Many people have voted, will vote and are going to vote as the 2010 Midterm Elections are coming to a close. As we begin to debrief and reflect on the election results, I wanted to share with you a statement that many Asian American and Pacific Islander organizations, including the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, have signed onto regarding some of the xenophobic rhetoric used in this year's election campaigns. This is especially relevant as we had a record number of Asian American and Pacific Islander candidates running for office, especially those running in competitive races, who have endured through this xenophobia:
Immigrant and civil rights organizations within the Asian American and Pacific Islander community express concern regarding the use of xenophobic rhetoric and imagery being used in this year's election races. 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.
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)
OCA - Embracing the Hopes and Aspirations of Asian Pacific Americans
Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF)
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)
Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC)