Slavery, Immigration, And The Press—Update
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Over a year ago, I did a post about an Indo-American couple, immigrants to the United States, who were keeping their two Indonesian maids in horrible conditions of slavery and torturing them. One of the more memorable details, via Fox News:

Samirah, an immigrant from Indonesia, said she was forced to walk naked from the servants' room to the kitchen and to eat 100 chili peppers, followed by six spoons of chili powder mixed with salt water. She said she vomited after eating the peppers and was told to eat the vomit.

I wrote at the time

The story of Mahender Murlidhar Sabhnani, 51 and Varsha Mahender Sabhnani, 45, who are accused of having kept two Indonesian women as slaves, torturing them on regular basis, is being covered in the mainstream media without the use of the word "immigrant" to describe either the alleged perpetrators or even the victims. [Slavery, Immigration, And The Press]

Well, recently there was a conviction, and let me show you some headlines from the American press:

"Muttontown millionaire" is one way of describing him.

Man in Slave Case Sentenced to 3 Years New York Times, United States - Jun 27, 2008 By AP CENTRAL ISLIP, NY (AP) —A Long Island man convicted of helping his wife keep two Indonesian housekeepers as virtual slaves was sentenced on Friday to

"Long Island man" is another way of describing him. Well, at least the Indonesian victims are allowed a country of origin. Of course, since they lived in the same house, we could just as easily say "An Indian millionaire was convicted of enslaving two Long Island women," couldn't we? Here are several more examples of blaming this crime on Americans, New Yorkers, or millionaires.

FOXBusiness - Jun 27, 2008 Varsha Sabhnani was sentenced today to 132 months in prison based on her conviction after trial of forced labor, peonage, harboring aliens, ... BBC News, UK - Jun 27, 2008 A wealthy New York woman has been sentenced to 11 years in jail for keeping two Indonesian women as slaves. Varsha Mahender Sabhnani, 46, and her husband ... Sydney Morning Herald, Australia - Jun 26, 2008 Pictures: AP A wealthy New York woman was sentenced to 11 years in prison today for keeping two Indonesian women as slaves, forcing them to work up to 20 ... Radio Australia, Australia - Jun 26, 2008 A wealthy New York woman has been jailed for 11 years for keeping two Indonesian women as slaves. The two Indonesians were forced to work up to 20 hours a ... ChattahBox, MA - Jun 28, 2008 New York (ChattahBox) - A millionaire couple from Long Island, New York have both been given jail time for holding two Indonesian house maids as slaves. ... CBS2 Chicago, IL - Jun 26, 2008 NEW YORK (AP) — A woman who was convicted with her husband in a notorious modern-day slavery has been sentenced to 11-years in prison on Thursday. ...

Now compare this with the headlines in the Indian Press:


11 Years in Prison for Wife of American Indian Millionaire for Ill-treating Indonesian Maids MedIndia, India - Jun 28, 2008 In December last Mahender Murlidhar Sabhnani (51), and his Indonesian wife Varsha (40) were held guilty of subjecting two Indonesian housemaids to repeated...

Aha! again. And finally, this headline from the Times Of India:

Indians' 'model minority' reputation hit

By Chidanand Rajghatta

28 Jun 2008

In this article Chidanand Rajghatta points to the slavery story and another story that I personally had missed, for which the Times of India headline is  Indian-American gets life term for murder of son's black wife [June 29, 2008] as examples of two stories that have damaged the reputation of Indians abroad.

He worries about it more that he needs to, as he's   reckoned without the ability of American headline writers to obscure issues of race.

You never see a headline like Indian-American gets life term for murder of son's black wife in an American paper, and as for the behavior of the Sabhnanis, that has affected the reputation of "Long Island" men, "Wealthy New Yorkers" "Muttontown millionaires" and Americans in general. (See the headline about "US Woman" above.)

But only a careful reading will connect this offence with immigration from the Indian subcontinent, where such behavior is traditional.

Where do you read coverage like that? Only on, which is why we are once again asking you to send money.

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