indian. In the past though, he presented himself as white and English.

    I would take the German woman’s brand of racism any day then a brown dude whose career embodies his shame to be brown.

    On the question: I don’t have a problem with overtly racist comments because then I can respond. I have a problem with institutionalized racism that we see every where. While browns — especially Muslims and East Asians — are highly educated and in the highest income bracket of immigrants, we are completely underrepresented in decision-making positions. You will be hard-pressed to find an East Asian president of a university or college etc. Unless it is a start-up company, Asians do not get promoted to positions of power… That’s worse.

    I am still shocked into silence by the comments I hear about Muslims just about all the time now. It is acceptable in any setting to bash Muslims…but it never is easy to hear.

    I agree with you. Ben Kingsley NEVER in the past admit that he was part Indian. Several years ago, it was only alleged that he was part Indian, but in an interview, he didn’t want to talk about it. Now, he’s so proud of this. Hmmmm….I wonder why.

    Also, I simply don’t believe his “dinner” with an old racist. I simply don’t believe it.

  4. Not to defend Ben Kingsley of hating his Indian side or of Ms. Oberon who down-played her South Asian heritage, most, if not all, Indian communities do this as well. I realize that many of us read Wikipedia, and there are articles pertaining to South Asian tribes and castes which positively make me cringe as to how we want to perceive ourselves. For example: 1. Apparently “Kapoors” claim that they are “Caucasian Avar and Chuvash ancestry.”
    2. The “Aroras” try to connect their history with that of the Albanians, since “Pruthi subcaste of Aroras is also a common surname of Albanians” (from wikipedia under “Aroras”). 3. “Soods” also seem to try to connect their tribal history with that of the French, since “Sood” means “South” in French (from wikipedia under “Sood”). 4. Finally, “Sethis” claim to be everything under the sun except Indian, since, according to Wikipeida “Sethi Khatris claim Chechen, Abkhaz, Georgian and Ingush ancestry.”

    So unless we’re actively editing this out or offering alternatives to this “logic” on Wiki, we, too, my friends are part of the problem.

    Why is it that none of these Indian communities that I’ve listed in particular and Indian communities (especially from the North) in general want to claim indigenous Indian genetics, except, of course, when they want to lay historical claim to the Indus Valley or Harappan civilizations?

  5. Ben Kingsley had said long ago, that he changed his name because he couldn’t get anywhere with his birth name. It is not a recent thing. I read an interview a handful of years ago where he talks about this name, Krishna Bhanji. How Krishna is after a Hindu deity, while the surname Bhanji is typically Muslim. His acknowledging his Indian lineage isn’t something suddenly recent.

    And he’s also been on and off about some Taj Mahal film for the past couple of years. Something which has never really materialized, and probably never will–which I think is best since it would be pretty disastrous.

  6. So according to some of you, he made up this story for “The View?” So now he is going to have to lie about this story for the rest of his life, because he wanted to tell a racial story for Elisabeth Hasselbeck? I dont believe that you people belive that he made this tory up.

    Are some of you, who are so mad at Ben for not wearing his Indainness on his sleeve, being fair for denying his English side? What is the correct ratio of Englishness and Indianness?

    This is why biracial children have a unfair duty of representing all sides at all times. If they spend 13 hours of the day being white and 11 hours being black then they are trying to be white. Why is the burden of mixing 2 histories of people put on mixed people?

  7. I’ll just for the day when Ben Kingley, Salma Hayek and Asiz Ansari go for a drive in suburban Pooenix and are picked up for some sort of first offfence :-)

  8. Wow, I can’t believe that some of you didn’t know until now that BK was Indian. It has been known for a very long time now, AFAIK, I knew when I was a child (15 years ago or so).

  9. ST, No one is doubting the veracity of BK’s story. Its the timing. …OK, this is making me hungry, im off to Burger King . Th

  10. Ok Manju, what I meant was that he has gone by several different aliases over the course of his career.

    hmmm, maybe…i understand he trolls lefty blogs by pesenting himself as a brilliant, witty, and handsome indian man.

  11. Wow, I can’t believe that some of you didn’t know until now that BK was Indian

    Well, you can’t blame them for wondering after Bk did this.

  12. 2

    “This video contains content from ABC Soapnet, who has blocked it in your country on copyright grounds”

    .

    I got that too. It happens often. Where I live(France) they are indeed racist. I listen to a lot of these kinds of comments here in Europe.

  13. “these racist scum a good lesson”

    wow what a statement; reminds me when I hear the garbage that some people on blogs or comment section that all south asians are racist. I think every group of people has their racist jerks…no need to state all germans are like this.

    I can’t believe some of you think that bk is in someway trying to hide his indian/desi heritage. He’s played all sorts of roles from every ethnicity and he embraced his gandhi role; to the point that I’m sure many americans thought he was indian. hell as a little kid, I thought he was indian, but as a kid i thought a lot of people who weren’t indian, were indian, elvis for one. This comes from living in queens, nyc and being surrounded by indians.i was disapppointed when i realized bk was half-white b/c i’d love his acting. linzi, i think ben looks like he’s an indian but then I don’t really see too much difference between indian features and white features, except indians have a varying degree of skin color.

  14. Why would you be disappointed that Ben Kingsley is half-white? That kind of comment plays again into tired old stereotypes that mixed race people are somehow ‘diluted’ or ‘less authentic’…

    And I hope comment #64 gets deleted. It would be akin to suggesting that Enola Gay hasn’t taught those dirty Japs a lesson. Also, Germans aren’t Huns. If anything Magyar come closest to Hun ancestry…

  15. “I find it pecular that the Germans do not feel any guilt about what their ancestors have commited against people who were not blonde haired and blue eyed.” So. If they should feel guilty about the evil done, do they have to right to take credit for the cultural and scientific achievements? Kindergarten? Analine dyes? The genesis of modern physics? A little complex thinking is in order, and some knowledge of recent history. How old are you? There is no place where Nazism is more excoriated than Germany. It was the only place where a weird Nazi-themed game was banned in the 70s, I think. So they are not exactly your best example of wrong-doers who feel no guilt for their (or their predecessors’) bad deeds.The rise of the neo-nazi stuff is partly a revulusion for the extreme anti-nazi and guilt-laden zeitgeist that has permeated the country since WWII.Have you heard of reparations to Israel? The majority of Germans were not blonds. To wit: Adolph himself. Southern Germany is home to some of the darkest Europeans around (they go way back–I’m not talking about Turkish immigrants.) As for guilt there is no reason the grandchildren should feel guilty about what their grandparents (some of them) may have done. From what I hear, there’s been quite a bit of ethnic slaughter all over the world. There are millions of people who need to feel guilty about their own behavior, but extending to ancestors gets us nowhere. Aware, yes. Cognizant? Yes. But guilty? Dead end. IGermans have been paying out billions in reparations to Israel, they have done the mea culpa for 60 years now. In the past, murder could be punished by forcing the guilty to pay a sum of money to the families. Ancient justice, as the real perpetrators are not always around, and there’s no gain in more corpses.

    When I was in Switzerland in 1989 I remember a very kindly flaxen haired girl about 18 who went out of her way to converse with an elderly Jewish couple. I got to talking with her and she told me her nationality and then she said, “I am not very proud of it.” I knew what she meant, but I’m not into feeding others’ emotions. I let them reveal themselves in their time and fashion. And then she said, “You know the history?” I said yes, of course. Don’t recall where it went from there, but I knew the evil deeds of a political/military “ism” movement had overwhelmed any cultural and scientific achievements of her countrymen in which she could have taken pride. This person was kind and accepted the “guilt.” Those are the types that do. The less kind come to resent it, and it can lead to recycling whatever it was that started it all in the first place.

  16. “Also, I simply don’t believe his “dinner” with an old racist. I simply don’t believe it. “

    I was wondering about that too. It just isn’t something someone entertaining entertainers would say. Show business is full of — well, all kinds. Makes no sense at all unless she was certifiably deranged, and he doesn’t claim that, but maybe she was. Still, actors are masters of the Big Fish story. oh, and btw, I always knew Kingsley was half-Indian. He’s an actor in England, a country whose national art form is acting and where the best roles are like to be playing Englishmen (and prior to 1960s that meant white, remember?). So naturally he plays down the Indianess. If I were living in India and wanted to make it there, I’d play down my non-Indian side.

  17. As a person of mixed race myself (white Australian and Indonesian), I find it a ridiculous implication that Kingsley should always wear his Indian-ness on his sleeve.

    Some of us halfies favour one side more than the other for various reasons. I probably favour my Asian side more because something about it speaks to me in a way that the other does not. Yet in my teens, Asianness was only a minor factor as I was trying to fit in at a mostly white school. I know other mixed people who seem to see themselves as more white; it depends on family dynamics, who they grew up around, all kinds of things.

    Kingsley came out of a time when racism in Britain was more prevalent, and when someone named Krishna Banji could not get acting work no matter how good he was. If he’s got into the habit of downplaying his Indian-ness to succeed in the racist system, blame the racist system instead.

    In any case, unless you follow every single interview Kingsley has ever done, it seems strange to make the claim that he has NEVER mentioned being Indian and then SUDDENLY brought it up now.

  18. “That kind of comment plays again into tired old stereotypes that mixed race people are somehow ‘diluted’ or ‘less authentic’…”

    I didn’t mean this at all! It was more a sense of national pride and cultural connection ; like when I found out the chess champion was Indian this year, or a gold medal was won by an Indian in the last summer olympics. I love bk’s acting and it would be great in the West to have such a prominent actor that was desi…there’s no such thing as any racial dilution nonsense. Just a little national pride, that there’s an actor that comes from the same country I was born in, and he happens to be one that I admire a lot.

  19. “Several years ago, it was only alleged that he was part Indian, but in an interview, he didn’t want to talk about it.”

    Oh please, I interviewed BK back a few years ago, and he went to lengths to share his true, Gujurati name, his upbringing as part Indian in the racially challenged UK back in day, and even shared some anecdotes about his Daddy. Needless to say he can rock an Indo-head cock better my friends.

  20. Circa early 2000s, while I was on a business visit in the UK, I, along with a friend who was to travel with me, went to the Belgian embassy in London to apply for a tourist visa for a weekend visit to the Benelux countries – Belgium, Luxembourg and Netherlands. The visa in question, the Benelux visa, can be issued by any one of the countries above and is valid in all three.

    Being the meticulous (read anal) person that I am, I had the application proofread, all supporting docs in duplicate and had come prepared with everything that could possibly be asked for in the visa interview. After about 20 minutes in the line, it is my turn at the window. I get asked for my documents and duly pass them to the official reviewing them across the counter. He looks at them for 30 seconds and returns them with a curt reply that a visa cannot be issued. Taken aback, I ask why. The reply “You are not a resident of UK. Apply from India”. Having anticipated a potential issue related to residency requirements, I pull out the printout of the Belgian consulate issued directive clarifying that visas can be issued to foreign nationals in UK, if they are under valid work visa (which I was).

    In front of 20 odd people standing in line for their visa processing, this what the official at the window says to me – “You people from third world countries think that you should be given all the privilieges in the world.”

    There was pin drop silence in the room. No one said a word till the official called out “Next” summarily dismissing me. Shellshocked beyond words, I simply walked out of the embassy.

    Post script: I did get the last laugh(smirk?) though. A couple of hours later, I went to the Luxembourg embassy a few blocks over, met with a very cordial official who asked a few questions, looked at my invitation letter and handed me back my passport with an approved visa by the end of the day. I then accompanied my friend back to the Belgian embassy to collect her passport. After she was done, I went to the same counter (with the same official behind the glass) and flashed the approved visa at his face. I made sure he had a good look at it and then walked off without a word.

    The look on his bigoted face went a long way in appeasing my earlier desire to punch his face out but my regret to this date is that I should have done something to prevent this from happening again at that that embassy. Not sure though what it could have been.

  21. Manju: Yes, white-washed indeed. Its quite telling how Kinglsey never dared portray an Indian on screen

    Are you kidding?! Have you ever heard of Gandhi? His characters are just people. It never says anywhere that he is a white guy. He’s just a person. Why does every role have to be so race specific. Do all Indian actors need to be dancing around the screen in a sari or turban?

    I find that many elasticities accuse someone of their own race being ‘white-washed’ when they don’t fit into their own stereotype. I was called white-girl and white-wannabe by many Indians simply because I have an ethnically diverse group of friends, I’m dating a non-Indian and I only own 2 Indian outfits. Haters gotta hate.