• Thursday, December 08, 2022

HEADLINE STORY

Racist trolls target NHS GP for snacking at Wimbledon

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Dr Chintal Patel faced abusive comments after she posted a video of herself eating a thepla (a type of flatbread popular in the Gujarati community) during a match at the Wimbledon tennis championships.

By: Lauren Codling

AN NHS doctor has criticised social media platforms for not doing enough to address online abuse after she was targeted by racist trolls earlier this month.

Dr Chintal Patel, a GP based in London, faced abusive comments after she posted a video of herself eating a thepla (a type of flatbread popular in the Gujarati community) during a match at the Wimbledon tennis championships.

Comments on the Instagram post accused her of being “ignorant” and trolls claimed it was the equivalent of “eating a beef burger in a temple”. Others told Patel to “not smell (Wimbledon) out with (her) exotic food” and referred to her as “brown trash”.

Although the racist comments were eventually removed from the post, Patel is angry that Instagram allegedly did nothing to help. The comments were reported, but it was the authors themselves who seemingly took down their posts.

In response to a message from Patel, a member of the Instagram review team said they did not have time to review the content due to the high volume of reports they receive.

They advised her to unfollow or block anyone who was sending abusive messages. “I was really upset about that,” she told Eastern Eye. “Unfollowing or blocking them doesn’t solve the problem, does it?”

She believes social media platforms have a social responsibility to tackle trolling online. “They have to invest in their review teams,” she said. “They have a responsibility (to address the issue).”

Patel decided to share the abuse as she “thought it was an opportunity to challenge racist behaviour”. “Some people told me to rise above it and ignore it, but that isn’t being anti-racist,” she said. “Ignoring it does not educate or challenge or teach. For generations, people have ignored it and I think it is time to change that. We should be challenging it.”

According to official Wimbledon rules, hot and/or strong-smelling food may not be taken onto show courts. Patel, who has attended Wimbledon previously, said her food did not smell strong, but she would have put it away if someone had complained.

“I don’t have an issue if someone has an issue with my food because of the smell, but there is a way of telling people and you don’t have to be racist to do that,” said Patel. “I would never dream of being racist toward someone because I didn’t like their food.”

Patel, who has more than 40,000 followers on Instagram, was backed by numerous people who challenged the trolls about their racist views. Some have even shared photographs and videos of themselves eating thepla in public places.

Abusive comments from the post were later removed

The mother-of-two said the response has “restored her faith in humanity.” “It’s been amazing. I cannot keep up with the positive support I’ve received,” she said. “It has made me realise (the trolls) are in the minority.”

Although Patel said it is the first time she has faced such blatant racial abuse online, she has experienced prejudice before. She revealed she encounters bias frequently in real life and has become “accustomed to facing microaggressions”.

Just recently, she and her family were on holiday in Bournemouth where they were confronted by a woman who told them to leave a café they had entered. “She said it was people like us who were bringing the delta variant into the country,” said Patel, referring to the Covid-19 strain which originated in India. “She said these things in front of my children. It was outright disgusting.”

Others stepped in and defended her. “Two people who were walking by saw what was happening and stopped to support us,” she recalled. “The café owner asked her to leave and gave her money back, saying they didn’t tolerate racism.”

Patel believes the delta variant has increased incidents of racism against Asians. “I think a lot of Indian people have been attacked because of that,” she said.

In response to Eastern Eye, a Facebook company spokesperson said they did “not
want (racist abuse) on Instagram”. “We removed the comments and permanently removed the account that posted them,” they said. “In addition to our work to remove this content, we encourage people to turn on Hidden Words, a tool which means no one has to see abuse in their comments or DMs.

“No one thing will fix this challenge overnight, but we’re committed to keeping our community safe from abuse.”

Eastern Eye

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