PSA: Some of what follows is rated R for profanity. If profanity bothers you, you have been forewarned.
The Indian American comedian Hari Kondabolu has this joke about when people ask him where he is from. He usually replies “Queens, NY”. And he will sometimes get the question: “No. I mean where are you really from?” He jokes that that’s just code for “Why aren’t you white?”
One of the comments on a web article about this and other “white” jokes the comedian makes literally said: “How dare you bite the hand that feeds you?”. Granted that the comments section of an internet article, the dredges of the internet if you will, or as my favorite TV writer says of Twitter, where “shitsquib, basement-dwelling minions” thrive (read the original brilliance of David Simon here ) isn’t exactly the kind of place one should go looking for meaningful and thought provoking conversation. Also granted that I won’t even begin to pretend to know where I should start with whats wrong with that comment. Yet here I am discussing it because I have a broader point.
One more anecdote and I’ll get to the broader point.
Once I got into a Facebook argument with some random native (American) born friend of a Facebook friend. Over the course of the “conversation” things got heated and he said something about how he hated the visa (H1-B) program many of us Indian immigrants used to get our toehold in the United States. Along the lines of “you should be grateful to us for letting you in” without saying the actual words. Some of us first generation immigrants to America (and I am guilty as charged) tend to have a certain snobbery about being first generation immigrants . Something that is akin to and can come across as looking down upon native born Americans. You know, like saying:
“I worked my ass off to get my American citizenship and earned the privilege to live here. What exactly did your ass do to deserve this privilege? Other than wining the fucking lottery and being born in the wealthiest nation on earth?”.
But in my defense I do that only to those fuckmooks, to use another insult my favorite TV writer coined, that question my loyalty and my right to live here in my adopted country.
I learned two lessons from that incident. One, don’t get into an argument with anyone on social media. Regardless of Facebook friend or Facebook friend of Facebook friend or not. Two, this is the internet and social media specifically. There is no room for cogent arguments, only mouth foaming and spit spewing. In my defense, this was my early foray into social media and I didn’t know any better.
Ok, I lied. One more anecdote and I’ll get to the broader point. In my earlier days as a new immigrant, before I got my citizenship I used to, naively make the argument of
“I’m a decent law abiding citizen that pays his taxes and overall adds to, not detracts from America. Why do you resent me?”
I remember it was around the time when that great champion of the poor, the upholder of liberty, the senior senator from Iowa Chuck Grassley was taking some anti immigrant stand. A stand which probably, in hindsight, given the current administration makes ol’ Chuck look like St Peter welcoming the chosen ones entering the pearly gates. It was pointed out to me by an American friend in pretty much as many words:
“Listen, some of these people don’t want you here period. They don’t want you living here, working here, taking their jobs. They don’t like how you look or how your food smells. They don’t really care about what kind of model citizen you and your ilk claim to be. So as far as they’re concerned, you can take your taxes and model citizenry and stick them where the sun don’t shine. And while you’re at it, go back to where you came from.”
Now to the broader point. What bigoted or racist hidden meaning do some people have when they say something?
“Such and such suburb of Dallas is getting too crowded”
Is code for: There are too many people moving in to this suburb that don’t look like me or talk like me. Too many people that smell like curry and have an accent.
“I don’t care what you do in your bedroom, whether you fuck a chicken or a goat or another man.”
Is code for: I’m really a homophobe and a bigot who is equating gay sex to bestiality but I want to maintain the veneer of being progressive or “with the times”.”
“I believe in the market economy.”, when uttered by someone with as much knowledge as I have about, say, astrophysics.
Is code for: “I have employer provided healthcare. Those don’t have a job that provides healthcare can, how shall we say, go fuck themselves.”
“I have no problems with immigrants like you.”
Is code for: Until you don’t threaten my authority and stop accepting the fact that I’m your better. When you do I’ll treat you and talk about you (just like you and I did now) in just the same way I treat that Mexican construction worker who doesn’t have papers.
“You’re English is so good.”
Especially when said to a Spanish speaking person
Is code for: I didn’t expect your Hispanic ass to be this articulate in English. Why don’t you go back to speaking in that accent so I can feel better about myself for having accepted a boat person?
“Pull yourself up by your bootstraps”
Is code for: “Poor black folk choose to be poor because they don’t want to work and want to suck on the teet of this great land of ours for as long as they can without doing anything in return.”
Never mind that the biggest teet suckers in the history of modern civilization were likely your ancestors.
“Lincoln freed the slaves over a hundred and fifty years ago.”
Is code for: Black folk are just plain lazy and don’t want to help themselves using slavery as an excuse.”
Never mind that this “excuse” is the greatest injustice ever perpetrated for centuries by man against fellow man.
As is my wont, the prologue and sometimes the postscripts take longer than the actual point I want to make. So thanks for sticking with me.
09/15/18, Prosper, TX.
A couple of postscripts:
1. I realize not every person that says you’re English is so good or asks where are you from originally is being racist or bigoted. Most genuinely want to know about you and your background so they can better understand you but I’m just using hyperbole as a tool.
2. There are certain Indian Americans like that descendant of Pierre T Beauregard — or at least he wishes he were — Bobby Jindal that take umbrage to the very phrase Indian American but guess what Piyush? You can go…