Joel Stein’s Article

By now I am sure many of you would have read Joel Stein’s Blog at Time (For those of you who haven’t, here is a link http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1999416,00.html). Most of my Indian friends who read it have been quite upset by the language and the article’s very racist tone. The author and the publication both claim that the piece is satirical but satire by its very definition means “the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly, etc.”. Whether or not the article satisfies the criteria for a satire is moot. As can be expected there has been a fair amount of backlash to the article, links to some of commenting on the piece are below

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kal-penn/the-hilarious-xenophobia_b_634264.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/shiwani-srivastava/joel-steins-beef-with-ind_b_633988.html

http://www.cnn.com/2010/OPINION/07/13/parikh.stein.rebuttal/index.html

I personally found the article in equal parts racist, informative and entertaining, and would encourage anybody who hasn’t read the piece to read it with an open mind. While it clearly is a rant against Indian immigration (especially in New Jersey), there are lessons that immigrants would be wise to learn. For me, three points stood out

  • If you are immigrating to a different culture, assimilate. Keeping to your own kind, while the easy way out, creates isolation (read “ghettoes” like Edison, NJ) and ill will. Unless you are assimilated, you will be picked on. And assimilation includes political representation.
  • Change is hard. The “old way” of life is changing for a lot of people, not just in the US but elsewhere. Understand that the backlash may be not because you are of a different color or culture but because people are insecure and are looking for answers ( or someone to blame) while the world they have known for generations has collapsed around them.
  • Immigrants are an easy target. In these uncertain times, it is easy to blame the loss of jobs and the collapse of certain sectors (e.g. manufacturing and mining) on immigrants. Politicians, TV hosts and rabble rousers love to do that. Regular folks are easy targets for such messages. It is very easy to forget that other than Native Americans, just about everyone in the US is an immigrant.

I believe that as offensive as this article may have been, Mr. Stein probably vocalized thoughts that many people feel but do not express. At the very least it should give immigrants something to think about. 

What do you think?

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