…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 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.
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.