Joel Stein's recent article in Time Magazine, "My Own Private India," strived to be a humorous take on the growing diversity of his hometown, but failed miserably, resulting in an article that's no more than a diatribe of racist epithets and offensive stereotypes about Indians.
An excerpt from his article shows that Stein doesn't use his "humor" to open a dialogue about racism in America, but serves to promote it instead:
"...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.
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.
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."
- "My Own Private India," Time Magazine
After Stein received some backlash for his article he updated his Facebook status to "apologize" to those who were offended: "didn’t meant to insult Indians with my column this week. Also stupidly assumed their emails would follow that Gandhi non-violence thing."
Stein's apology was inadequate and proves that he doesn't understand why his article and "humor" are inappropriate. Unfortunately, Stein completely missed his mark in trying to create a funny take on America's growing diversity and how people deal with it. We must demand that he and Time Magazine issue a decent apology to the Indian community (for example, one that does not involve more stereotypes). Please sign the petition telling them that the article was racist and offensive, and that an adequate apology must be released immediately.
Humor is a useful tool in writing and can be used to open a dialogue on sensitive topics such as race and racism in America. However, Stein completely missed his intended mark and instead used the article to support racism and stereotypes of a group of people who are already marginalized in American society.
I am extremely disgusted that Stein used racist epithets such as "dot heads" and continued to play on untrue stereotypes about Indians (i.e. that Indians are either all genius engineers or not so bright merchants). However, I am also very disappointed that Time Magazine, a highly respected publication, decided that it was acceptable to print such a blatantly racist article.
Please issue a thoughtful and adequate apology in the next issue of Time Magazine for this article, acknowledging that it is offensive and vowing to not print another article of this nature again.