And well, according to the Washington Post, President Trump does it. We’re talking about how he mocked an Indian accent, which is 1) obviously, not OK and 2) unfortunately, not totally unprecedented.
In fact, The Atlantic discusses how younger South Asian immigrants are increasingly ditching their accents, because of a familiar reason for any immigrant: it shows just how “othered” they are.
No thanks to Apu
Hari Kondabolu‘s documentary, “The Problem with Apu,” seems especially relevant now. As Professor Shilpa Davé, author of Indian Accents, notes, mocking an accent is the perfect way to other someone: even if that someone is, in Apu’s case, a rather successful businessman.
And yet, the ABCD (American-Born Confused Desi) community has mixed feelings about this. ABCDs often playfully use the accent—even if they don’t have one—and sometimes create fictional character voices that may not even resemble their family’s.
Tonight’s commute listen
On one episode of Code Switch, Indians across the board, with accents and without, speak candidly about how offended they get from “Apu” accents, but also how harmless they can be in some situations.
In other words, context beats all. And 45’s context is a long history of othering non-White Americans.