The Rat-Eaters

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Well could they have done it to an African American? Could they have done it to a Mexican? Could they have done it to a Jew? And even if they had done so, would the FCC (the regulating body of US media) have allowed them to get away with it ? What I am referring to is the shocking incident of racism that was allowed to air on Power99 , Philly’s premier hip-hop channel. I quote from Rediff where I first read about this.

US RJs threaten Indian BPO worker

Arun Venugopal in New York | January 11, 2005 11:12 IST

An abusive call made by two prominent radio jockeys to a call centre in India has outraged listeners and prompted demands for the duo’s resignation.

The live call, made during the Philadelphia-based morning show of RJs Star and Bucwild, ended with one of the RJ’s repeatedly calling the female call centre employee a ‘bitch’ and a ‘rat eater’ and threatening to choke her.

Star, whose real name is Troi Torain, initiated the call under the pretext of inquiring into an order he had placed for a product known as ‘Quick Beads’, hair beads marketed primarily to girls outside the black community (Star and Bucwild are black). Midway through the call, Star became aggressive with the call centre representative, Steena.

Star: This call has been outsourced to India?

Steena: That’s right.

Star: Well, ma’am, what the eff would you know about an American white girl’s – uh, uh – hair, and quick beads?

Steena: Just to inform you, ma’am, we’re a national chain services company. And we’re just taking calls on the opposite.

Star: Listen, bitch! Don’t get slick with the mouth! Don’t you get slick with me, bitch!

Steena: Now if you continue to speak this language, I will disconnect the call.

Star: Listen to me, you dirty rat eater. I’ll come out there and choke the eff out of you (laughter).

Star: You’re a filthy rat eater. I’m calling about my American six-year-old white girl. How dare you outsource my call? Get off the line, bitch (laughter, applause, end of call).

This is not the first time the RJ’s have provoked listeners. In 2001, after the death of the R&B singer Aaliyah, their show attempted to make light of the tragedy by playing the sound effect of a plane crashing, along with the sound of a woman screaming.

That segment, according to some reports, drew as many as 80,000 signatures to a petition and led to the duo being fired from their station at the time, New York’s Hot 97 FM. Their latest segment has inspired a number of bloggers and online activists to rally against Star and Bucwild, initiating a letter-writing campaign to the station, WUSL-FM (Power 99), as well as to its corporate parent, Clear Channel, and the Federal Communications Commission, which monitors the broadcast media.

Although the station pulled the segment from their website, one blogger posted the audio file on his own website:

Another blogger posted the full transcript: http://www.edrants.com/reluctant/001697.html

In a form letter sent to some protesters, the station’s general manager, Richard Lewis, said the station did not condone the use of offensive language.

‘This situation has been discussed with the people in question and I am confident nothing of this nature will happen again,’ wrote Lewis. ‘I sincerely regret any discomfort this may have caused you or any friends and family.’

However, Lewis hasn’t agreed to either of the demands protesters were looking for: a public apology from the shock jocks or even their suspension.

‘Again I apologise to you personally for this and I understand your point of view,’ he wrote, in closing. ‘I do appreciate your taking the time to let me know your thoughts.’

I need not reiterate the offensiveness conveyed by the RJ’s filthy racism and threat of violence. What was alarming is the whole hearted applause among the studio audience and laughter (audible on the mp3) which shows that there were quite a number of people who found the exchange funny and quite “all right”. Even more alarming was the fact that this Richard Lewis guy brushes the incident off as a case of “offensive language” totally missing the point —-that about racism and the undeniable violence suggested by the RJ which is much more serious than an”on the air” profanity. As pointed out by the article there was no suspension and nothing much more serious than an off-the-cuff apology.

My question is the one posed at the beginning of the posting—could they have dared say that to an African-American bus driver or a Latino janitor without getting FCC and other organizations on their case? No. They would not even try. The reason they do it with Indians is that they know we, as a community in the US , are a group of big wusses. All the NRI’s hot air is reserved for their January attendance at the Pravasi extravaganza in Delhi when one by one these “success stories” regale the natives with their anecdotes of greatness. Yet in their adopted home, these “lawyers, surgeons and IT professionals” cower like sissies and are unable or unwilling to use the “economic and social might” they pompom on the podiums of Delhi.

Let’s look at an example— Vijay Amritraj. He emigrated to USA because like so many others he found more opportunities (financial) here. Which is absolutely fine. What is not fine is when he goes home and tries to convince others of his great patriotism (because he played Davis Cup matches oh wow) and how he raised the self esteem of Indians in US by winning Grand Slam tournaments. Oh wait….he did not win any ! How is that with such prominent people like the Amritraj brothers (who would convince you they are big league Hollywood players) and with so many Tom-Dick-and-Harry (sorry Ramaswamy-Ahmed-Devinder) doctors and IT gurus who claim to have the ears of the powers-that-be do we get racially insulted on radio ?

Many of the apologists (Indian) would claim that this is too small an issue for the Indian community to agitate against—-that by doing so we are giving respectability to the original insult–this is a standard publicity stunt of shock jocks–oh yeah right. All excuses to do nada. Despite being a major world religion and India being a major world power (or so we like to believe), the White House has only of late ( for 2 years) been celebrating Diwali and there too the adminstration sends very low ranking officials to the celebration while President Bush personally participates in Hanukkah, Id parties. This is the kind of clout our NRI superheroes exert on Capitol Hill.

It is very important not to consider the “rat eater” incident as too small an issue to agitate against. Its precisely these small things and our inability to react to them that make us easy prey to racist scum like the one in question. There are so many things we can do—-we all know that we, as a community, do have financial power . So let’s exercise it. Only writing letters wont help —we should collectively boycott the sponsors of that program and tell them why we are doing so. Howard Stern’s downfall came when sponsors pulled out support for his program…….that was the only language the studio execs understand. Cutting the purse strings is the only thing that gets them down to their knees. When the said RJ had once previously offended African-Americans with a skit on Aliyah’s death, he was suspended by the radio station. That time they took action and this time they did not because I am sure the head-honchos at the show have figured out that the advertising brownie points they would gain from people who actually like this shit far overshadows the few South-Asian (who in any case don’t buy anything…or so they think) they would lose. Let’s unbalance that equation.

Indians in US are a powerful community economically. India as a country is becoming more powerful with every passing year. All I am saying that it’s time we behaved in a manner befitting our position in American society. And that we can only do once we start winning these small battles. Or at the very least fighting them.

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2 thoughts on “The Rat-Eaters

  1. I think the problem with Vijay is that as a youngster, Other Indians kids and parents use to mercifully tease him because his mother Margaret would make him and his brother run incessantly before school. He came from a poor family that went to predominantly rich schools. They weren’t really part of the community until he started to win. I believe he is of Anglo-Indian ancestry which I don’t think he wants to admit (To be an Anglo-Indian is to have the mother be Indian and father European). The fact that is parents have English names. Before you go on his color, look at Leander Paes (Vijay brought him to his academy).

    He is willing to do things for Indian people like an Anglo-Indian but I don’t believe he likes Indian people or Tamils particularly. I feel that they are a burden to him and even when they cheer him because of the contradictions that he saw in them. I look at him like Jack Johnson who was the first black heavyweight champion in America. He didn’t like black people because he was too white for them but he didn’t like white people because he was too black. He wanted to destroy black people with his whiteness and destroy white people with his blackness. Jack was poor and his folks were former slaves but his mother pushed them to read when so few did at this time. He was thought boxing by a Jewish guy who he lost to in a illegal boxing match.

    Unfortunately, Vijay loved white people and admired them too much because of the way he was treated very well by them. He wanted to be one. However, he didn’t have “balls” to get white women like Jack did because Vijay was controlled by his mother and stayed as a reluctant Indian. Some ways his losses to players like Laver, Rosewall, Borg, Connors, and others in Grand Slams is in act of rebellion of saying “bleep you” to Indians and his own mother for pushing him and standing out amongst Indians.

    However against whites, no grudges. Maybe if Laver, Rosewall, Borg, Connors, and McEnroe were Indians, he would have beaten them. I know John McEnroe acted like those Indians who made fun of him, hVijay beat him soundly. When they were kind with sportsmanship, he lost to them. By the way, a statue of Jack Johnson in Texas was taken down due to repeated racial vandalism.

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