Among the myriad things an American diplomat in a nation with a long history of colonialism and racial tension should avoid, characterizing the the locals' skin as "dirty," "dark," and like an unwashed caucasian is among the least advisable. And yet a consulate official in India made the ol' "you look dirty" joke during a visit to a Chennai school last week:
During a speech in the Tamil Nadu capital, Chennai, on Friday, U.S. Vice-Consul Maureen Chao told students: "I was on a 24-hour train trip from Delhi to [the eastern Indian state of] Orissa. But, after 72 hours, the train still did not reach the destination... and my skin became dirty and dark like the Tamilians."
For obvious reasons (I know kindergarteners with better cultural sensitivity), the professional diplomat's remark "created a furor in Tamil Nadu," the Hindustan Times reports. The consulate apologized for her: "Ms. Chao made an inappropriate comment. Ms. Chao deeply regrets if her unfortunate remarks offended anyone, as that was certainly not her intent." Tamil leaders continue to call for Maureen Chao's dismissal.
Today I am ashamed to be a Maureen. You dirty our kind, Maureen Chao! [Daily Mail, Hindustan Times, Times of India, Deccan Chronicle. Photo of Hillary Clinton's June trip to India (left) via AP, Chao (right) via DM]