Is Deodorant Racist?

A University of Houston professor is under fire for a letter he sent to graduate students, suggesting they should monitor their personal hygiene. 

While the letter encourages certain behaviors, like showering, using deodorant, and dental health, the criticism comes from what are perceived as racist undertones in the letter, where the engineering professor singled out certain ethnicities.  The letter references Indians for their use of spices, and Southeast Asians who “use a lot of garlic.”

UH student Gisselle Gurra tells our TV partner KPRC Channel-2 she’s offended. “I don’t think it’s appropriate at all.  He didn’t have to go into detail about different cultures and what they eat.   I personally think that’s racist.”

Fellow student Harry Minosha saw the letter differently.  “Being Indian, I’m not offended.   I know how those things smell, right, so, and being from a different country, we are representing our people here, so might as well leave a good impression on them and not smell bad.”

The University has come to the professor’s defense.  They released a statement reading, “The message posted by a professor for graduate students was shared with good intentions and meant to help any student avoid potentially embarrassing or awkward situations by making them aware of the hygiene practices that prevail in the US.”

Judge for yourself;  here is the letter that was sent to students:

"Hi, All:

"Welcome to campus. I would like to mention one sensitive issue that we do need to discuss. The issue has to do with personal hygiene and being considerate to others. This note is in no way to offend you and is being sent to all the graduate students. People from different parts of the world have different food habits and many Americans do enjoy ethnic foods. People from India use lots of spices and people from other Southeast Asian countries use lot of garlic which has lots of health benefits. However, there is one problem. The body odor due to consumption of these foods becomes strong. Also, several of our students do not change their shirts daily. The shirt may not look dirty but has absorbed one's body odor after wearing it whole day. To make the matters worse, Houston is very hot and humid most of the year and the perspiration from our body adds to the odor problem further. Here are some of the things that one can do (and must do):

"Please take shower every morning. If you have a quiz or test, please do not skip taking daily shower. Most Americans shower twice daily once in the morning and once before going to bed.

"Please use deodorant/antiperspirant or light perfume after taking shower.

"Please change your shirt on daily basis.

"If you do eat spicy/garlicky food, please use mouth wash.

"The person having the odor is the last person to know it. However, it is not bearable for someone sitting next to you for hour and half or longer. So, please be considerate to others beginning today. Remember you are the ambassador of your country and do not want people to remember you as the one having bad odor.

"Once again, we sincerely hope that your stay at the University of Houston is a true learning experience for you."

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