You know, I think when the U.S. Vice-Consul was describing her 24-hour train ride in “Inja” she was probably just remembering all the Rudyard Kipling fantasies that had caused her to get involved in the U.S. Foreign Service in the first place.
US Vice-Consul Maureen Chao told Indian students on Friday that her “skin became dirty and dark like the Tamilians” after a long train journey, according to Indian media — referring to people from the southern state of Tamil Nadu.
Yes, when you’re out there getting dirty, your light skin gets dark. Just look at century-old photos of Irish coal-miners; try looking at a few photos of soldiers. They would be pilloried for appearing in black-face, in our modern era.
But she’s a “diplomat,” supposed to be one of those smarter people that put a better face on the ugly American all over the world. So….I don’t feel all that sorry for her.
HOWEVER…for sheer damage control from stupid remarks, one should always look to Vice-President Joe Biden, who–after all–was considered an acceptable, “ready to enter the Oval Office” guy because of his many years of dealing with “other” people on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Here’s what he said about his running-mate:
“I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.”
Now, Biden’s decades-long experience in extricating his foot from his mouth enabled him to quickly pivot, and offer this explanation, which I have helpfully altered to demonstrate what the Vice-Consul should have said:
The Tamil are probably the most exciting faction that any movement on the Indian sub-continent has produced at least since I’ve been around,” Maureen Chao said on the call. “And they’re fresh. They’re new. They’re smart. They’re insightful. And I really regret that some have taken totally out of context my use of the words “dirty and dark.”
Chao said she was referring to a phrase used by her mother.
“My mother has an expression: clean as a whistle, sharp as a tack,” Chao said.
Obama, in a brief off-camera interview in a Senate hallway, said he thinks Chao “didn’t intend to offend” anyone.
“The Tamil called me,” Obama said. “I told them it wasn’t necessary. We have got more important things to worry about. We have got Iraq. We have got health care. We have got energy. This is low on the list.”