One Republican mayor in California has a plan to make his desert city great again: Bring in more Asian and gay people.
In a recently published interview with Vice magazine, Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris said that increasing the Asian population and “the gays,” as he called members of the LGBTQ community, can do a lot of good for a city like Lancaster, which, as Vice pointed out, is now known for its neo-Nazis and meth labs.
“Good things happen when you’re able to increase your Asian population to a certain threshold: Crime rates go down, education levels go up,” Parris told Vice. “Interestingly, the same thing happens with the gays. That’s why I put the new performing arts center right downtown.”
Parris, who’s been described by friends as a “staunch, conservative, Republican, no bull kind of guy,” according to a 2009 Los Angeles Times profile, is no stranger to questionable actions or comments.
The mayor once played recordings of birds chirping on speakers along a city boulevard for five hours a day for 10 months because he believed the sounds would calm residents and reduce crime, according to The Wall Street Journal. In 2014, he was criticized for calling a black City Council candidate a “gang candidate” who would turn Lancaster into a “magnet for street gangs.”
Parris’ comments to Vice about Asian people reflect his ambitious plans to boost the economy by drawing more Chinese people and businesses to the desert city, about 45 miles north of Los Angeles.
The mayor, who’s made business trips to China and has attempted to learn Mandarin, convinced BYD, a Chinese manufacturer of batteries and electric cars, to open up a factory in Lancaster in 2013, according to the L.A. Times. He’s also promoted “birth tourism” in Lancaster for wealthy Chinese families to boost revenue at a local hospital. In a 2013 op-ed published in the local news site My Antelope Valley, Parris said it would “be a blessing” if those children, who would receive citizenship after being born in the U.S., returned to Lancaster “to seek higher education, start a business and raise a family.”
“To me it made perfect sense,” he told Vice in response to the backlash he faced for his outreach to China. “You have affluent Chinese coming over here, and their children become U.S. citizens. We don’t want that?!? … What we should be doing is saying, ‘If you have a Ph.D. in money, we’ll pay you to come.’ Seriously!”
Though Parris’ comments show that he favors Chinese immigrants, they also reveal his apparent prejudices.
The Lancaster mayor seems to label people with racial stereotypes: He views all Chinese people through the Asian “model minority” myth (which research has dispelled) and generalizes LGBTQ people as artistic, creative types ― and it may be the reason he was quick to label the African-American council candidate a “magnet for street gangs.”
This article has been updated to reflect that while Vice’s article was published this year, an underlying interview with Parris was conducted several years earlier.