"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.Lovely, no? In response to some of the outrage, Mr. Stein had this to say on his Facebook page: "Didn't mean to insult Indians with my column this week. Also stupidly assumed their emails would follow that Gandhi non-violence thing."
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."
Can we squeeze any more stereotypes in there? Way to satire, Mr. Stein! Clearly, Indian-Americans were not the target readership for this essay. Perhaps he thought PoC don't read?
Sandip Roy wrote a great response in the Huffington Post. Here's an excerpt from that:
"Dotbusters, for those who missed the 80s, were street gangs who attacked South Asians in places like Jersey City where many immigrants had moved . . . One of those immigrants, Navroze Mody, died after being bashed with bricks. Another, Kaushal Saran, a doctor, was beaten and left unconscious on a busy street corner. Homes were robbed. Women were harassed. [...]Satire is only good when it is funny. Stein's essay may be funny to folks in support of bills like Arizona's SB 1070 (also known as the "Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act"), but it's not funny for most Indian-Americans and other immigrants, particularly those who've been on the receiving end of name-calling, harassment, bullying, or violence stemming from views much like the ones expressed in Stein's piece. He may chuckle over his own wit, but there are some who will take essays like this as evidence to bolster an already simmering rage over the "brown hordes flooding" America's borders. Stories are powerful, indeed.
The problem was the smart ones brought in their less smart cousins ("merchants") and the merchants brought in "their even-less-bright cousins, and we started to understand why India is so damn poor." This is immigration reform in a nutshell. Give us your engineers, but not your cabbies and Dunkin Donut-wallas. Except those cabbies and 7/11 owners and motel proprietors work damn hard for their little piece of the American dream.
I think in a way the Indian community is also so obsessed with its presidential scholars and spelling bee champs, with its Indra Nooyis (Pepsico head) and Dr. Sanjay Guptas, it gives short shrift to the little guys, the ones that run gas stations on baking highways in the middle of nowhere, take classes during the day and work graveyard shift at the 7/11. They are the muscle and sinew of our community. But to Joel Stein, they are just so much litter strewn all over his old hometown. That's his problem -- too many Indians."