The defining moment of the blatantly racist attacks against Republican Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal will always be the MSNBC segment where guest Arsalan Iftikhar claimed Jindal’s criticism of radical Islam was him “trying to scrub some of the brown off of his skin.” Those comments were so bad MSNBC was forced to apologize and promise never to have Iftikhar on again.
Before that of course, there was Vox.com’s Matt Yglesias questioning whether people thought Jindal was smart because of his race. “Is Bobby Jindal’s reputation for intelligence anything other than ethnic stereotyping?” he asked. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s because he’s a Rhodes Scholar who turned down Ivy League offers to attend Oxford.
That should have been the end of it. But ahead of Jindal’s presidential announcement, The Washington Post made it clear they thought Jindal was trying to “scrub some of the brown off” too.
“There’s not much Indian left in Bobby Jindal.” http://t.co/1N3ZPV47El
— Washington Post (@washingtonpost) June 23, 2015
The general thesis of the Post piece (written by two white reporters) was that Jindal was intentionally downplaying his heritage by wearing boots, going by “Bobby” instead of his given name Piyush, converting to Christianity as a boy, etc. In pursuit of this thesis, the Post got a (also white) Louisiana professor to offer up the quote they tweeted out.
It’s the sort of thing that would have gotten a reporter fired back in 2008 had it been directed at President Barack Obama, who has also been the victim of disgusting accusations that he’s not “black enough.” But Jindal was a Republican, and the political pressure of the Indian-American lobby is dwarfed by the sort of pressure the NAACP and the Rainbow Coalition could apply. And so, the world went on.
But the very next day, The New Republic got in on the game. Author Jeet Heer accused Jindal, and other Indian conservatives like Nikki Haley and Dinesh D’Souza, of “erasing their ethnic identity” with their adherence to conservative politics. Among the acts that “erased” their Indian identity is Haley’s public identification as a Christian, and Jindal’s critiques of Islam.
— The New Republic (@tnr) June 24, 2015
Conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg pegged the pieces as “Uncle Tom” accusations, and he’s absolutely right. What it means to be “Indian” is distilled down to either offensive stereotypes (why on earth is it “less Indian” to go hunting, or to convert to from India’s fourth largest religion to its third largest?) or liberal political views (ask residents of Mumbai their thoughts on Islamic terror).
As a fun test, let’s take these quotes from the Post and TNR about Jindal, D’Souza, and Haley replace their names with Obama’s (along with “left-wing” instead of “right-wing,” etc.). I’ll invite my liberal friends to tell me if any of these sentiments are remotely okay to voice.
- “Obama’s status as a liberal of color helped propel his meteoric rise in the Democratic Party… and donors from African-American groups fueled his first forays into politics. Yet many see him as a man who has spent a lifetime distancing himself from his black roots.
- “There’s not much black left in Barack Obama.”
- “The career of Barack Obama carries an implicit message: Racial minorities can advance in the Democratic Party by erasing their ethnic identity and/or attacking other minorities.”
- “Barack Obama, whose advancement includes suppressing public references to his Muslim heritage and being presented by his campaign as a ‘proud Christian man…’”
- “What can be said with certainty is that as a black willing to voice anti-black sentiment, Obama has carved out a lucrative niche for himself, enjoying a national audience from the time he was an undergraduate.”
- “One of the saddest things about Obama’s racism is that it’s clearly built on some element of self-hatred. By aligning himself with figures like Joe Biden and Robert Byrd, he chose a form of upward mobility that required abasing himself before those who despised his heritage.”
How did these insanely racist sentiments, which sound like slurs from some Black Panther or Klan website, end up in publications like The Washington Post and TNR when they were directed towards Indian-American conservatives? You expect this sort of thing from Ann Coulter, but why the hell are storied and, yes, liberal publications dealing in this tripe?
Earlier in the election cycle, we saw bipartisan condemnation of Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin when he demanded Cuban-American Ted Cruz speak Spanish for him. We need to see similar condemnation here. Left or right, this sort of blatant race-baiting has no place in American politics.
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