Repping for the U.S.

Double fail.

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.

9 thoughts on “Repping for the U.S.

  1. I hate those non-apologies. I’d rather them just be bold and be like – “What? You want me to apologize? Suck it.”

    Of course, I want everyone in the public eye to be so bold, so we don’t have to always tiptoe around the elephant in the room. I think that if politicians weren’t always thinking about that next election, they’d be able to be more free with their commentary, and we wouldn’t have to watch them like hawks to understand their real motivators/ideals. Also, I think they might get more *ish done.

    Or maybe I’m just cranked up right now cuz I just came out of a mtg with a dude who’s basically trying to do some covert *ish without the rest of us knowing/being able to do anything about it.

    I’m just gonna simmer in my cube for a minute.

  2. Oh the non apology, always a favorite. And always with the same buzz words. You’d think someone would be smart enough to whip up a new one.

    How embarrassing for Americans to be equated with such bullcrap.

    And I totally agree with jen* that it would be much better if politicians were transparent and just came out with it instead of the opaque asshats we’re stuck with. I can at least muster a smidge of respect for an outright bigot than one cloaked in “didn’t mean to” and “never intended.”

  3. I live in South Korea and am kind of unpopular among the other non-Koreans here, because every time someone says “God, Koreans are so [bad thing]!” I give them a pointed stare and ask “Oh, you’ve met every single Korean and they ALL do that?”

    Living abroad indeed does not equal anti-racist education. In some people, it emphasizes the difference and makes them feel “justified” in their opinions. In my experience, those people are usually ones who don’t learn the language, like the food, and get far enough into the culture to share regular people’s everyday lives. When your exposure to the culture is only superficial field trips and touristy events, you can indeed get the impression that they are complete aliens – which 5 minutes talking to any normal person on a topic that is not “your culture! how exotic!” could dispel…

  4. Ohhhh You said it all!!!! Haha. I did the whole ‘not-a-sister’ thing too….and yes I also hung my head.

    Some travelers are the most racist people I’ve ever seen, comparing one culture to another based on ‘their’ standards and rating them as if a culture can be rated. It’s fucking creepy and this woman and that apology just proved themselves as more of them.

  5. Battling stupid with stupid means everyone loses. I see this frequently played out in multiple situations. There is no productivity when stupidity collides.

  6. Memo for racists with shit-for-brains: dark skinned people are not dirty. Go educate yourself, you backward fuckwit. Your own president is black/biracial – how can you say shit like this in public, in your capacity as a public servant? Mr Obama, please kick her ass.

    I was curious about her last name too. I googled her and her pic looks white but I’m too repulsed by her to do any more research. I wonder if she if she was adopted or married someone with Chinese ancestry. Either way, it proves that being related to people of colour doesn’t automatically make you a good progressive liberal white person immune to racism.

    (From the Race Relations Rulebook (3.3):

    Special ability: Minority Relative. This ability is activated when a white person is accused of racism. If the white person is a) married to; b) romantically involved with; c) otherwise related to a person of colour, the white person is immune to all accusations of racism (takes no damage during their turn). The white person is now free to say any and all racist shit they can think of with no criticism whatsoever.This ability remains in play so long as the minority relatives continue to exist. All accusations of racism are reflected back upon the accuser for double damage. This ability may be combined with special ability: ‘Black Best Friend’ for increased protection.)

  7. really? because it’s cross-cultural communication she needs help with?

    does that mean that saying that *ish is totally cool if she’s communicating with people from her own culture??

    whatevs. I don’t know why I’m acting surprised. I expected this.

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