Monday, September 13, 2010

Response to Joel Stein's Time article about Edison, NJ

I wrote the following email to the editor of Time magazine after reading Joel Stein's article "My Own Private India" in the July 5th 2010 edition of the magazine. Here's the link:,9171,1999416,00.html#ixzz0skOPun7A

After widespread criticism of his article by the Indian community, Joel Stein responded “I was shocked that I could feel a tiny bit uncomfortable with my changing town when I went to visit it. If we could understand that reaction, we’d be better equipped to debate people on the other side of the immigration issue.”

If Joel Stein wants to foster a debate on the immigration issue, Time should allow readers to post comments directly after this article so everyone can share their ideas and reactions.

I think rather than humor us, Joel Stein's article made a strong argument in favor of those "on the other side of the immigration issue." Rather than invite Asian immigrants and their cultures, current white residents of America only want their Italian, Jewish or white culture to prevail. The movie “Gangs of New York” portrayed how there was immigration conflict even among white immigrants to this country.

No body wants their old neighborhoods to change. In fact, most ignorant people want everything that belongs to them to stay theirs. But America is a country of immigrants and not just English or white immigrants but anyone who goes through the ordeal to legally immigrate and make this country their home. I applaud President Johnson for changing the quotas to allow more Asians to immigrate here.

Often the immigration issue is about do we want this country to grow stronger by increasing its diversity or do we want everything to stay the same and stuck in the past. Joel Stein ridicules a foreign culture and makes the case that his flawed childhood is an American ideal.

He doesn't come across as being remorseful about his past ignorant behavior even though he frankly shares it with the reader. And he does not even slightly give the impression that immigration in Edison, NJ is an immigration success story where immigrants have enriched the cultural and economic life of a community. Instead he states clearly "I am very much in favor of immigration everywhere in the U.S. except Edison, N.J." right at the beginning of his article.

It would be good to remind Joel Stein that if Chinese immigrants have the right to have so many Chinatowns across the country, so do Indians have a right to express their culture a little bit. If he doesn't have a problem with immigration everywhere else in the U.S. then he should be reminded about so many neighborhoods in California where ethnic Asian populations make up the majority. I'm sure other Americans have felt uncomfortable as he did when he saw the new Edison.

Rather than humor us or give the impression that "immigration has enriched American life and his hometown in particular," it seems like Joel Stein would find good company with other immigration-bashers who've seen their hometowns change. I liked the Clint Eastwood movie “Gran Torino” which encourages an honest immigration debate and accurately depicts how neighborhoods in California have changed. Joel Steins humorless rant in the article does not do this.

It would be good to remind Joel Stein that much of America is changing, not just his hometown of Edison. Many inner city neighborhoods which were previously white now have majority minority populations. Washington DC is 75% populated by African Americans.

Like Joel Stein, I would agree that white flight with minorities moving into urban neighborhoods of most American cities has not always been a success story. But other ethnic groups have created stronger communities with less crime in place of what existed before. Edison is one such example and Joel Stein should be proud of that fact if he does in fact support immigration.

1 comment:

Udayan Dave said...

There will be more to say on this subject after the new NBC Thursday night comedy "Outsourced" premieres on September 23rd 2010. A few reports say the show is racist and xenophobic.