A CARTOON MOCKING the Indian crew of the Dali — the cargo ship that caused the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland — triggered outrage in the Indian diaspora. The cartoon which first appeared on X (formerly Twitter) appears to be AI-generated racist imagery created by U.S.-based webcomic Foxford Comics. The video features barefoot Indian men clad only in loincloths, standing in muddy water while clasping their heads in shock, and shouting in thick Indian accents, as the ill-fated Dali crashes into the pylon supporting the bridge.

The racist post followed news that the Dali had a 22-man Indian crew on board.

On March 26, the Dali, a cargo ship headed from Baltimore to Sri Lanka, lost power and smashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge, which collapsed into the Patapsco River. Six construction workers lost their lives in the incident, but a timely mayday call from the ship’s crew saved further casualties from happening. With seconds to spare, authorities were able to stop traffic from entering either side of the bridge.

President Joe Biden and Maryland Governor Wes Moore hailed the Dali crew and bridge authorities as heroes.

On social media, however, trolls reacted to the news with racist memes using ethnic slurs about the incident. On X, a user known as @DiogenestheD0G posted the following image.

A racist cartoon of a Sikh man in a turban
A racist cartoon of a Sikh man on the cargo ship Dali. March 27, 2024. (Image via X/Twitter)

On X, LaurenWitzkeDE wrote, “A bunch of Pajeets pulverizing an American bridge named after the man who wrote America’s national anthem really is almost prophetic.” The term pajeet is a stereotypical racist slur used to mock people with Indian-sounding names.

Another AI-generated image showed a movie-style poster of a sari-clad woman glowering over the collapsed bridge, fists raised, with the title “Good Morning Baltimore.”

A cartoon image of a sari-clad woman raising her fists over the Frances Scott Key bridge in Baltimore.
A cartoon image of a sari-clad woman raising her fists over the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore. March 2024. (Image via X/Twitter)

The Foxford Comic cartoon entitled “Last known recording from inside the Dali moments before impact” drew condemnation from the Indian diaspora. On X, reactions called the images “racist,” “bigoted,” ‘“shameful,” “unacceptable,” and “in poor taste.”

Economist Sanjeev Sanyal wrote in a post, “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). But, hey, why give up a chance to do racist cartoons.”

Another user pointed out, “Despite the ship being steered by a local American, the heroism of the all-Indian crew during the Baltimore bridge incident is undeniable. This highlights the importance of recognizing and addressing systemic issues like racism.”

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This story originally appeared in India Currents.