WASHINGTON, D.C. (Feb. 7, 2012) — The Organization of Chinese Americans, a national organization dedicated to advancing the social, political and economic well-being of Asian Pacific Americans, urges Mr. Pete Hoekstra to apologize for the “Debbie-spend-it-now” advertisement recently aired widely during the Super Bowl on Feb. 5, 2012 and discontinuance of other inflammatory messaging.
Anti-Asian sentiments within often unfounded economic context have in the past gravely influenced antagonistic sentiments resulting in violent and fatal attack on such individuals as Vincent Chin, in the home state of Mr. Hoekstra in the 1980s and the massacre of Chinese immigrants in California during the 1800s to name a few.
According to Feb. 6, 2012 AP article by Kathy Barks Hoffman titled “Critics worry Senate ad will revive Asian-bashing,” a GOP consultant Mike Murphy tweeted that it was “really, really dumb…” Foreign Policy magazine managing editor Blake Hounshell called the ad “despicable.”
OCA as a national civil rights organization with over 80 chapters and affiliates urges all candidates and political organizations, when addressing their audience to be respectful of the multi-ethnic fabric of America. To this end, APAs in their own right are and continue to be strong social, economic, and political contributors and leaders of all ideological persuasion and affiliations. The debate should be issue-focused without resorting to unfair and inaccurate comparisons. Demonizing a specific class of people using fear tactics based on broad political and economic generalizations or predictions should not be tolerated by the community at-large.
Our non-partisan position stands (originally issued on Nov. 1, 2010):
Statements and electoral campaign tactics from public officials and political candidates that malign Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders as well as other communities of color have emerged and continue in the months leading up to the elections. Such messaging has harmfully impacted our communities and the undersigned organizations urge all candidates, political parties, and those who attain office to ensure that civility and inclusion return to the national political discourse.
Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have experienced an extended history of treatment as “perpetual foreigners.” This stereotype has unfortunately manifested itself in the political realm where the community has repeatedly been portrayed as disloyal and threatening, particularly in the years following 9/11; often cast as outsiders seeking to “steal American jobs”; looked at with suspicion and fear; and painted as aliens within a country we have long called home. This election year, candidates of Asian American or Pacific Islander descent have been called racial epithets and accused of being unable to relate to voters because of accents or “foreign” last names. Other remarks have alluded to fears of immigrant, including Muslim, “invasions.” Concerns about the economy have also exacerbated the scapegoating of minorities. For example, in numerous political advertisements blaming trade and outsourcing to China as a reason for the country’s current economic distress, the faces of Asian Americans are conflated with the idea of threatening foreign powers.
Inserting xenophobic rhetoric and imagery within political discourse has wide-ranging consequences affecting how members of certain groups are viewed by the public and treated by the government. The combined impact of xenophobic rhetoric used by politicians and candidates has already reached a critical stage, most recently in the aftermath of statements made by candidates against the Park51 Islamic cultural center in Lower Manhattan. Ahmed Sharif, a Bangladeshi-American cab driver who has lived in the United States for 25 years was brutally stabbed by a passenger who asked if he was Muslim, and a turbaned Sikh convenience store clerk in Seattle was punched in the head after being called “Al-Qaeda.” Such hate crimes show that the use of racist and xenophobic rhetoric has real-life consequences.
As Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders become more involved in civic life, we call upon political parties to promote an environment that welcomes the inclusion of diverse perspectives and experiences. In the final day before this year’s elections, we urge political candidates to refrain from using xenophobic language and imagery. We also urge those elected into office to support policies that address the discrimination and bias that our community members continue to face.
Disclaimer: The signatory organizations are non-profit, non-partisan organizations and neither support nor oppose any political party or candidate running for public office.
OCA – Embracing the Hopes and Aspirations of Asian Pacific Americans
Asian American Justice Center (AAJC)
Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS)
Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA)
Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO)
Japanese American Citizens League (JACL)
Laotian American National Alliance (LANA)
National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association
National Korean American Service and Education Consortium (NAKASEC)
Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF)
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)
Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC)