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    Cultural appropriation occurs all too often in our community in Southern California. It is a form of racism that takes aspects of someone else’s culture, religion or identity, and degrades it for personal gain. San Diego’s John Reis does just this when he disrepectfully parades himself around as a Hindu “Swami” on the radio (on 94.9FM), in print (in the San Diego Reader), and on television (Yo Gabba Gabba).

    As you all must know, swamis are the holiest of holy men in Hindu culture in religion, much like rabbis of Judaism and bishops, reverends, or cardinals of Christianity and Catholicism. However, for John Reis, this aspect of Hinduism is something to be appropriated and denigrated for career gain. On his 94.9 website, he placards a tasteless and racist image of a swami while spewing culturally insensitive stereotypes of those from South Asia and the Middle East. He associates swamis with racially charged terms such as “feral,” “deviance,” “primal,” “psychedelic excursions,” “exotic,” and the “reverend of the irreverent.”

    This construction of the “Swami” persona harks back to bigoted concepts of those from South Asia and the Middle East as strange, uncivilized, and even depraved. John Reis continues to propagate an ignorant vision of the “Far East” that has no place in the 21st century, let alone on the San Diego airwaves. The idea that Hindu swamis have anything to do with “magic carpets” is pure and simple a bigoted remark. Apparently he has not heard of Orientalism and is in grave need of a cultural studies education.

    He can’t satisfy himself enough with these stereotypes and, worse yet, associates swamis with “soiled semi-magic carpets.” Disgusting.

    Speak out against racism. Speak out against John “Swami” Reis and his bigoted remarks on the radio and on the internet. Program director Garett Michaels ( of FM94/9 has refused to take a stance or remove John Rei’s bigoted page from the 94/9 website ( Take a look for yourself and take a stance. Send him a message with the subject “STOP SWAMI” with this statement copied in the body.


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