And You Don’t Look…

Asian Diabetes.jpg

One would think that an educational website from the NYU Department of Medicine might be produced by people who are familiar with actual South Asians. One would think.

SM reader SS sends us a link to the site you see above, with her take on it:

While not much of a true story, thought I’d send your way this article about South Asians with accompanying stock photo of people who, last I checked, are NOT South Asian. I find this even odder coming from the NYU medical school, where there are presumably South Asian med students.

Now let’s get the politically correct and enlightened shit out of the way early, shall we?

There’s probably no way to check on the genetic makeup of the couple on the couch, up there. They could be South Asian, after all, there are many, many ways a South Asian person can look. From fake-Italian (although you Guindians aren’t fooling anyone) to fake-East Asian, our phenotypes are many…which makes sense since we’re from all over a subcontinent.

It’s not fair to suggest that there’s only one way for South Asians to look and don’t you dare accuse me of doing that– I’m the one who, as an already put-upon college student, had to deal with Punjabi Aunties from Fremont who constantly came up to my window at a certain Bank of America, only to say…”You Fiji? No? But you’re so DARK. Indian people are not SO dark!”

I get how much that sucks. It’s ignorant and divisive and rude. A blue-black Southerner is just as Desi as a sharply-featured woman from Kashmir, right?

Still, would you expect to see that picture paired with an article titled, “You Don’t Look Diabetic:Diabetes in Non-Obese South Asians-Is There a Molecular or Genetic Basis for Increased Insulin Resistance?”

26 thoughts on “And You Don’t Look…

  1. There is a way to check their ethnicity. Look at the picture. It is labeled “asian glow” — or what happened when asians — Not south asian — drink.

    But it clearly isn’t med students vetting this. Just standard corporate IT. Which makes the lack of racial due dilligence even more surprising….

  2. Sorry to split geographical hairs here, but are not Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand (and other nations) technically south Asia? They dip further south than India…or is “South Asia” one of those holy terms exclusive to desihood…like how “Asian” means “of the former Raj” in the UK?

    Also, that Kashmiri pic looks a lot like a young Gloria Estefan.

  3. “Just standard corporate IT. Which makes the lack of racial due dilligence even more surprising….”

    Agreed. I’m assuming the person who found the picture wasn’t the author of the article. Looks a random picture off of someone’s blog lol.

    As for “looking diabetic”, one characteristic I notice with diabetic S.Asians is that they’re often skinny with a gut. Distribution of body fat matters significantly which is why waist size is more important than bmi (the latter is especially inaccurate for browns). Another thing I’ve noticed is that while many diabetics aren’t overweight, they have a flabby look to them with no muscle definition, like they never exercise …”skinny fat” as the catty girls would say in school.

    @Paul – the countries you named are usually referred to as “southeast asia”…I guess the geographical naming system is kind of nonsensical. For example “East Asia” refers to just Northeast Asia (Korea, Japan, North China) but i digress

  4. It’s just another case of cluelessness. After all, I distinctly remember filling out forms in middle school that asked me check off my ethnicity as “Pacific Islander (ie India, Indonesia).” So we’re not South Asian, we’re Pacific Islanders! According to some, anyhow. At least these people know that those kids are SOME kind of Asian (but who knows, maybe India IS an island?).

  5. South Asia is the Indian Subcontinent. And yes Northeast Indians, Nepalese and Burmese do tend to look East Asian-ish. South-East Asia is Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, The Philippines Brunei, Indonesia and the Indo-Chinese countries of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. East Asia is China, Korea, Japan and Mongolia.

  6. The real mistake is in the title, not the photo. It was supposed to read: “You Don’t Look Indian.”

  7. Amen to that Anna. Same reason I feel awkward at Desi gatherings, and my other Tibetan and Nepalese friends automatically stop singing whatever hindi song they were singing when a desi-looking person walks by.

  8. I’ve never heard of a Guindian. That’s funny stuff. And of course there is no accurate way to idnentity their identity. And yes, there’s the argument that yes, South Asian consists of many countries and not the typical desi countries. However, I wouldn’t put the blame completely on the writer because the writer might have simply made a mistake when he did a wiki common image search and he probably had a deadline and didn’t think it would be a big deal. If the writer was not sure, I’m sure he could have asked the person conducting the study to provide a photograph of a South Asian diabetic patient. But again, I think could have simply been a oops. But then, again, it is shame that you wouldn’t do your homework to make sure, right?

    This reminds me of growing up inTexas. I was bullied on ‘sharing day’ during elementary school in Texas. They asked me where I was from…and this was confusing to me because I was born in Mozambique and my grandparents trace that place as their residence for generations. I had never been to Indian before and had only heard about through Discovery Channel, and Hilcroft and hanging out at the Swaminarayan Temple back in the day (the Temple is on my ‘do not enter ever again list, btw”) told them I was from Africa. The black kids in the class, somehow picked up on this and came up to me and grabbed my collar, pushed me to the wall and shouted, what did say? I was frighted and instead of telling them I said in a question form…”Um…I’m…from Africa?” They yelled at me telling me “No you aint! No you aint, you little Gandhi!” This was back in the 80s in Houston.

    Then another teacher had asked me what tribe I was when I told her I was Indian. I guess I had enough of a beating to not tell her I was from Africa. She might have called me a racist or something. Went home and asked my mom, and she said, we’ll we’re Gujurati and your dad’s from Diu and I’m from Porbander. She asked me what a tribe was. I told her I didn’t know. Went and told my teacher I was Indian and didn’t know what tribe I was. She said, that’s alright, we’re family here because my grandmother was 60% Cherokee and than makes me Indian too. I could be your aunt. I’m sure most of you went through this and see it on a day to day basis even now.

    You’re right, that I would not expect to see that picture paired with the article title, but then again, if I didn’t expect it, I would too, be making the mistake of automatically asumming that just because they didn’t look like what we as desis think South Asians look like they can’t be South Asian. It’s funny though: that this is just a random picture that they got. I looked at the credits and all it says is image courtesy of Wiki commons. So this really makes me want to take back what I said about this being an accident. I’m sure they were in a hurry and didn’t think it mattered, which isn’t very professional of them, now is it?

  9. I just had my ‘white’ girlfriend look at the picture and quizzed her on their ethnicity. She guessed “South Asian” in my list of multiple choice. Then she got upset at me for quizzing her. HAHA. Wait, can she read this since I signed on through Facebook? delete delete delete. lol

  10. “You Fiji?” ahaha… that just made my day.

    Actually, those aunties from India can’t say “J”… So, it should be…

    “You Feezee?”

    And not everyone from Fiji is dark, just like not everyone from Punjab is lightskinned.

  11. Speaking of Punjabi Sikhs, they seem to be in denial that Indians can be brown. They seem to think that only Indians as fair as that Kashmiri with garish makeup is a “true” Indian. The Punjabi Sikh’s ideal of an Indian is somewhat slightly darker, but just as petite, as Anne Hathaway.

    On another note: I believe that New Delhi should allow the Northeast of India to succeed. I noticed that on India’s talent show, a troupe of Mizoram or Assamese folks were there, and one of the judges asked them “where are you from” in a singling-out fashion. Kind of like the way people here ask me “Where are you from?” I don’t get the impression that “mainstream” Indians even view them as Indians, but only in the hyphenated sort.

    Regarding Guindians with Italian memorobilia: I see all the time Desis wearing Italian jerseys or having ITalian names. It’s so annoying.

  12. You’re all right that these people could be considered Indian, or Pakistani or what have you, depending on what culture they identify with and are raised in. (I’m going to ignore the fact that it’s a stock photo of “asian glow” for the time being, which, incidentally refers to the red face that asian people get when they drink as noted above.)

    My issue is that if you read the article below, it clearly talks about the risk of diabetes in ethnically South Asian people–the article refers to “South Asians” and “Indians” and most of the references are about “Asian Indians.” I would say that if you’re going to have an article about health risks of ethnically South Asian people, your accompanying photo should be of someone of clear South Asian descent, otherwise it’s not clear who you’re referring to. I would venture that many non-South Asian/Asian people don’t know the terminology and now think that people that are ethnically Asian are the ones at risk. It’s lazy stock photo usage at best, and misinformative at worst.

    Of course, the website also has an article on hypothyroidism accompanied by a picture of a duck, so who knows.

  13. Stupid coconuts acting stupid and confused should be the accurate title of this post

    Plus there are INDIANS (not south asians) that look like that but they usually have a darker skin tone so i doubt those people in the picture are South Asian unless you have Low IQ as a typical ABCD.

  14. Anna, this is not a big deal even if the author posted this unintentionally. South Asians from northeast India may well look more East Asian. India is a diverse nation, much like the U.S. It would be just as fair to portray Indian/Pakistani-Americans as prototypical Americans in an article on diabetes in the U.S. #mash-up

  15. Paul, I’m actually making a documentary this year that I’ve been planning for about eight years now. It’s about Indian American artists and what they’ve been through. Some of what I write about here is in the documentary. If you know of anyone that would be interested and they’re in Texas or from Texas, it would be great to interview them. I’m looking for people of all ages, but the best range would be artists in the range of 30-70 male or female. If they can trace some sort of ancestry to the Indian subcontinent, it will work. For example, in Houston I found a man who on both sides of the family they are British Anglo and Indian.

  16. Come on, SepiaMutiny. They could be Burmese, Mizo or Manipuri. Maybe not Naga, Khasi or Boro, because they seem fairer than the average Nagaland-niwasi, but they could very likely be from Manipur. In fact, one of my manipuri friends’ sisters looked exactly like that. Get off the criticism and the hyper-reactiveness. Determining race by skin color and epicanthal fold size is just another way to fall back on the ignorant western classification of racial types popularised by enthropometricists in the 20th century. Coming from an area as racially diverse as India, lets try to unlearn some of that European misconception, shall we?

  17. As a graduate of CEG, Madras I was quite taken aback by the word Guindian appearing in the article- the link to Urban Dictionary does have an entry for the usage I’m familiar with. Considering that CEG is the oldest engineering college in India there might be more Guindians who satisfy that definition!

    Btw, @PeoplesRepublicofDravida- Anne Hathaway is like 5’8″, not petite by any stretch of imagination!

  18. Arvind, it is not just the correctness but (correctness * probability of being correct) that matters more. You are correct when you say they can be from north-east, but probability is very low (consider the total rest of the Indian population & N-E population). So a brown face should be more appropriate to represent Indians. If you go that way you can put an Africans photo & claim that they are some remote tribe in India!

  19. Here’s the response from NYU to my pointing out that a picture of drunk asians was probably not the most educational choice they could have made for the article:

    You are absolutely correct, and I apologize for the very poor choice of picture by one of our editors (not the author or reviewer) and the lack of pickup by anyone else on our staff. Unfortunately, most of us including myself have been very distracted evacuating and repopulating our hospitals because of Hurricane Irene. Regardless, that is not an excuse and I am ultimately responsible for the content of our website. I’ve removed the picture and replaced it with a proper map of the region. Thanks for the pickup and please accept our apologies.

    Neil Shapiro Editor-in-Chief, Clinical Correlations

  20. imbibing spirits isn’t the only way to get a glow – quality cardio workouts provide a nice healthy glow – we’re lucky in my family we have no diabetes -good sattvic diet, meditation plus some sort of daily exercise goes a long way towards preventing many illnesses as well as genetics: carefully arranged marriages can be highly eugenical (no inbreeding or radical outbreeding) -when i was in school and toiling away in retail hell, my worst customers (through no fault of my own) were the non-Punjabi “indian/s. asian” customers – i think a lot of this has to do with the political situation of Punjab (divided/oppressed) so they just saw me as easy target -

  21. scientific press releases…sigh.

    and of course they don’t look like typical south asians. and i surely have more east asian ancestry than most people on this thread (nepalis, etc., excepted). some south asians look east asian, some look white, some look black. most don’t. most ~95% i’d say.