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.


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.


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 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 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. If Helen Thomas gets her job back, I’ll stop being offended by Stein. Didn’t they pretty much say the same thing?

    No!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Not even close.

  2. Actually I find that mocking ignorance works better than whining about being disrespected. If you have to go around begging for respect you sure as hell aren’t going to get it. At best you’re going to have people walking on egg-shells to spare your delicate feelings, but that’s not what respect looks like.

    LOL. Setting people straight and calling them on their BS is far from whining but if it makes you puff your little chest up on the Net by saying so, go right ahead. You want to mock ignorance? Go ahead, don’t let us stop you. Thus far all I see from you is weak-kneed rationalization of Stein’s piece and the occasionally sad whispered response of “not funny”. You have to demonstrate some comedic talent before anyone will take your “unfunny” critique of Stein seriously. Pitifully protesting that Indians “aren’t being singled out” as you did earlier is far from “mocking ignorance”, it is more like demonstrating ignorance. Nor will it earn you the “respect” you seem to obsess about.

    Now to be fair I don’t think you are adding any light to the debate. Your weasely half-protestations are an irrelevancy to the debate as a whole. Say what you wish, it’s really not worth anyone’s time. Go ahead, have the last word; I can’t be bothered with it.

  3. Setting people straight and calling them on their BS is far from whining but if it makes you puff your little chest up on the Net by saying so, go right ahead.

    You’re not setting anyone straight. Honestly who do you think is having their opinion changed by any of this sound and fury? It’s a sideshow at best.

    The thinly veiled Uncle Tom accusations levied against anyone who disagrees with your assertions that this is some kind of oppression are old and likewise not persuading anyone whose not already in your little choir.

  4. He’s taking a crap on the town and its current (ethnically and racially diverse) population and hiding under the mantle of “it’s just satire, folks!”


    Well said. The only part of your post I disagree with is the difference between racism and bigotry. I realize some here are splitting hairs and using academic definitions or race-related terms to obscure the debate. But as a practical matter, I think we will have more impact with our criticism of Stein if we describe his behavior as bigotry than as racism. Racism, for better or worse, has come to be used in more extreme incidents (incidents however disparate in nature from housing discrimination to dropping the N bomb).

    I think as this debate on Sepia has illustrated, the Joel Stein’s of the world are only part of the problem. Just as significant an impediment in our ability to defend ourselves are narrow-minded Indian sell-outs who simply can’t handle a situation like this in an effective manner. About the only time you see any passion from them in defending anything is when out them about their cowardice, and then they instantly spring into false machismo mode. We have a long way to go as a community, but the Stein column was a useful wake-up call for us to make determinations as a group such as which voices to heed, and which to tune out; which are reliable advocates of our community, and which either lack the intellect or the general makeup to respond effectively in this situation.

  5. Shorav Kaushik on June 30, 2010 8:59 PM · Direct link 866 550 6934 I just called Time Magazine and told them what I think, maybe we all should.

    Care to share what was said? Glad to see this.

  6. No!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Not even close.

    I don’t see why not. H

    elen Thomas said that if the Israelis can’t stop dropping white phospherous on Palestinians, they should to back to Germany and Poland.

    Stein implied that if Indians can’t stop building “inappropriate roofs” they should go back to the Punjab.

  7. Okay, everyone.

    In the one hour that I was away from my computer, some of you apparently decided to leave anti-Semitic comments and another blogger was forced to close down my thread.

    Please don’t do that. No matter what Joel Stein is or did, he doesn’t speak for an entire people (and neither do I, for that matter).

    Do not debase yourselves by emulating his ugliness. I’m reopening this thread but I’ll kill it if it goes down that road, again. So, no more discussing Israel or what the “Jews do” or whether they run Hollywood. That’s not what this is about. Some of you had just started collaborating and sharing resources. Others were having fascinating meta-debates. I’d like for those good things to continue; I’m trusting you on this. I’ve been bragging about all of you and what I hope is a new era of civility on this site– please don’t let me down, Mutineers. 🙂

  8. Someone PLEASE make a copy of the original article under discussion somewhere else so we don’t keep bumping up Mr. Stein’s numbers while we converse and reference it. Please publish the new link in a prominent place at the top of any page that discusses the article like this one.


  9. I was on the road, so I’m late to this comment party. Briefly: thanks, A N N A. “BURN! Like a VINDALOO!” is my favorite line. 😉 As to the rest… talking about Joel Stein’s intent beyond what he actually wrote down strikes me as merely speculative; he had a chance to say what he wants to say, and this is it. Holding him to account for it isn’t unreasonable. IMO, the piece is badly written. It’s neither smart not clear. Perhaps it was Melvin who said this before, but it isn’t funny enough to be good satire, and if it isn’t satire, it’s just terrible.

  10. So, no more discussing Israel or what the “Jews do” or whether they run Hollywood. That’s not what this is about.

    I have to agree that sinking to Stein’s level would be counter-productive.

    For the sake of discussion, I see Stein as a white person of Jewish faith. And where his comments are concerned neither particularly matter though as someone who is non-Indian he saw fit to traffic in degrading stereotypes about us as a race (apparently with impunity) and as a non-Hindu saw fit to mock Hindu deities as ridiculous. I sometimes have to wonder how someone can sit at his computer and write something like this and it not strike him as an errant, mistaken thing to do. It disturbs me to think me to think that Stein was cracking himself up all the while he wrote this, as was whoever else he shared it with before Time decided to run it. If that’s what these people are thinking, I can only imagine what they are thinking when they meet one of us. If you think these guys smell, and most of them (except the geniuses) are fairly stupid, and ascribe non-human traits as if we are “infesting” American towns — do you think they look at us as equals? In many ways its the mentality required to write something like this, the mentality required for whoever at time edited this and greenlighted it, as well as those who read it and laugh that is most worrisome.

  11. If that’s what these people are thinking, I can only imagine what they are thinking when they meet one of us.

    “these people…” You racist.

  12. I agree with Abhi. I don’t think the Stein piece is malicious or racist. Sure, he’s not the best at writing sarcasm but we should be criticizing his writing skills then, no? After the first time I read the article I was offended. I think I was just confused and not excited about TIME being a platform for satire. Had I seen this article in the Onion I would have been expecting this essay and laughed at parts. A friend who did not find the piece offensive led me to read it again and re-visit my initial response.

    Maybe this article isn’t that funny, but that’s just because Stein over does the humor part. This flaw in style cannot be equated to racism.

    Indeed, Stein, by showcasing himself as such as a bigot and then empathizing with conservative AZ sentiments is highlighting just how stupid SB 1070 is. This is an ingenious approach which unfortunately Stein is unable to translate super well into an effective satirical writing style. By taking it to such an extreme, Stein is making fun of people who actually think the things said in the essay.

    The mix of the facts that 1) TIME is not a humor publication and 2) Stein isn’t that good at writing sarcasm should not be conflated with racism.

    And for those people pointing out that Stein himself is the descendant of immigrants and is Jewish making it so ironic and uncool that he is being hateful. Um, it also works the other way. The irony of Stein’s positionality is exactly what is being banked on in this attempt at sarcasm.

    Let’s channel all of this energy into combating actual racism and not poor writing skills.

    also, if you are offended, make a respectable fuss about it. I don’t care for responses like curry bear’s that arbitrarily employ Gandhian non-violence and dissuade the community from taking a strong stance against media portrayals they might find derisive (as cb does). Responses like cb’s perpetuate the very problematic model minority construct that Asians are docile, submissive, and effeminate aka the best kind of minority!

  13. Its a pity that Time had to use such lame article for publicity and viewership. Best response to this would be for all of us to start a “unsubscribe to Time” movement.

  14. To Whom It May Concern,

    This article is tasteless, tactless, it is not satire, or remotely funny. On top of that, it lacks the criteria for journalism as it has an obvious bias that occasionally borders on prejudice–And for a people who come from the most ancient culture known to this world. How this piece of shit article got past the editor at TIME MAGAZINE, i’ll never know. Good thing the only magazine I pay to subscribe to is THE NEW YORKER. Because they don’t publish chaff at the New Yorker. This Time article is nothing but chaff.

    Fuck you, Joel Stein.

    If we met I’d kick you in the head and follow it up with a kick into your other head that has missing skin.

    You understand?

  15. Why is this article even called “My Own Private India?” It’s an obvious reference to Gus Van Sant’s 1991 film with some LGBT themes.

    From the start the article name itself is an EPIC FAIL.

    Joel you’re not being apropos to the title, you’re not clever, or even remotely funny. It’s obvious you were trying too hard or trying to meet a deadline or something and instead of an appropriate article you wrote what you did. Let’s be clear: Joel Stein’s article is not journalism, it is thinly veiled bigotry. If these are the vibes you want to put out there, it’s your own karma you’re damning, Joel.

    The Hindu culture that you’ve categorized in such a crass manner dates back further than your own culture, Joel.

    It’d serve you well to be mindful of that.

    I suggest you write another article recanting your statements, because whatever angle you were ‘going for’ as a writer or journalist(?), you missed it by by a mile.

  16. “… 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.”

    I knew that David Davidar thing was going to come back & haunt us 🙂

  17. Well, there are three hundred comments on this already, so adding another comment is probably pointless, but I’m doing it anyway.

    Person I’ve Never Heard Of Before, I don’t think you understand Joel Stein’s column. Maybe it’s just because I’m a white guy who has read dozens of Joel Stein columns and occasionally been almost amused by them, but I think I have a good feel for his style.

    First of all, the title isn’t a reference to the B-52s song. It’s a reference to the movie My Own Private Idaho, whose title is a reference to the B-52s song. Of course, this is as irrelevant as my comment, but I like telling people when they’re wrong.

    You’re absolutely correct, however, to think it would be outrageous for Time Magazine to publish what you think you read. They would never publish something like what you’ve described here. Media institutions like this are deathly afraid of being perceived as overtly racist so they’re very careful to avoid printing something they think might cause a reaction such as yours.

    That said, it’s definitely more accepted to print disparaging remarks about Indians than about Jews. However, this isn’t a problem specific to this column, so I think your anger in this regard is misdirected. Stein is just following the acceptable standards of mainstream white America, just like everyone who works for Time Magazine.

    On that subject, you’re terribly wrong to think that anyone at Time Magazine would ever try to be edgy. They’re almost as dull as Jay Leno, and they’re proud of it.

    That part where you think he’s insulting Hinduism…. He’s insulting racists. He’s not saying he has these attitudes, just that stupid teenagers do.

    It’s obvious to me that his nostalgia is not for a home without Indians because of the Indians; it’s because everyone has this nostalgia. The fact that there weren’t Indians during the “good old days” (which occur for most people at around age 12) might make a racist assume that the Indianlessness (I just made up a word!) is the reason for the nostalgia, but he’s saying that this is not true in his case. I think his biggest misstep was being too vague, so that it’s not clear to everyone that when he discusses racism, he’s talking about other peoples’ and not his own.

    A Pizza Hut roof is only appropriate for a Pizza Hut. See also:,8899/

    Now, you claim that the real reason you’re so angry is that he tried to be funny and failed. That’s…. Why did you write that? That’s just bizarre. Actually, there’s a note above the comment box that says to avoid a lot of things… “Unless they’re funny. It’s all good then.” Assuming your attitude is the same as whoever wrote that, this suggests that you would be okay with thinking Time Magazine is run by racists as long as they met your personal definition of “funny”. Yeah… that’s bizarre.

    Final thought: Rachel Kipp doesn’t know anything about satire.

  18. Sports, mainly by the advanced sports equipment. Do you have enough good equipment? Of the world’s most famous brands. Only two brands, jordans Nike. If you want to have these two brands of equipment, and want to use the lowest price to buy, Then I suggest you go to: More and more fashionable style. More favorable, the more you want.

  19. “these people…” You racist.

    Your comment was: stupid, boring, unnecessary, diversionary, but thankfully brief.

  20. I am an Indian and a regular reader of Stein’s columns in Time. I get a chuckle or two out of every article he writes, but this one fell flat. It was not funny or clever in the least. I’m not insulted, I know Stein was trying to elicit some chuckles. Even the best hitter in baseball strikes out once in a while. Stein’s humor is usually at the expense of some person or group, several times he has written no-so-complimentary things about his wife Cassandra, and as far as I know, he is still married to her. I’ll continue to read his column and will not join in a condemnation of him.

  21. Anna, Thank you for posting this. I appreciate your willingness to share with an unknown population your raw feelings regarding what was printed in TIME magazine. I’m unbelievably offended at the readers that have told you to “calm down” before posting- the point of writing is to express emotion, not for readers to try to control the writer. I hope to continue to read more from you, a writer I respect and admire, in the future.

    As for the commenters who do not find Stein’s piece offensive: that is your opinion and is based on how you read the piece and your own life experiences. It is not for you to discredit the emotions of the writer in their reading of the piece. Saying “how did you not understand that it was satire” is elitist and shuts down the opportunity to actually engage people with different perspectives. Perhaps it is the anonymity of the internet that has contributed to a culture that is just plain mean against a group of people who risk quite a bit by posting their opinions and emotions.

    I’m just saying, the bloggers here are not your verbal punching bags. I’m making a plea to actually engage in conversation here, not to automatically discredit a person’s feelings just because you don’t agree with them.

    In SM Solidarity, Viraj

  22. the point of writing is to express emotion, not for readers to try to control the writer.

    i think the point of writing should be to communicate, hopefully with the reader. there are so many other satisfying ways to have a hissy fit. sorry anna, no offense, and i am not invalidating your personal response to the article.

    the original post, the other supporting posts, are all way over the top and giving joel stein’s article far more importance than it deserves. he attempted some kind of a satire and didn’t quite pull it off. we cannot have his head on a thali for that.

  23. Seems that some Desis are scared to speak out about race because they are afraid to be lumped in with those pesky Blacks and Latinos.

  24. I can’t help but think that columns like Joel Stein’s which other and dehumanize Indians make it that much easier to murder us, and that much easier for people to brush it under the rug.

    I wrote a polite angergram to Time and I signed that SAALT petition. If anyone thinks writing letters to the media contacts of the companies who advertised in this week’s print edition is worth it, let me know.

  25. why does his being jewish have anything to do with this discussion? unbelievable. so the guy missed the mark, most likely he has close-minded views. but his ethnic background has no relevance. as others have mentioned, his views are espoused by some desis themselves who fancy themselves as part of the “previous generation of immigrants” (supposedly more refined and educated than the recent immigrants).

  26. Dear Anna, For any country created by immigrants, prejudice against immigrants is understandable, because it is in the nature of people to be prejudiced against the unknown/misunderstood. The fear of the other is one of the great forces that historically kept communities together, and fuelled the great engines of civilisation. Social cohesiveness and community spirit be damned, it’s sobering to know that it was good old bigotry was what created the edifice of our societies. Syncretism is all very fine, but there is a reason that the mughal subjects reverted to islam, and did not stay on with din-i-llahi, after Monsieur Akbar kicked the bucket. The purpose of all social identification is to ensure that the feeling of superiority and distinction is fostered, so as to ensure that people adhere to, and stay exclusively loyal to the doctrine that proclaims their superiority. Prejudice is the oldest civilisational sport, and joel is just a new and young player. Your criticism is ruthless, though. My sympathies, now, lie with Joel. He is an aiyyo-paavam, torn a new asshole and hit by he-knows-not-what. did you see his reply tweet? With the artless Gandhi reference? Muahahahaha. some children never learn! Sigh.

  27. People, people. It is ok to talk about stereotypes. Even funny. But for someone who is outside of the community as loosely defined as it is (it is mostly defined by the insults we get; the broader the insult the more groups get insulted and band together) to toss them around so freely by someone who does not identify with the group will surely piss someone off. This column in Time is supposed to help understand immigration issues better (tell me if I am wrong). I think it only muddled them. He was ineffectual at best in this regard and at worst, he portrayed himself as a bigot. Would a non-Jew be able to get away with a similar essay about the Jewish immigrants in his town ? Or substitute with African American, etc.

    I think not. Period.

    Several of the paragraphs in his piece were ok actually by me. I didn’t say funny. But as free speech goes he is entitled to his opinion and making fun of others is human. But to use these stereotypes as he did in a column on immigration ! You might as well get Howard Stern to write a column for a feminist magazine.

    On second thought maybe that is a bad example; I think Howard S. would do a better job.

    The flippancy of the dot-head reference seeing that racist violence occurred in NJ around the time Stein was in Edison cannot be ignored. The June 25 death of Dr. Divyendu Sinha of Old Bridge, NJ, though not proven to be racially motivated, has people coming forward about the bigotry and racism in the neighborhood:

    “Kiran Desai runs the zoning board in town. He ran a public meeting as well, earlier this week. About 200 people showed up and some told stories of being verbally and physically abused because of their race, mostly by teens. “

    Stein does not clearly mention that he is against the dot-buster gangs of his time (yes I know that might break the satirical flow). He should have; you cannot depend on people to do research to find out your views on every single odd-looking reference in your essay. If you have a fan base they would understand ’cause they know he is cool. But I hope bona-fide journals do not become the platform for Borat swinging like Stein.

    By using a tone that echoes that of a bona-fide racist dot-buster of his era, even if upon closer inspection the references cleverly are made to avoid direct racism, is absolutely beyond insensitive and definitely puts him in the orbit of bigot. (This Borat-style always in-character schtik is in my view only an excuse for closet bigots to flex their muscles and it is hard to “prove” they are doing otherwise. Even if they display better behavior elsewhere in their career and life.)

    Happy Mr Stein ? Actually I am not so concerned about your happiness. I care more about all the young kids and families in NJ and anywhere and the bullshit bigotry they have to put up with.

    cm wrote:

    “why does his being jewish have anything to do with this discussion? “

    I assume Stein doesn’t identify with Indians. If a person of Indian descent, even if they no longer identify with Indians (and I meet many who fit this shirt), wrote a similar essay they would be criticized in a somewhat different way. The Us and Them lines would be drawn differently. Stein identifies as white, so the Us and Them wedge has a different sharper shape. Is that what we need in this immigration discourse ?

    All hatred is a form of self-hatred. Still working on the Daily Affirmations myself 🙂

  28. hey hey….No. 314 – Sunjay…. you are borderline racist and sounding violent… gotta call it out…. isn’t that what we are trying to reduce and get past in our society ?

    Just FYI, I am Hindu and skinless…. born in a Christian hospital in India. Not holding a grudge, but…do want it back.

  29. … This self-hating gargyole who [only] wished his ancestors were connected with the Mayflower. Need to APOLOGIZE to those whom he deliberately offended! If not, he’ll probably want to write a book published by Times. I say, get rid of this malodorous thing. Prosit!

  30. Anon –

    I get that the fact he is “non-Indian” adds context to deciphering why he wrote this piece. However, I simply don’t get the Jewish angle and most especially the blatant and disturbing comments picking on his jewish identity. i get anna’s comments – i.e. “how would you feel if someone said this about jews”, but other replies, not so much. i’ve been a reader of this site for several years and the amount of hate i’ve noticed against jews recently is really turning me off.

    and i must add that i am somewhat disappointed that the intern did not nip this in the bud – #314 was the last straw for me. why it was relevant for sunjay to bring up stein’s supposed circumcised penis is beyond me and distracts from real discussion (as the blogger(s) intended).

  31. Hey, Chaitan, this is confusing because it’s a key. Whites stealing from white establishments is because they are learning the system, and the employees and owners/managers cooperate with the stealing in complex ways (not always directly or consciously, of course)–but if a black/brown/or other non-white tries it they are sent to prison for many years (and put in solitary confinement for YEARS if they don’t like it–nowhere else in the world is this done on a routine basis).

    So, white kids can’t “learn stealing”–that is, be accepted into the dishonest, wickedly unjust, and inherently racist criminal “system”–from brown/black establishments because they won’t be sheltered by their white privilege. They might, of course, successfully steal something, but that would be an irrelevant accident!

    In my view, this is the key to the nature of the racism that Stein promotes and celebrates in this piece (of sh–) that Time publishes because they represent (now, if not always in the past) white supremacy in the most direct and instrumental way–by publishing whatever strengthens racism, even by the gross and simple minded tactic of shouting dirty names and calling it funny, which is Stein’s MO. I was prompted to look as 3/4 of his pieces, and found them all to be of the same nature (sh–), whatever the subject.

    Put this in context–a world where many (far from all) youth are schooled to be able to (barely) read Time, but not to question it, or any other commercial media, and you have the birth of fascism–but this time with really big bombs.

    And why does Stein hate the browns and blacks? Well, in this piece he mocks Indians simply because they come from a more balanced and human friendly palette of cultures–they are not, typically, hyper-stressed and in pain like he is–they haven’t wasted their youth, or poisoned their minds like he has! No wonder he is full of hate.

    The merchants whose intelligence he mocks do much better than white merchants on the same level because they work at it, i.e. they are smarter! The same for professionals who did some reading and enjoy a life they have chosen while Stein needs to pull this crap out of you know where to please his handlers and get his dog biscuits for it.

    It, by the way, like all racist hate, is self-hate. The good part is that we don’t have to hate Stein, we just have to spread the love until no one bothers to read or promote this kind of pitiful self-hate–after we stop the media from broadcasting it to everyone constantly, with no obvious alternative or relief, so that many, many just learn to accept it and perpetuate it out of sheer fatigue.

    Whew, sorry I’m so long,

    Warm regards,


    You wrote: “There is an entire generation of white children in Edison who have nowhere to learn crime.” (from J. Stein’s stupid piece on Edison NJ)

    Wait, why can’t this generation of white children, those want to learn crime, steal from Indian stores? Surely, criminals are not racist. That wouldn’t stop them. right? Or is that the joke? What?(from your comment on June 29, 2010 8:01 AM)

  32. and i must add that i am somewhat disappointed that the intern did not nip this in the bud – #314 was the last straw for me. why it was relevant for sunjay to bring up stein’s supposed circumcised penis is beyond me and distracts from real discussion (as the blogger(s) intended).

    First, let me thank you. I am extremely grateful that you understood what I was trying to convey by asking how Stein would feel if someone used derogatory language regarding Jewish people.

    Second, let me provide a little bit of context for why neither I nor the intern nipped this in the bud. I’ve noticed the flares of anti-semitism in this thread and most of those comments were summarily nuked (and some people were banned). I went to a very Jewish high school, kept kosher for a while and my closest friend in the world is a Persian Jew whose father used to take me to “Torah Study” when we worked together at the Capitol. I love Jewish people and culture so much, it puts me on the wrong side of current controversies, like the flotilla (but I am not going to take or answer any questions about that in this thread, so please don’t do anything besides email me about it). I’m hyper-sensitive to anti-Semitism and sometimes, I worry that to compensate, I almost go in the other direction while moderating, because I’m always very worried about letting my biases get in the way of someone else’s usually-equally-valid opinion. That may have occurred on this thread.

    With the comment you referenced, however, I made the judgment call (perhaps a wrong one– I’m not brilliant or perfect by any stretch) that the commenter was trying to be scathing and clever, not scathing and derogatory. Note the repetition of the word “head”. It’s not a slur to say that a Jew is circumcised, IMO. They just are.

    I hope that all who are reading this comment/explanation take away one thing– I take your desire to express yourself very seriously and I hate to curtail it in any way, despite what I am accused of, on an hourly basis. I really think about these things; unless a statement that is up for deletion is blatantly troll-tastic, I mull over it to make sure that I’m being fair and upholding my principles as well as my goals to encourage civil discussion and spirited, polite debate before I remove it from a thread. According to some people who know me best, I do this to a fault.

    Anyway, two of you have emailed me about your concerns regarding this issue and how it is being presented on SM. I wish that “U.D.” had provided me with an email address so that I could write back (they used our tip line, so there’s nothing but an IP to tell me who they are). I’m sorry that you think SM’s standards are different now or that you think the level of moderation has changed for the worse. I’m back (or trying to be) and I’m doing what I can. It’s all an evolution. I say that I try very hard to be fair not because I’m calling out others or accusing them of otherwise…only because I’m the only person I can and should speak for. I’m sure we’re all doing our best and I get that this is a deeply emotional, difficult issue for many of us…and that may be causing some of us to see disagreement as something more sinister.

    That won’t get us anywhere. But your patience and equanimity could get us exactly where we want and need to go. Thanks, everyone.

  33. I apologize if the intent of my message was not clear. I am not playing favorites but your writing is what resonated the most even though I am an Indian citizen who has been in the states too long. I am disappointed by the tone of some of your fellow bloggers and I see other people have expressed their feelings on the other thread as well.

    i love what you guys do and really appreciate it. One regret I have is not meeting any of you in person as I move to the UK in a few months.

  34. 320: Media institutions like this are deathly afraid of being perceived as overtly racist so they’re very careful to avoid printing something they think might cause a reaction such as yours.

    And yet they did because it did cause that reaction. I don’t get the logic here. The point here – and it has been made by many – is such reactions matter when they come from some quarters but not others and some here believe it is time desis (more specifically Indians and perhaps Hindus) stepped up their game so they begin to be counted in the ‘some quarters’.

    It’s obvious to me that his nostalgia is not for a home without Indians because of the Indians; it’s because everyone has this nostalgia. The fact that there weren’t Indians during the “good old days” (which occur for most people at around age 12) might make a racist assume that the Indianlessness (I just made up a word!) is the reason for the nostalgia, but he’s saying that this is not true in his case

    Let me ask you this: would Time allow such ‘nostalgia’ to be expressed – hell, would the satirical Mr. Stein dare to express such ‘nostalgia’ – if the writer were hankering for a time when his neighborhood lacked Black people and now they dare to show up and start stinking up the neighborhood with soul food and loud music ? And if in the alternative universe where such a thing were possible, would any African-Americans be supporting him with “Yes, right on with the humour!” ?

    The ‘comment policy’ of this site would be on such a humorist like a ton of dosas.

  35. Stein spoke mostly of his own personal experience and observations. Many of those were our own experiences growing up in and around those times and places. But his conclusions were that he appreciated what Indians brought to Edison even though it lost its “pre-Indian charm”. Finally (and most importantly), HE CONCEDES that Edison is a wealthier place to live because of the immigrant population.

    And why is it ok for Russell Peters to make fun of racial stereotypes about not just Indians but East Asians, the English, Italians, Africans, Arabs, etc. Why can we all enjoy that but not tolerate this? Isn’t it hypocritical to sit here and judge a known comic satirist who made ZERO hateful statements in this article?

    If anything, Stein should be commended for leading potentially hot-headed xenophobes to cooler waters and at the same time testing our own social and cross-cultural insecurities.

    And BTW, I love that in order to write this comment I had to fill this out:

    "To prevent comment spam, please type the word BROWN"

    What? like brown power? 😉

  36. Mohini Singh @ 335

    I say, get rid of this malodorous thing. Prosit!

    pssstt … Do you have a plan?

  37. nirvana demon @ 332

    Syncretism is all very fine, but there is a reason that the mughal subjects reverted to islam, and did not stay on with din-i-llahi, after Monsieur Akbar kicked the bucket.

    That’s Emperor Akbar to you.

    You can learn more from this wiki link of 2010 Sober food for thought about misconceptions of Din-i-Ilali which “was more of an ethical system and is said to have prohibited lust, sensuality, slander and pride, considering them sins. Piety, prudence, abstinence and kindness are the core virtues.”

  38. While I did not find the article as offensive as many have (I have seen Joel Stein on Bill Maher’s show before; he is just an idiot who thinks he has the edgy funny thing down, but is sadly mistaken), one of the points made here is perfect. Had such an article been written about Jews or black people, it would have been debated ad nauseam on NPR and MSNBC! In fact, it would not have been cleared by the editors of TIME. There is something to be said about the Indian immigrant self-hating nature which does not let them see racism where it is.

  39. i’m late to the party – but i finally red the article. it’s not gogol but it IS funny. i particularly enjoyd the line below.

    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.

    i know at least one family whose doctor patriarch brought over a cuz who drives a truck and who brought over his own slope headed brother who sits in a dispatch booth wiping wet boogers on the underside of a formica table.

  40. There is something to be said about the Indian immigrant self-hating nature which does not let them see racism where it is.


    While I did not find the article as offensive as many have (I have seen Joel Stein on Bill Maher’s show before; he is just an idiot who thinks he has the edgy funny thing down, but is sadly mistaken),

    Would you contend it has something to do with our tendency to automatically downplay offense….as you illustrated. Such as downgraded his bigotry to misguided edginess?

  41. HE CONCEDES that Edison is a wealthier place to live because of the immigrant population.

    He didn’t concede jack. The mayor Jun Choi, who received electoral support from Indians, said as much. It’s basic reading comprehension.

    BTW, insecurity isn’t calling bigotry out. Insecurity is jumping ship when a group you’re a part of (for better or worse) is lampooned; to insincerely laugh off a piece that reduces us (and you) to cheap and frankly untrue stereotypes.

  42. Nice post by Kal Penn on HuffPo:

    Were it not for the intelligent, fresh sense of humor of individuals like Mr. Stein, the world may never know about Americans who happen to be of Indian descent. Gags about impossibly spicy food? I’d never heard those before! Multiple Gods with multiple arms? Multiple laughs! Recounting racial slurs like “dot-head”? Oh, Mr. Stein, is too good! I don’t know how he comes up with such unique bits. (I was worried that he’d missed an opportunity to joke about Dr. King’s predecessor, Gandhi, but I see that he got to that hilarity on Twitter. More never-before-heard satire!) [Read more]
  43. Hello #341, Ankush Narula,

    Good you brought up Russell Peters. The difference is that Russell Peters has grown up (he’s from multicultural Toronto) and has been pals with a lot of the people he makes fun off (at least from what I have seen of him), and he makes sure they do not get excluded in the joke. Most of the time he talks about how cool they are. Example, the !Klung language (I doubt though this example fits with my point about his discussing someone he grew up with), he thinks is is amazingly cool; he gets a laugh from the audience from the sheer novelty of it. That kind of humor can bridge cultures. Mr. Stein’s kind in this essay does not do so well in the context he was working in.