Racist DJs deserve more punishment

This winter I was painfully reminded that even though I might have crossed the barriers of language and nationality in this country, I still have a long way to overcome the barrier of color. I

This winter I was painfully reminded that even though I might have crossed the barriers of language and nationality in this country, I still have a long way to overcome the barrier of color. I am an Indian-a brown Indian-and ever so often I am reminded of it.
On Dec. 15, 2004, two radio jockeys, Star and Buc Wild from Philadelphia’s Power99 FM radio station, made a phone call to a company to buy hair beads for Star’s 6-year-old daughter.
When Star realized that his call was outsourced to an Indian call center (as many calls are nowadays) and answered by an Indian woman, he launched into a diatribe, calling her a “bitch” and a “rat-eater.”
An employee at the station later posted the racist skit on the Internet and the link was circulated via e-mail and organizations, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
When a community organization I am affiliated with forwarded me the link, I assumed it was a hoax. I reasoned that racism is a sensitive subject and media would have covered it extensively. I was wrong.
This incident outraged the South Asian community, but sadly, failed to attract a strong, mainstream response against this example of openly racist behavior.
This is not the first time Star and Buc have indulged in abusing their positions. According to Arun Venugopal of Rediff.com, one of India’s premiere news portals, and Daniel Rubin of The Philadelphia Inquirer, the duo made fun of singer Aaliyah’s death in 2001 by playing the sound of an airplane crash and a woman screaming on New York’s Hot 97 radio station.
The jockeys were fired after mass complaints and petitions were filed against them. But this time, far from being fired, the two jockeys were suspended only for a day.
According to Rubin, the station’s news and community affairs director, Loraine Morill, said the “station has reprimanded the employee who posted the clip on the net.”
I am shocked at her response. Power99 FM, owned by Clear Channel Communications, has conveniently failed to recognize the more important issue of dealing with the racist jockeys and at the very least, making the DJs offer an apology. As of now, the jockeys have not offered a public apology, while Clear Channel placed a rather hollow statement on its Web site.
It states: “The Star & Buc Wild Show prides itself on walking on the edge. On Dec. 15, we crossed it. We know the pain racial slurs cause and apologize that this comedy segment went too far.”
The Indian contribution to American society has been considerable. From Sabeer Bhatia, who invented the Hotmail e-mail service, to Deepak Chopra, best-selling spirituality author; Indians are very prominent throughout the world.
A Newsweek report from last March said, “[Indians] are novelists, painters, scientists, athletes, inventors and chefs. They are our friends, our neighbors, our bosses, our doctors,” and goes on to profile the 25 most influential Indians.
In an article published in the Asia Times, journalist Praful Bidwai proclaimed Indians to be “the single wealthiest minority in America.”
Publicly referring to a member of one of the largest and richest minority populations in America as a “rat-eater” and “bitch” demands more than an empty apology and a one-day suspension.
No one ethnic group holds sole proprietary over American soil because the sweat of white, black, yellow and brown skin have made America what it is today. Not giving mainstream coverage to an issue that affects a large part of the American population disservices all American citizens.
On Jan. 11, The Philadelphia Inquirer did report that most e-mails and calls of complaint against the racist skit came from black listeners who heard the show that morning.
Knowing this encouraged me. It is a glimmer of hope that shines through this controversy and renews my belief in the goodness of this country and its people.
As a public institution, it is the responsibility of Clear Channel Communications to explain the racist skit.
It is the responsibility of the radio jockeys to publicly apologize to the Indian community.
Most importantly, it is our responsibility as citizens of America to collectively oppose such incidents.
Jinal Shah can be reached at jshah28@yahoo.com .

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