A few months ago I was watching a car show entitled Ignition on Summit TV (channel 412) when I heard the show's main presenter, Marius Roberts, comment that the 2009 Honda Civic under review was somewhat gaudy and loud.
Morgan Naidu, a regular car journalist on the show who happens to be of Indian ancestry, disagreed with Roberts’ opinion saying that he quite liked the look of the car.
Roberts immediately replied by saying that that he could not trust Naidu’s opinion because he was an Indian.
Naidu did not take issue with the comment but instead laughed and the moment passed quickly.
The implication of Roberts’s comment disturbed my consciousness because of its racist implications. At the most basic level he reduced all Indians to a stereotype and then applied that image to racialize Naidu’s opinion.
Naidu’s opinion as a respected car journalist was made secondary to the stereotype that characterizes Indians as folk who love loud and gaudy colours and textures.
I decided to write to the show and lodge a complaint. I pointed out that it was racist to describe and comment on cars in a manner that relate to racist stereotypes.
My critique was mostly lost on all the parties concerned, including Morgan Naidu.
The show’s producer and regular reviewer, Lindsay Vine, responded to me by saying that I did not understand the friendly banter between the hosts and that there was no intention to offend viewers.
She missed the point, and grossly so.
Vine, a young white woman, went on to say that Naidu was not offended by Roberts’ comment and the whole issue should be seen as “satire”.
I am still not laughing.
Roberts apologised for his comment by saying that he did not mean to offend anyone but he did not deal directly with my critique. Naidu added a comment that called for being cautious about viewers who may not understand the “dynamics” of the show.
I let the issue go because frankly we were going nowhere.
I did, however, point out in a closing email that Naidu cannot speak for all Indians in the same way that Roberts cannot racialize a car to fit a stereotype no matter how funny he may think his view may be.
I said all of this knowing that they were probably just happy to see the end of my communication. I mentioned the episode to several friends and colleagues and most of them just shrugged their shoulders.
That is the way things roll for the most part was the general consensus. “There really is little reason to get worked up about these things because you will go mad”, a good friend cautioned me.
I disagree with that sentiment and thinking. There is a need to confront in the spirit of struggle against racist excess and racism, sexism, classism, and ageism, of course.