Oops! US vice-consul sparks row with ‘dirty skin’ remark

A day after India termed the US state department’s statement on the way the Union government handled protests as “needless”, US Vice-Consul Maureen Chao sparked another row, saying her skin turned dirty and dark, akin to Tamilians, while travelling in India.

Realising Chao’s comment was not appreciated, the American Consulate termed it “inappropriate”.

“I was on a 24-hour train trip from Delhi to Orissa. But after 72 hours, the train still did not reach the destination. And, my skin became dirty and dark, like the Tamilians,” Chao said, while talking about her visit to India as a student two decades ago.

Addressing a gathering at the SRM University on Friday, Chao had said, “Some 20 years ago, I was a student like you, and had an opportunity to do a semester abroad. I chose to come to India, fascinated by the culture and religion. I travelled across villages to understand the culture better. I was amazed at the graciousness and friendliness of the people.”

To make amends on the controversial remarks, the US Consulate in Chennai said, “During the speech, Maureen Chao made an inappropriate comment. If her unfortunate remarks offended anyone, Maureen Chao deeply regrets it, as that was certainly not her intent.”

The US Consulate issued a release that the diplomat was describing, “positive memories from her own experiences in India 23 years ago.” As US Secretary Hillary Clinton recently noted, the US-India partnership was based on shared values of democracy, liberty and respect for religious and cultural diversity, the Consulate release said. “The US Consulate in Chennai and the US Mission in India are committed to upholding these shared values,” the release said.

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