• Sunday, April 21, 2024


‘Racist’ cartoon, posts target Indian crew of vessel that rammed Baltimore bridge

The controversial content flooded social media platform X even though US president Joe Biden and Maryland governor Wes Moore had praised the Indian sailors for raising a timely alarm that saved lives.

The controversial cartoon targeting Indian crew members of the ship ‘Dali’ that hit a bridge in Baltimore, US, causing its collapse. (Picture: Foxford Comics X account/@FoxfordComics)

By: Shubham Ghosh

AFTER six people were presumed to be dead after a cargo ship collided with the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore on Tuesday (26), a wave of racist posts and memes against Indians flooded the social media since it was reported that the entire crew of the vessel, Dali, were Indians of whom one was injured.

The Singapore-flagged ship lost power and hit a concrete pier supporting the bridge over Patapsco River and a key connectivity in the region, leading to its collapse within seconds. The dead included some construction workers and according to some of the top leaders of the US, including president Joe Biden, a timely alert from the crew had prevented more loss of lives as transportation authorities stopped movement on the collapsing bridge.

Maryland governor Wes Moore even called the crew “heroes” for preventing more deaths since the bridge handles a massive traffic.

Read: Baltimore collision: Indian embassy in US condoles; Biden lauds ship crew’s quick action

However, that did not stop the allegedly racist depictions from flooding the social media platforms. One cartoon, for instance, was shared by Foxford Comics, an American webcomic known for politically incorrect takes, on X that showed some terrified brown-skinned people wearing only loincloths in the control room of a ship, frantically trying to avert the mishap but in vain. It also carried an audio of people swearing at each other in English but in an Indian accent.

“Last known recording from inside the Dali moments before impact,” the post read.

Read: Explainer: Baltimore bridge collapse & its impact

The graphic, which was posted on Wednesday (27), went viral garnering more than four million views and thousands of comments. Users reacted to it accusing it of not only depicting the Indians negatively but also undermining the ship’s crew.

Indian writer and economist Sanjeev Sanyal shared the cartoon and wrote that ‘Dali’ was likely being steered by a local pilot when the accident took place and reminded that Moore had thanked the Indian crew and called them “heroes”.

“At the time that the ship hit the bridge, it would have had a local pilot. In any case, the crew had warned the authorities which is why the casualties were relatively few (for such a disaster). The mayor in fact thanked the Indian crew as “heroes” for raising an alarm that limited casualties,” he said.


X user Pooja Sangwan seconded Sanyal’s thoughts and posted with a video of Moore praising the Indian crew, “It’s shameful that people are mocking Indian crew for the tragic incident. Meanwhile the governor himself praised the crew.”

There were more racially motivated posts that were doing rounds on social media following the incident.

Lauren Witzke, a far-right political activist, wrote on X, “A bunch of Pajeets pulverizing an American bridge named after the man who wrote America’s national anthem really is almost prophetic.”

Pajeet is a racist slur in the west to mock Sikhs who often have names ending with “jeet”.

Many Indian X users said that casual racism against Indians is a normal practice on the platform. To that, handles that posted such content mocked that “Indians cannot take a joke”.

While Indian-Americans have been playing significant roles in the US society today, taking big strides in the political arena, there have also been growing instances of attacks on Indian-Americans or people of Indian origin, especially students, in the US of late. Nine Indian students have died in the US, some under mysterious conditions, in the US this year.

The White House had said that the Biden administration was working very hard to prevent attacks on Indian and Indian American students in the country.

The growing instances of deaths of Indian students recently saw Indian American business executive and the former CEO of PepsiCo, Indra Nooyi, advising them to be watchful and ensure their own safety in America.

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