US Vice-Consul lands in soup over racial remark; Ind furious

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Chennai, Aug 14: In a worst sort of racial slur, the Vice-Consul with the US consulate in Chennai is facing the music in India after she remarked that she became “dark and dirty like the Tamilians" after a 72-hour train journey. This statement has irked many in India, especially Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa who has sought an apology.

The insensitive comment was made by Maureen Chao at an orientation session on Friday for students of SRM University. The remark led to the US consulate issuing a statement that called Chao's comment “inappropriate" but unintended, and said that she regretted her unfortunate remarks.
Chao had reportedly told the student gathering, "I was on a 24-hour trip on a train from Delhi to Orissa. But, after 72 hours, the train still didn"t reach the destination due to some strike and, earlier, due to a rail block by some cows or camels. At the end... my skin became dirty and dark, like the Tamilians."

She, however had good things to say on India when she said, "I was a student like you and had an opportunity to do a semester abroad. I could have gone to any country, but I chose to come to India as I was fascinated by the culture and the religion. I traveled across the villages... I was amazed at the graciousness and friendliness of the people."

While the student did not make much of the remark, the damning remark was picked up by media people who was covering the function. The consulate's reply in its statement said, "...Vice Consul Maureen Chao gave a speech describing positive memories from her own study abroad experiences in India 23 years ago. During the speech Ms Chao made an inappropriate comment. Ms Chao deeply regrets if her unfortunate remarks offended anyone, as that was certainly not her intent."

Chao is a Ph.D holder in higher education administration and a Fulbright Fellow. She hails from West Hartford, Connecticut.

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