An Unfunny Joel Stein Walks Into Some Cow Dung

…because he’s in his hometown of Edison, NJ. Get it? EDISON IS THE HOME OF A LOT OF INDIAN IMMIGRANTS! And they have overrun the township, what with their red dots, and zany, octopus-like deities and of course, their cows! Indians worship cows! And Edison is full of Indians! So there are cows in Edison, and the cows take dumps, and this unfunny columnist named Joel Stein really stepped in it, because the nasty brown shit (and by nasty brown shit, I mean “Indian”) is everywhere! The brown shit is unavoidable! ISN’T THAT HILARIOUS? WHY AREN’T YOU LAUGHING? Don’t you get it? That paragraph is humorous! I have bludgeoned you about the head with my clever humor! And if you don’t “get” it, you are excessively thin-skinned, like…like…an eggshell plaintiff!

What’s that you say, Desis? You weren’t impressed with Stein’s comedic stylings? Why…if you’re outraged, then that’s GREAT because it means Stein’s humor is EDGY. That’s what great comics do! They challenge you! They inspire your eyebrows to raise up like they’re furry, arched extras in a Petey Pablo video!

You didn’t think it was funny, at all? Well, chin up, dear Mutineers. Neither did I.

And that’s because, it wasn’t.

When I first ventured online today, I had a dozen tweets, emails and FB messages waiting for me. They all contained the same link to TIME magazine, a publication I adored as a child. My interest? Piqued. I started to read.

Let me tell you what I liked about the essay which all of you wanted me to read, first: the title. I loved the B-52s in high school and I love lifting blog titles from song titles. Clearly, Stein was referencing “Private Idaho“, which was a bit before my time (released: 1980) and to my INDIAN ears, a bit annoying. I preferred a single from a full decade later– “Deadbeat Club“. I used to put it on a lot of my mix tapes. Sigh.

Now that we got THAT out of the way, let me tell you what I disliked about Stein’s “meditation” on immigration. See what I did there? Huh? Huh? INDIAN STUFF, AGAIN!

Every. Thing. Else.

Let’s get started, shall we? But first, to really do Mr. Stein justice, I’m going to light some incense, play a “Jai Ho” remix, and nosh on some curry– but daintily! I don’t want to stain my exotic silk costume, which I bought in…of all places…Edison. What are the odds, right? Oh, wait…according to TIME magazine, the odds are very good that my Indian garb is from Edison. The whole place is infested with Patels. Did I mention there’s a dot on my forehead? I’m a dothead! Wheee! Oh, but I am getting ahead of myself (I am waggling my head as I type that. If you’re reading this, switch to an “Apu” voice, would you? Thanks, you’re a doll. I mean, you’re an Aishwarya!)

I am very much in favor of immigration everywhere in the U.S. except Edison, N.J. The mostly white suburban town I left when I graduated from high school in 1989 — the town that was called Menlo Park when Thomas Alva Edison set up shop there and was later renamed in his honor — has become home to one of the biggest Indian communities in the U.S., as familiar to people in India as how to instruct stupid Americans to reboot their Internet routers.

HAHAHA! Stein just called Americans “stupid”. Doing this protects him from any accusations of racism or bias, because he made fun of himself! And he said he was pro-immigration, so he’s nice, too. See how that works? What are you saying? It DIDN’T work? Oh.

Hmmm.

Maybe that’s because it was made by an American! Ooooh, BURN! Like a VINDALOO! And you can’t get mad at me, because I’m an American, too! Huzzah for humor insurance!> My town is totally unfamiliar to me. The Pizza Hut where my busboy friends stole pies for our drunken parties is now an Indian sweets shop with a completely inappropriate roof. The A&P I shoplifted from is now an Indian grocery. The multiplex where we snuck into R-rated movies now shows only Bollywood films and serves samosas. The Italian restaurant that my friends stole cash from as waiters is now Moghul, one of the most famous Indian restaurants in the country. There is an entire generation of white children in Edison who have nowhere to learn crime.

Aww, more self-deprecation! It almost makes you miss the utterly bizarre reference to the mithai place’s “inappropriate roof”. How, may I ask, is a roof ever inappropriate? Did it forget to wear its knickers? Does it have the F-bomb painted on it? Better yet, is the roof fornicating with something? Perhaps a chimney? Oh, yeah…you’re a nasty roof, aren’t you? You’re bad. You need to be punished.

Or wait– did Stein mean inappropriate like that inebriated White parent who showed up to my conservative private school and slurred about what he’d like to do to all of us young girls in our pleated skirts? If so, that’s a TERRIBLE roof. A dangerous one, even. Also, you can’t get mad at me for sharing that anecdote which makes Whites look bad, because I was in it. Or it was funny. Or something. What? “Humor” is Stein’s excuse. He’s American, possibly Jewish, and he finds himself far too clever– just like me! STOP BEING THIN-SKINNED, EGGSHELL PLAINTIFF.

I called James W. Hughes, policy-school dean at Rutgers University, who explained that Lyndon Johnson’s 1965 immigration law raised immigration caps for non-European countries. LBJ apparently had some weird relationship with Asians in which he liked both inviting them over and going over to Asia to kill them.

I’ll be damned. This hack was actually funny for a change. I’m going to agree with my colleague Amardeep and declare that this bit works. If only the ENTIRE ARTICLE worked as well. Also? EDISON IS FULL OF DOT-HEADED NERDS WHO WORSHIP PENISES. What? I was worried you’d forget. You suffered through that Stein piece, you’re probably used to being bludgeoned with such sentiments every 30 seconds. I’m just trying to be considerate, y’all. Why do you have to be so Indian about everything? Why can’t you be dishonest and White, and not change everything, and not take over the businesses where I learned to be a petty thief and…and…stuff? NOTHING SHOULD EVER CHANGE, DAMNIT. IT’S JOEL STEIN’S WORLD AND WE’RE ALL JUST LIVING IN IT.

After the law passed, when I was a kid, a few engineers and doctors from Gujarat moved to Edison because of its proximity to AT&T, good schools and reasonably priced, if slightly deteriorating, post-WW II housing. For a while, we assumed all Indians were geniuses. Then, in the 1980s, the doctors and engineers brought over their merchant cousins, and we were no longer so sure about the genius thing. In the 1990s, the not-as-brilliant merchants brought their even-less-bright cousins, and we started to understand why India is so damn poor.

Sorry, Mutineers– I’m going to have to ask you to stop reading this blog and look away for a moment. I love you too much to let you watch what happens next. Tearing someone a new arsehole is a brutal, violent act and you shouldn’t have to see that. Now go. Study some maths while I take care of this, nah? Acha, beta.

Removes hoop earrings

Which are 22K

Smears vaseline on face

Gets to stompin’ in stiletto heels

“YEAH, you accidentally racist, hypocritical JERK! You pee sitting DOWN in MY HOUSE! And it IS my house! I’m Indian! THAT’S WHAT WE DO, MF! WE BUY HOUSES! WITH RESPONSIBLE MORTGAGES! WHICH WE PAY OFF EARLY! BIATCH!”

Oh, sorry, little ones. Didn’t know you were already back from mastering “Nonlinear Dynamics and Chaos”. Drink some Bornevita, kozhandai. What’s that? You want Horlicks, instead? Why are you laughing? Because it sounds like “whore-licks”? Really? Well, at least that’s funnier than the pap Stein wrote. Now nom this Parle-G and get out ma face. Mama’s got WORK to do! That and the next part is ugly. I know. AGAIN.

Eventually, there were enough Indians in Edison to change the culture. At which point my townsfolk started calling the new Edisonians “dot heads.” One kid I knew in high school drove down an Indian-dense street yelling for its residents to “go home to India.” In retrospect, I question just how good our schools were if “dot heads” was the best racist insult we could come up with for a group of people whose gods have multiple arms and an elephant nose.

Joel,

though I’ve pretended to give you an episiotomy in this post, I want to say that I actually don’t care enough to mind that you exist. I could have overlooked this entire fustercluck if you hadn’t composed the paragraph above.

Why? Why did you write that?

Do you think it’s funny when someone talks about negotiating a great deal and they exclaim, “I jewed them down to almost nothing!” If you do think that’s funny, you’re pathetic because you know what? I find “Jewed” offensive. And I constantly call it out, just like in high school, when I’d wish people “Happy Holidays” whenever I was out shopping with my Jewish best friend, who wilted a little inwardly at the absent-minded “Merry Christmas”‘ wished at two young girls who, truthfully, looked more like a Hindu and a Muslim than an Indian Christian and a Persian Jew.

I don’t like the term “Jewed” because it’s ugly. It trades in the worst stereotypes and assumptions about an entire group of people who don’t deserve to be disrespected and diminished by what is, at best, lazy phrasing and at worst, anti-Semitic poison, casually slipped in conversations like a roofie in our collective drink. Joel, I believe in the dignity of all people. I understand that words are powerful and that stereotypes are the preferred weapon of the uninformed and uncreative as well as the malicious and bigoted.

You “question” the quality of Edison’s schools because you think “Dot Head” was a mediocre epithet? Would “dotbusters” have been more suitable? Yeah, I know, wrong place. They slaughtered a “Dot Head” for the crime of being Indian over in Jersey City, not your precious, quondam white Edison.

I don’t give a shit.

The biggest problem I have with your inane, imbecilic piece is that it isn’t funny. Not even close to it.

I don’t think you are a racist. I truly don’t. But I do think that you don’t get it. That you fancy yourself to be far more “edgy” and “hilarious” than you actually are, because this…this TIME article is not funny. And this paragraph is exactly why I maintain such a position. You failed.

Isn’t all comedy offensive? Sure, a lot of it is. See: Chappelle show. I laughed four separate times during that consummately offensive video. Do you know what the difference between your “race com” and Dave’s is? Dave is funny. He is deft, artful, smart but most of all– he is Funny.

Your neighborhood racists’ inability to devise a better slur “for a group of people whose gods have multiple arms and an elephant nose” is neither funny, nor edgy. It’s disrespectful, ignorant and not even entirely accurate. What about a person with two arms and a prominent nose who lights a menorah? Because India has those, too. What thrilling invective should be hurled their way?

Unlike some of my friends in the 1980s, I liked a lot of things about the way my town changed: far better restaurants, friends dorky enough to play Dungeons & Dragons with me, restaurant owners who didn’t card us because all white people look old. But sometime after I left, the town became a maze of charmless Indian strip malls and housing developments. Whenever I go back, I feel what people in Arizona talk about: a sense of loss and anomie and disbelief that anyone can eat food that spicy.

This paragraph started off with so much promise; relatively speaking, that means you hadn’t stepped in shit up to your ankle. Then, you had to go there. Arizona, there. And no one even noticed your bizarre suggestion that “all white people look old”, because you had invoked the one state where your humor would play well.

So, the immigrants came and ruined everything, did they? With their “charmless” businesses which helped prop up Edison’s economy, even as they denied the township’s children opportunities to be junior thieves. I forgot to ask– what tribe are you a part of? You couldn’t possibly be the descendant of immigrants if you hold such exclusionary, retrograde views, so I’m assuming you are one of the only real Americans, because if you’re not an indigenous person, that would make you a giant, flaming hypocrite. And if you were an indigenous person and you held these views, well, I’d understand you a bit more but I’d still think you were a dick.

But enough about you, let’s talk about– you. Your piece, and specifically, those housing developments. Ugh. Who wants those. Better to have urban prairie, like Detroit or something. Also, you forgot to mention “curry”. Because all Indian houses smell like it, so surely these residential developments which you regret all exist under a puff of garam masala, yes? No? Head waggle, so? The whole reason the food is spicy is because of that curry cloud of powdered spice, wafting overhead, a reversal of the filth which orbits little Pig Pen’s feet.

You feel a “sense of loss” that your neighborhood isn’t a shrine to your memories of it? Join the damned club, accidental racist. The rest of us just accept that such evolution is a part of reality; we understand it, we don’t blame immigrants for it. And finally, what were you thinking, writing a column on Immigration and invoking “Arizona” within it, with your sympathies? Oh, right. Edgy.

Unlike previous waves of immigrants, who couldn’t fly home or Skype with relatives, Edison’s first Indian generation didn’t quickly assimilate (and give their kids Western names). But if you look at the current Facebook photos of students at my old high school, J.P. Stevens, which would be very creepy of you, you’ll see that, while the population seems at least half Indian, a lot of them look like the Italian Guidos I grew up with in the 1980s: gold chains, gelled hair, unbuttoned shirts. In fact, they are called Guindians. Their assimilation is so wonderfully American that if the Statue of Liberty could shed a tear, she would. Because of the amount of cologne they wear.

Okay, at this point, it’s 1am and I’m exhausted.

What the blood clot? Skype has been around for all of seven years. My parents arrived over thirty years before that. They didn’t have Skype but they did give their kids “Western” names because the “West” doesn’t have a monopoly on Christian nomenclature, you fucking fuck. And plenty of those immigrants who came in the late 60s DID assimilate, probably because they were 35 years ahead of Skype, but that’s irrelevant. You have TWO ethnic groups to insult now. The sad thing is, the whole “Guindian” phenomenon merits discussion and could spawn a whole other post, one which explores identity and emulation and NOT bad, racist attempts at wit.

And speaking of the “R”-bomb:

-despite your (apparently) being a member of a “minority” group
-just because you are not usually, actively racist
-even if it wasn’t your intention to sound so racist
-though you may have an Indian friend or three, who kissed your ass and boot-licked their way through some compliment of your…work…

IT WAS RACIST.

It was also ignorant, small-minded, cringe-inducing, embarrassing (for you) and classist. So please, in the future, just…desist.

I’ll let some of my beloved friends and readers school you as to how and why you stepped in it.

Erstwhile guest blogger (2006!) Maitri let Stein HAVE IT, in a missive to me. See?

Even if this were a simple observation on Joel Stein’s part of how his town has changed economically through the decades, he could have done it a bit differently. Case in point: “In retrospect, I question just how good our schools were if ‘dot heads’ was the best racist insult we could come up with for a group of people whose gods have multiple arms and an elephant nose.” Like these attributes of Hindu gods are insult-worthy. With this, Stein gave up the protection of self-deprecation and crossed that line. Why is it still so easy to do so?

Time Magazine ought to know better.

Said Brian, who was the FIRST of 26 of you to contact me about this:

To write an article in a publication such as TIME, that highlighted epithets (which the author himself thought weren’t creative or offensive enough) used to degrade children growing up in a country already feeling different is in bad taste.

Mimosa wrote:

Stein…starts to delineate how his town has fallen from a supposed “good old days” nostalgia, a place that was allegedly superior to the present. The associations made with Indians – their food, culture, and other ethnic practices – are framed as inferior to the ways of the gloried past. Racism is the belief that “race” itself determines human traits and capabilities, and that this quality is what pre-dates what is superior vs. inferior. By focusing on the way these “invaders” have deteriorated in the interim (strip malls filled with Indian grocery stores, movie theaters featuring only Bollywood films, gods and goddesses with their multiple arms and elephant noses), he takes a position of dominance, a position that there is only one narrative to be spun out of this hometown. Such a position is allied with the “raghead” comments stemming from the South Carolina GOP gubernatorial race, whereby GOP primary candidate Nikki Haley and President Obama were attacked for their supposed religious affiliations (nevermind that the rhetoric was completely flawed and ignorant).

But really, what bothers me about this piece, why it didn’t strike me as satire, is that it seems to assume that there really is a dominant narrative out there, i.e. that “white” culture is where it’s at. Assimilation is not an option, it’s a requirement for these rude new aliens – but of course, that assimilation is on the dominant narratives terms.

So…if any of your friends missed this hullabaloo in the Sepia orchard, just send them Mimosa’s thoughts. That way we deprive this fucker of page views. Our outrage has made this…uh…”story”…both the “Most Read” and “Most Emailed” links on TIME.com. Ugh. We are rewarding his stupidity.

Mihir buzzed this:

…so basically he is saying Indians are ok if they fit into his neat little white upper middle class template, and maybe stay under, say 20% of the population. In other words he’s ok with Oak Brook or perhaps Naperville but hates Devon Avenue. It’s unfortunate that he believed that Edison would forever be like 1989…the race/class-infused nostalgia just seems immature to me for a supposedly educated writer.

Of course he’s saying that. There are even Desis who say that. They just have the good manners and education to know that they are elitist douchebags and they keep that shit on lock. They don’t clutter up a once venerable magazine with their snobbery. Also? EDISON IS LIKE, FULL OF INDIANS! And you thought I’d forget…

Said Aditi, whose family, like mine, has subscribed to TIME for years:

Reading it made me feel defensive and frustrated at how mocking Indians has become such an easy target–the SNL skit a few months ago, Text ‘n’ Talk for PCS, Sanjeev the web designer in some insurance– without requiring anything to be actually funny. Just mock the accent, our immigrant ambitions and our gods….the Arizona reference was straight up Ridiculous.

And lest you think this is a bunch of minorities whining about getting their feelings hurt, read this, from Rachel Kipp, an editor in Philadelphia.

“If it’s satire, but nobody laughs, then it’s not satire.”

Maybe since Rachel isn’t Indian, Joel will value her words more! I know one thing– don’t ever change, Rachel. No, seriously, don’t. Because if you do, Joel Stein will write a bad column about it, for TIME.

My friend RR did an excellent job of conveying how many of us felt after reading this, via my FB profile:

I have to wonder, if a similar article was written about Latinos or African Americans if TIME would have the balls to publish it? If they did, wouldn’t all hell break lose? Wouldn’t this be something that NPR and everyone else would be talking about? Is it because Indians are too small a minority and too “passive ” to actually fight back? Some how I feel like the nerdy Indian kid in high school all over again.

Meanwhile, over on Twitter, AngryBrownGirl drew my attention to the next phase of this drama:

Did you guys check out Joel’s FB post? Apparently not expecting such a reaction? Give me a break!

It’s true; his Facebook page was updated with a status message which…wasn’t helpful. See for yourself:

Didn’t meant to insult Indians with my column this week. Also stupidly assumed their emails would follow that Gandhi non-violence thing.

Someone in the bunker thought that was so amusing, they felt sorry for Stein. I just gloated over the “stupid”, since his entire column was. Also? Edison. Indians. Lots of. Oy, I’m tired.

I’ll let Maitri fire off some parting shots for me, because she’s a hot geologist with a way with words and her ire isn’t just aimed at Stein– she’s gunning for some of you. Watch out now:

Yet, still, hitherto, even at this point, I can dismiss the whole article as noise. What really cooks me here is not Stein’s provincialism or even how easy it still is to use Indians as the butt of jokes. It’s the Indian-Americans, the ones who keep their heads down, “adjust” and don’t make waves, who will tell us not to be so sensitive and to shrug it off. “Let them say what they want. We should not internalize these things and let them bother us. Grow a sense of humor.” Because of their being doormats, it is easy for the Steins of the world to give ink to the Wholly Unnecessary. They make it so easy to do so. No more. I’m an American. The residents of Edison have been Americans for longer than Stein’s had a column. They don’t need this. Fuck you if you CAN take a “joke.”

Word. This born-American citizen is over and out. Let the wild rumpus begin.

395 thoughts on “An Unfunny Joel Stein Walks Into Some Cow Dung

  1. Stein’s article sucks and is racist. It is astonishing that in the name of humor, such offensive stuff gets published!!

  2. Felt like sayin’… don’t know too much about Stein’s childhood beyond the essay.

  3. I lean more to Abhi’s side of the spectrum. Though I don’t agree with the point regarding who has and hasn’t earned the right to speak out, I do think we can respect free speech and avoid descending into the many vicious epithets sent Stein’s way (not on this site but certainly and surprisingly on fbook). Just because it’s an ethnic-oriented piece doesn’t mean there’s a reason to get ethnic on Stein. Contest the prose not the person.

    Having been a reader of Stein’s on and off since the mid late 90s, he is known for his snarky comments in Time, which are frequently lame on Vh1. Before people jump to conclusions, here’s a bit more about him: http://www.mycentraljersey.com/article/20090109/NEWS/901090326

    As for the article itself, the problem is that it tries to do too many things. It is too sincere to be satire and too snarky to be celebratory. Could there be some underlying racial feeling? Perhaps. But considering he, according to his own piece, had Indian playmates growing up and went to one of the more asian of the elite schools in the country, Stanford, I don’t think it was an exercise in bigotry. The dotbusters remark seemed more oriented towards mocking the losers who came up with it than trivializing the violence that emerged from it. And let’s face it, jokes are frequently made about the KKK, and as bad as dotbusters was, I think it’s a difficult case to make that Indian immigrants had a more difficult lot than post-reconstruction African Americans. This does not trivialize the violence or gangwrought suffering, but just puts things into perspective.

    There is, however, avowedly a strain of nativism. The humor was broke (didn’t even chuckle at the guindians remark) and the piece in general was lacklustre. But in making an otherwise lame somewhat meandering piece equivalent to a michael richards outburst or worse, we do, as Abhi notes, distract from more pressing concerns. What’s more, we as a community, look silly and oversensitive in the process. In doing so, you just provoke more professional provocateurs. Dirt of your shoulder, people.

  4. I was really hoping this piece would be good. Instead, it was more of just a knee-jerk, at times incomprehensible, and overall just a tl;rd piece.

    Yeah, the article comes off as racist, and Stein is stupid if he didn’t realize what kind of backlash he would create here. Yeah, it would have been funnier if, as you put it, he was funny like Dave Chapelle, and was “…deft, artful, smart…Funny.”

    …wait, what? So you would have found this piece a bit more acceptable if it was racist in a way that made you LOL?

    “The biggest problem I have with your inane, imbecilic piece is that it isn’t funny. Not even close to it.”

    Seriously?

    Pretty much stopped caring about this story after that, although I did manage to read on a bit more and catch your “edgy” “FUCK YOU YOU FLYING FUCK!!!!” comments.

    Yeah, real nice, real educated. These kind of responses really make us Indians look better and gets us more sympathy.

  5. Joel Stein responds: I truly feel stomach-sick that I hurt so many people. I was trying to explain how, as someone who believes that immigration has enriched American life and my hometown in particular, I was shocked that I could feel a tiny bit uncomfortable with my changing town when I went to visit it. If we could understand that reaction, we’d be better equipped to debate people on the other side of the immigration issue.

  6. It is worth noting that while both TIME and Joel Stein have issued apologies, the magazine still hasn’t pulled off either Stein or the article. In fact,the article is displayed proudly in its “Most Popular” list

  7. It is worth noting that while both TIME and Joel Stein have issued apologies, the magazine still hasn’t pulled off either Stein or the article. In fact,the article is displayed proudly in its “Most Popular” list

    The apologies have been appended to the column; I think that’s better than removing the column. As for booting Stein, that would be too harsh a punishment. He’s a well-liked columnist who had a bad day at the keyboard. It happens to everyone.

  8. I truly feel stomach-sick that I hurt so many people.

    it’s called delhi-belly axually.

    but stein made the cardinal sin of making fun of a race other than his own. desis are equally derisive towards their own and their mummyji-daddyji and their pervy-uncleji and that’s all ok.

  9. White people are treated unfairly in this country, no doubt. But they have our deepest sympathies as they try desperately to lift themselves from their unwashed illiterate state into something approaching civilized behavior.

  10. Professor in a writing class sometime in the future:

    In a satire of a semi-bigot (he really isn’t, but wouldn’t it be cute to pose as one though ?) who is not quite sure of his feelings about the new immigrant community overtaking his childhood haunts, Stein tries to prove he is pro-immigration by showing it is tough to insult a model minority immigrant community using overused epithets (which he thinks the audience will get are anachronistic and thus wouldn’t count against him) and putting in veiled positives about their affect on the overall safety and general affluence of the area. His proof fails, because 1) his case for being pro-immigration is weak as the equivocal language makes it subtle that even a native speaker will have to read it several times to see what it means. The reader’s ignorance of his actual personal or professional history does little service. 2) a reference to the area’s common racist slur might be ok if properly handled, but his light comedic language doesn’t make a strong case against it and the hate crimes in its proximity 3) he associates himself with the bigots. His choice of “we” when he speaks of the dot-head antagonists only confirms it (he could have said “they”). He does little to distance himself from it; more like the opposite is true. 4) again he associates with at least one origin of anti-immigrant sentiment in Arizona, ie the fear of change, but does not extricate himself from their conclusions that immigrants are a problem in some way (“yes they improved crime statistics in Edison but ….”) 5) he never really characterizes his discomfort enough to let the reader conclude it is only due to nostalgia and that he does not blame the immigrants solely. He could have mentioned some of the other factors and made parallels (“American demand for skilled and unskilled labor opening the gates for legal and illegal immigration in different parts of the country will only deepen in a recession and as baby-boomers start to retire so hold on bigots out there”).

    On the whole you can see he is not totally against Indians but he still wants to talk about his discomfort with change. However his clumsiness only lays bare his ignorance of the minority folks he is apparently trying to reach out to. He might succeed in infotaining those equipped with an equal amount of ignorance with a few Googled(tm) facts, but does little else to make them see their prejudices and broad-stroking for what it is. He could have instead talked about for example the diversity within that group itself, other ways to break the stereotypes or even mentioned a parallel from his own ethnic history. Does he get confused sometimes about his identity (white or Jewish) ? Seemingly his desperation to be white shows through just a little with this imbalanced essay.

    Not a convincing piece on pro-immigration. His funny is too clouded and outdated to work. Remove the racist slur confusion and i might bump a grade.

    Grade: D

    The moral of the story here Mr. Stein is that you don’t have to identify as white to succeed. Your fellow Edisonians could have told you that.

  11. I lean more to Abhi’s side of the spectrum.

    Satyajit,

    Here’s a wonderful time for you to return to your LAMP programming and let those of us who understand language and prejudice and how it can negatively impact the community over the long run if unaddressed, deal with the Stein matter. Why don’t you “update your skills” and focus on what you do best. Deconstructing prejudice is not for the faint of heart, the emotionally unintelligent, and/or those who pride themselves on running from a fight – for their “superior discretion” of course. Of course the left-brain types will be oblivious to what’s wrong with the piece and unwilling to see bigotry unless it is of the Michael Richards variety. That is why it’s so easy for others to mock them to their face in a group setting without them even understand why everyone’s laughing at them. Have the humility to understand when you’re out of your depth.

  12. So you really don’t see the irony in dismissing a guy going by the moniker “Satyajit Wry” as being too left-brained to understand your oh-so-enlightened POV?

    Seriously?

  13. I hope you are looking at my handle, because it is how clever I am.

    Also:

    a publication I adored as a child.

    Children and the childlike are TIME’s exclusive readership, so this makes sense. Even then TIME should only be adored in sort of a soggy-i-chewed-on-it-with-my-little-gummy-salivating-mouth sort of way.

  14. Stein’s article is a slap in the face of all the lying right wing hindutva nationalists who keep denying that India is hungry and poor and who keep boasting that Indians are all doctors, engineers, math geniuses and other high achievers. The slap is well deserved. Note that Edison is home to the American headquarters of the BJP and other Hindu right wing organizations.

    Stein’s point that India is so “damn poor” because Indians are a mostly stupid race is not a new one. As another poster has pointed out (psuedo)-scholarly books have been written explaining the poverty of India, Africa and other backward regions to the low IQ of it’s people.

  15. jagr721,

    Meeeeooow!. We’ve barely even met and already the claws come out.

    Look, I think in your cute attempt to start a little repartee with me you ended up missing the entire point of my post.

    Fortunately, while you were mixing metaphors like a cuisinart, I had a breakthrough:

    1. You clearly attended way too many soc and anthro classes to consider the possibility that someone was just trying to be funny/reflective rather than racist.
    2. Take a look at Joel Stein’s fans/wall posters before June 27. It seems to me that he does have a fair number of Indian friends–could it be that many of his thoughts were possibly vetted by them before he started writing? It’s really ok to give someone the benefit of the doubt once in a while.
    3. Even if your all powerful racedar was able to detect a dart or ten that us language-challenged primitives could not, could there possibly be more important things to generate outcry on? Perhaps genuine racism like the variety that Indian students in australia have been subjected to?
    4. Since we’re doing programming metaphors, here’s our coding lesson for the day:

    main () {

    char head; char up; char ass;

    int iq = 50;

    if(head = up + ass) Utilize astroglide to remove;

    else { while (iq less than 100) { http://www.sepiamutiny.com/sepia/archives/006237.html#comment274804; iq++; } printf(“Congratulations! You can actually hold a mature discussion now”); } printf(“Adieu”); }

  16. “Satyajit eye”/garv/troll under a bridge/unloved as a child:

    please see above program

  17. All I am saying is that I have seen waaay more brown on brown bigotry in the US than white on brown or black on brown etc. If you were to take a quick headcount here of how many of us teased and shrunk away from FOBs or still caricature them on a regular basis

    This is actually true everywhere…we come from a class-wealth, education prejudice society, underlined by caste issues, regional loyalties, custom and language differences…India is not a country as much as a United states of India ( eg like Europe), so when the white man is out of the picture..we find reasons to be prejudice amongst ourselves…I have never seen anyone short of Nick Griffith types, as racist as Indians( and Pakistanis)…

  18. Joel Stein seems to be the USA equivalent of UK Bernard Manning or Jim Davison, re jokes…a guy who does not deserve 270 odd posts…

  19. i understand the anger caused by that article…i liked most of what anna’s written – except that, like someone mentioned above, really,would this have been acceptable to anna if it had been funny?! i think the best response to this piece of uninformed vitriol from the undereducated stein would have been – complete indifference. yup, we shld have just ignored the article. now before i’m called passive, pathetic etc let me tell you that i belong to this country…being on the receiving end of the ugliness of racism quite a few times, has helped me ”give as good as i get” no doubt about that. i don’t mean i respond with racism but there’s a certain classy way we put down racists – deflate them and they’re nothing but a bunch of gibbering xenophobes. but i know which battles to pick and which ones are not worth taking up. come on, such hullabaloo about something this hack wrote. the whole lot of us should have completely ignored it. it wld have been interesting to see stein’s reaction to THAT! but he got what he wanted. sad. all that apart,sepai mutiny – great place…thanks y’all doing a gr8 job.

  20. “Satyajit eye”/garv/troll under a bridge/unloved as a child

    I think you have being wry confused with being an asshole.

  21. “Satyajit eye”/garv/troll under a bridge/unloved as a child I think you have being wry confused with being an asshole.

    “Satyajit eye”/garv/troll under a bridge/unloved as a child:

    please see above program

  22. The more I read this blog, the more I feel it isn’t populated by desis at all. It seems to be full of white people who would rather sympathize with the white viewpoint than stick up for desis. Or is it just that desis, in their so strong desire to be accepted by the white population, decide to just say whatever they think will keep them sweet with them?

    Where are the real desis, seriously?

  23. Hi! White person here. I thought Stein’s article was racist. And awful. So, ummm, rewq, us whities, we don’t all want people to pretend racist things are not racist. Doesn’t sound “sweet”. At least not me. Of course I can’t speak for all whities.

  24. Hey Satyajit,

    You didn’t initialize your variables, if you are using the gcc compiler you might get lucky and have them initialized to 0.

    Also, your if condition is an assignment :(

    I do agree with you though :)

  25. I grew up in Edison NJ. When I first moved here from Ghana (yes Africa), being of Persian decent… there were very few Indians in the area. Still I was taunted at school and called names, etc. In the 90′s when the Indian population grew, the taunting about being “foreigner/where are you from” changed to taunting about being “Indian/go back to India/take shower/does your mother wear a turban”. I am not Indian… but the reality is that the people in Edison were racist long before the arrival of your “desi” people.

    Also to clarify my own prejudices… why do Indian men stare endlessly at women with a very perverted look on their face… or try to grab my ass at Metropark, or stand so close to me that I wish I could fly away and stop breathing… Its just disgusting? Now I am not being racist but a realist. Please explain.

    So to clarify to ALL on this blog… we all have our prejudices, likes and dislikes. Whehter we agree with Joel’s article or not… he is faced with accepting a race and culture and habits he could never begin to relate to or understand. Same as you and I and all other people on earth.

  26. i liked most of what anna’s written – except that, like someone mentioned above, really,would this have been acceptable to anna if it had been funny?!

    Well, it would’ve been a completely different piece if it had been funny. Bluntly stating that a humorist failed at his job removes any license Stein has to say that it was satire or just a joke. Strong people can laugh at themselves, if the humor is well-constructed and doesn’t come from a place of animosity. The same should go for communities. Racial humor is excruciatingly difficult to execute. Even Chappelle gave up on it, because he realized that certain people were laughing at him, not with him.

    That tingling, hairs-raised-on-the-back-of-your-neck feeling that something isn’t right? That’s what happens when “racial comedy” goes wrong; when such comedy fails, it just sounds racist. And the layers upon layers of editing and proofreading at TIME should’ve recognized failure and not given such awful tripe a global platform. That’s a salient and disturbing piece that is left out of some of the comments here which clumsily offer rebuttals like, “Well, brown people make fun of other brown people!” or “When so-and-so did X last month, there were only 10 comments”. Well, brown people aren’t being rude to their brethren via an internationally-distributed column in a respected publication. The same goes for that idiot “so-and-so”. Publishing these sentiments in TIME magazine legitimizes them and elevates them; that must be called out and condemned. Stein can say whatever he wants, but if he is saying it in TIME magazine, he’d better be more responsible with how he wields that pen. Or keyboard. Both can wound, if used maliciously.

  27. Indian here. Wasn’t offended by the article in the least. Ever wonder why the world is going down the drain? People just love feeling offended. And another chance for honest conversation is lost.

  28. “And another chance for honest conversation is lost.”

    Do you really think that Stein’s column in TIME was a “chance for honest conversation”? If you do, I have this great money-making opportunity to tell you about.

  29. Also to clarify my own prejudices… why do Indian men stare endlessly at women with a very perverted look on their face…

    we are working on the poker face and are in the process of providing sunglasses to the community

    or try to grab my ass at Metropark,

    Mt. Everest explanation.

    or stand so close to me that I wish I could fly away and stop breathing… Its just disgusting?

    a result of a spectacular misreading of sting’s words

    Now I am not being racist but a realist. Please explain.

    True. In all seriousness, some cultures suck more than others on a variety of issues and to say your culture sucks is not necessarily racist but its also not easy to stay within the non-racist space when making such arguments.

  30. Manju, if you are one of those guys at Metropark or the Path or the Subway who stare and stare and stare, and try to grope ppl… can you please STOP. And tell all your friends to do the same. If its racist to tell people to stop acting “pervertedly” then I am a racist.. not for the color of your skin, but for making me feel uncomfortable in mine. Maybe you did the same to Joel Stein? Who knows

  31. Also to clarify my own prejudices… why do Indian men stare endlessly at women with a very perverted look on their face… or try to grab my ass at Metropark, or stand so close to me that I wish I could fly away and stop breathing… Its just disgusting? Now I am not being racist but a realist. Please explain.

    Brown Girl From Persia, please take your entitled, “realist” self to some other blog where your borderline-trollery will be tolerated. You and your unproductive remarks are not welcome here. Indians don’t have a monopoly on boorish behavior, as your ignorant comments prove. Manju was being far more polite to you than you deserved.

    I don’t go to Persian blogs and sanctimoniously demand explanations for your community’s behavior so don’t come here and do the same. Do you even realize how you come across? Check yourself.

  32. Alright SM Intern calm down. Isn’t this a forum for everyone to state their views on Joel Stein’s piece about Edison? If its only for Indians, then you are being discriminatory. Also if I live in Edison, then the people in Edison are my community… regardless of their ethnicity… no? And as such don’t I have as much right to be disgruntled or make suggestions as anyone else living there? After all, this entire stream is about Joel’s article on Edison… and I am merely stating my opinion on the matter. Check yourself and ask if you are open minded enough to hear all views, even those that may be offensive to you… even if you know they are TRUE. Otherwise I am done… Thanks.

  33. Well, brown people aren’t being rude to their brethren via an internationally-distributed column in a respected publication. The same goes for that idiot “so-and-so”. Publishing these sentiments in TIME magazine legitimizes them and elevates them; that must be called out and condemned. Stein can say whatever he wants, but if he is saying it in TIME magazine, he’d better be more responsible with how he wields that pen. Or keyboard. Both can wound, if used maliciously.

    what’s so respectable about TIME? it’s a news magazine like so many others and it has not always been particularly friendly to india.i think by attributing these high “honors” to TIME, and thereby inflating the two-bit stein article, you are trying to justify your over the top blowout over the column. very few people knew who stein was before this brouhaha. now ALL desis know and he’s getting a million hits. good job. where does freedom of expression come into all this? who is the arbiter of what type of articles can be published where? what about all those bollywood buffoonery with horrible stereotypes of white people, south indians, westernized women and so on? don’t they get a big multi-million dollar platform? where is the wrath? where’s the outrage?

  34. “True?” Hahaha. I’m sure plenty of Desi girls have had encounters with skeevy Persian fellows. They might not know it because we basically lump you all in with Arabs and Armenians and consequentially don’t notice whether the skeezeball in question happens to be Persian or not. The moral of the story is that men, in general, can be pretty skeezy. Life sucks that way.

    Basic population dynamics tells us that the male half of any mammalian species is more widely distributed around the mean than the female half. So you get a lot of creepers and a lot of gentlemen and comparatively fewer guys in between.

  35. you are trying to justify your over the top blowout over the column.

    Wrong. I don’t have to justify anything, especially to anonymous commenters. My reaction was real and valid. So was Abhi’s. That’s the beauty of diversity– and this site. :)

    very few people knew who stein was before this brouhaha. now ALL desis know and he’s getting a million hits. good job.

    Wrong again. I can’t remember the last time I/we received so many emails, tips or tweets about ONE link. You may not have known about him, but you don’t speak for the greater community. None of us does. What does “speak” is the sheer volume of feedback we received about this story before we posted anything about it. You are vastly overstating the importance of this site if you think it delivered that asshole a million hits, but thanks!

    ::

    And to “BrownGrl From Persia”/”Checked Myself”– if you can’t understand why your comments were offensive and not valid feedback to or about Stein, seriously, spare us your “contributions”.

    ::

    I’m closing this thread soon. If you have anything useful to add, now is the time. Thank you to the vast majority of you for keeping it clean, interesting and respectful!

  36. I’m a desi girl and I (and alot of my friends) have always found Persian men to be lecherous, scheming, untrustworthy and quite frankly, a little bit smelly. Oh dear, can I say that? It sounds a little harsh – but true – LOL! Still free speech, hey, it’s all good…

  37. “I’m a desi girl and I (and alot of my friends) have always found Persian men to be lecherous, scheming, untrustworthy and quite frankly, a little bit smelly. Oh dear, can I say that? It sounds a little harsh – but true – LOL! Still free speech, hey, it’s all good…”

    lol; u can say that about a lot of types of men including Persian men…

  38. I’m closing this thread soon. If you have anything useful to add, now is the time. Thank you to the vast majority of you for keeping it clean, interesting and respectful!

    I actually spent some time thinking about one of my earlier comments. I still think a lot of Indian shoppes and neighborhoods (true of ethnic neighborhoods in general actually) tend to lack character and be pretty dirty/sparse, and I pointed out before that this is more bad urban planning/design than any individual person’s fault. Then I thought of something else. The “charm” people usually talk about with trendy-ish places like Whole Foods or PinkBerry or major restaurants are all franchises and chains. The “character” is mostly manufactured corporate stuff so they have marketting folks that get paid a lot of money to create design principles that make a store and its neighborhood look good. Ethnic businesses, being small businesses don’t do that. It’s just Amma & Nanna opening up an office and plying their services. So the charm of more White bread neighborhoods is mostly just fake to begin with. Still, it wouldn’t kill them to hire an interior decorator to efficiently utilize their space. I’m sure there is already a market for vastu-wallahs to vet these places. Would it be so hard to get one who vet the place AND advise them about how to make it good looking too?

    Now that has nothing to do with anything. Just thought I’d yammer.

  39. Now that has nothing to do with anything. Just thought I’d yammer.

    Glad you did. That was an interesting comment. I definitely preferred it to the flame-throwing at hairy, leering mens. ;)

  40. especially to anonymous commenters

    This isn’t the first time someone at SM has expressed loathing for anonymous commenting. Why don’t you have registration if this is a problem?

  41. anna, i agree that humor tends to blunt the edge…we would take it more sportingly when called out on our own foibles and weaknesses with a tinge of good-hearted humor…we should all be able to laugh at ourselves…but my point was that this was so blatantly an incendiary article that it could have at best been ignored or given less mileage…of course you have the right to write what you feel in your blog and i don’t mean that this piece alone added more fuel to stein’s weak-ass attempt at notoriety…but in various desi comm channels i saw my friends and colleagues discussing this ad infinitum and i went oh boy that nutjob’s getting what he wanted! do we really need that. a well written, well reasoned piece that made some valid points would have at least justified the discussion. this was just a bug that needed to be squashed with one stiletto heel n given no further attention. but personally i’m glad u wrote this for 1 reason – just discovered this blog and gonna find the time to read more here ;) p.s. – bad analogy. i don’t do that to bugs. or stilettos.

  42. This isn’t the first time someone at SM has expressed loathing for anonymous commenting. Why don’t you have registration if this is a problem?

    We are working on as many updates and innovations as we can…but it’s worth repeating with respect to this and many other “Why don’t you…”s that there is only so much one can or should ask of a tiny force of awesome, over-worked volunteers who all have rigorous day jobs and families. :) SM is not a business or a non-profit or an entity with vast resources; it is a labor of love.

    The loathing comes from the level of entitlement often expressed by people who have no accountability or credibility whatsoever. They have nothing to lose with their drive-by shitting– but we’re the ones who put ourselves out there to get shat upon. And before some genius tries to say that we’ve received much fame and fortune from SM, know that we have never, ever made a cent from it and that no one knows or cares about who we are. ;) I do feel like I owe my old, new, loyal and critical readers something– if I know who they are. If they have a history. If they have participated in good faith. But anonymous cowards who would never dare to mouth off the way they do, IF they had to do it under their actual names? I owe them nothing but contempt.

    Thank you for asking a sincere question in a civil fashion. I appreciate it!