Maureen Chao is a vice consul with the U.S. Consulate in Chennai. According to the consulate website, she has a bachelor’s in international studies and graduate degrees in education and higher education administration. She additionally studied in India and Vietnam as a Fulbright scholar. Undoubtedly culturally competent. Why else would she have such a position?
So here’s what she said to a group of students:
“I was on a 24-hour trip on a train from Delhi to Orissa. But, after 72 hours, the train still didn’t reach the destination due to some strike and, earlier, due to a rail block by some cows or camels. At the end… my skin became dirty and dark, like the Tamilians,” she reportedly told the gathering.
I have to admit, the first thing I thought was, “Not a sister! Can’t possibly be!” (I bet regular readers can guess what I thought her race is.) And then I felt deeply ashamed and hung my head. Then I googled to punish myself with the smiling visage of a Chinese woman.
Alas. It appears I was right.
Haven’t heard from Maureen “Not My Sister!” Chao, but the U.S. Consulate posted its “apology” on the website:
Yesterday at a Study Abroad Orientation Program at SRM University, Vice Consul Maureen Chao gave a speech describing positive memories from her own study abroad experiences in India 23 years ago. During the speech Ms. Chao made an inappropriate comment. Ms. Chao deeply regrets if her unfortunate remarks offended anyone, as that was certainly not her intent.
As Secretary Clinton recently noted, the U.S.-India partnership is based on our shared values of democracy, liberty, and respect for religious and cultural diversity. The U.S. Consulate in Chennai and the U.S. Mission in India are committed to upholding these shared values.
Positive memories, eh? I’d hate to see the negative ones. This also just reinforces my belief that visiting or even living in other countries doesn’t necessarily provide any kind of anti-racist education (see WHIB #6).
Inappropriate? Inappropriate is like when you wear topsiders to a company event and you should have worn weejuns. Crapping on the floor of the consulate? “Inappropriate” is probably inappropriate. Get how that works?
We have previously covered the non-apology apology (aka “weasel words”) ad disgustinum, so we won’t even bother. But an apology that includes “if” and further talks about what you “intended” is not an apology at all. Plus the whole offense thing? Yeah, people are super hypersensitive and looking for racism all the time, so when you say that they are dark and dirty they take offense. Even though you meant nothing by it.
Plus, I really hate when people talk about the values they hold instead of actually holding those values. Comes from the school of “if we say it over and over again it must be true,” instead of actually doing any work. Once more, for the record: anti-racism isn’t about nice words and happy feelings and rainbows. It is about action.
So if you’re going to represent me in India, get a fucking clue. Because you’re an embarrassment to us all.