Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Indians befuddle presidential hopefuls

First Delaware Senator Joe Biden was caught on tape stumbling through a stereotype-laden, but well-intentioned, conversation with an Indian-American donor. Now Virginia Senator George Allen has hit a snag at the intersection of Indian and videotape.

During a listening stop in support of his re-election bid, Allen twice referred to SR Sidarth, a Jim Webb campaign worker assigned to follow Allen and film* his every word, as "Macaca."

"Macaca" doesn't mean anything in English, but it sounds a lot like a French slur against people from North Africa. Since Allen's mother is French-speaking, some have interpreted Allen's word choice as a deliberate, if geographically incorrect, attack on Sidarth's Indian background.

Allen's campaign
claims Allen was actually referring to Sidarth as "Mohawk." Only Sidarth doesn't have a mohawk, raising the possibilities Allen doesn't know the difference between Indians and Native Americans -- and has a serious speech impediment.

The fact Allen was clearly aware he was being taped might be his best defense against full-on intended racism, but no matter what you believe his intention, the incident makes a politician already suspected of
racial intolerance look the part.

It has become increasingly clear, when confronted with persons of Indian descent, the mainstream American politician will become flustered and say weird and potentially embarrassing things.

If I was running for office I would employ a whole bunch of Indians, give them video cameras, and send them at my opponent in waves.

The day that strategy stops working is the day our nation has finally grown to properly identify all of its citizens by their ethnic background.

*The youtube clip refers to Sidarth as an Arab American. This is contrary to the press reports that list him as of "Indian descent." It looks like it isn't just the politicians who get confused.

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