Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

There’s nothing more uncomfortable than accepting an invitation to a dinner party only to discover over the salad course that your host’s girlfriend is a virulent racist. Just ask Sir Ben Kingsley.

Gawker.com published this blind item a few days ago:

“Ben Kingsley told a story on The View this morning about an unpleasant dinner he had at the home of a Hollywood actor: ‘There are times when I wish I could have said or done something differently. [For example] The last time I was here, there was an old Hollywood actor who invited me back to his home. He was with his aging German girlfriend. I was instantly nervous around her. During the meal, she said “Are you Jewish?” And I said, “No as a matter of fact, I’m half Indian and half English.” And she said “Oh my god, that’s even worse.” [audience gasps] So, I did not drop my knife and fork and say “F* you.” I stayed in a state of rage throughout the dinner. Why? Because everything happens for a reason. And now here I am with you and [pointing at the camera] if you’re still around, you racist old witch…[gesturing to The View panel] these girls have now heard it, and you know who you are! You know who you are!’

Nearly everyone reading this can relate to this story at least a little. I certainly know what it is like to silently sit in a state of rage after hearing a racist remark at a party, wishing I had either a) called the person out, b) immediately gone home, or c) both. I have to admit that I’m a bit jealous that Kingsley got to verbally tear this woman to shreds on national television. Who hasn’t imagined doing that?

Watch the video below for the full effect of Kingsley’s tale (complete with faux German accent.) The look on his face as he shouts “You know who you are!” is priceless.

How have mutineers handled situations like this? What would you have done differently if given a do-over? And any guesses as to who hosted this ill-fated dinner party? (Most of the Gawker commenters think it’s this Hollywood legend, which, if true, would make me more than a little sad.)

Cross-posted on Sepia Mutiny.

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6 thoughts on “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

  1. I’m shy with people and never very quick in responding on the spot to people with prejudices but in fact maybe if we let these things pass it’s because we really know that if they’re like that, they probably wouldn’t “get it” anyway. (But because the guilty party was a celebrity, what Kingsley did here – to call her and her host out publicly – is probably the most effective thing he could have done in any case).

    However I feel I must point out that in telling his own story about being insulted, Kingsley manages to reveal two major prejudices of his own: he casually slurs old/older women (it’s in the way he says it), and he shows his insensitivity or ignorance regarding persecution of “witches,” which is a complex problem in human rights involving injustice, torture, and genocide, both historically and currently, in many cultures including both India and England (his own).

    Also I’m wondering why he doesn’t call out the host as vehemently as he does the girlfriend – where was he in all this? It was the host’s duty to apologize or do something when such a blatant insult occurred. At least one of the View women did have the quickness of wit to point out to Kingsley that he’d insulted “old” (and you notice that he simply ignored the rebuke as not worthy of response), though to most people including the View crew it’s obviously still considered okay to use “witch” as an epithet.

    In short, I’ve always been a Ben Kingsley fan but this strikes me as a case of the pot calling the kettle black (and before you yell at me for that, the black in question is not a racial reference).

    • Lakshmi says:

      I agree. I wish that he hadn’t described the girlfriend as “aging.”

      Perhaps part of the reason he didn’t call the host out was because the host of the party was a powerful Hollywood actor? Hollywood being the small town that it is, BK could have been concerned about alienating a future co-worker.

      • Lakshmi says:

        PS- everyone knows that the phrase “pot calling the kettle black” isn’t about race. No need to be defensive.

  2. Atharvana says:

    Thanks Lakshmi. Also, viewing the video, my first impression of the reaction of the audience to the lady’s remark “oh my god that is even worse” was that they seem to take it in a lighter vein of humor (laughter) rather than expressing their disgust. However, to even it out they laugh even louder at the end in reaction to Mr. Kingsley’s “racist old witch” comment. But, the larger question is apart from the entertainment value what good purpose this segment of the interview serve other than highlighting the prejudices and ignorance that continue to exist? None. Mr. Kingsley with his intellect and talent wasted a chance to reason with the lady and his rage got hold of better part of him.

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