This ish is bananas, y’all. Michigan U.S. Senate candidate Pete Hoesktra is in hot water for perpetuating racist Asian stereotypes from a campaign ad that ran during last night’s Super Bowl. For those who don’t want to watch the ad, here’s a transcript of what the young woman says:
“Thank you, Michigan Senator Debbie Spenditnow. Debbie spends so much American money. You borrow more and more from us. Your economy get very weak. Ours get very good. We take your jobs. Thank you, Debbie Spenditnow.”
A Washington Post article notes the ad has been criticized by at least one GOP operative and an Asian-American voter organization:
GOP consultant Nick De Leeuw flat-out scolded the Holland Republican for the ad.
“Stabenow has got to go. But shame on Pete Hoekstra for that appalling new advertisement,” De Leeuw wrote on his Facebook page Sunday morning. “Racism and xenophobia aren’t any way to get things done.”
The nonpartisan Asian & Pacific Islander American Vote group’s Michigan chapter said it was “deeply disappointed” by the ad, noting that the Asian-American community is a major contributor to Michigan’s economy. In 2010, Michigan’s 236,490 Asian-Americans made up 2.4 percent of the state’s population, up 35 percent from 2000.
“It is very disturbing that Mr. Hoekstra’s campaign chose to use harmful negative stereotypes that intrinsically encourage anti-Asian sentiment,” the group said in a statement.
Hoekstra campaign spokesman Paul Ciaramitaro said the ad is meant to be satirical. Hoekstra’s Facebook page, which by early evening was getting a barrage of criticism on the ad, snapped back that those “trying to make this an issue of race demonstrates their total ignorance of job creation policies.” On YouTube, the ratings buttons on the ad were disabled after it aired.
“Democrats talk about race when they can’t defend their records,” Ciaramitaro said. “The U.S. economy is losing jobs to China because of Stabenow’s reckless spending policies. China is reaping the reward.”
Why do people think they can hide behind satire and/or humor when it comes to not only appropriating an oppressed group’s culture, but also promoting long-held racist, xenophobic stereotypes? Why is humor and satire the default defense one employs when it comes to making racist, xenophobic, transphobic, ableist, and homophobic beliefs known to the public at large?
Defending your racist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist or xenophobic beliefs or statements as humor or satire doesn’t make your abhorrent behavior more acceptable; it just makes you a racist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, xenophobic jerk who isn’t funny enough to rely on anything else except for harmful stereotypes to connect with an audience.
Pete Hoekstra made the issue about race when he decided to harp on the latent racist and xenophobic sentiments rampant among many conservatives when it comes to their feelings about American jobs being stolen by China. Pete Hoekstra made the issue about race when he employed an Asian woman to speak in broken English (but without an accent???) and appropriated the landscape and terrain of China to get his racist, xenophobic message across to white, middle class voters who may have an inkling of racist, xenophobic sentiments lurking in their subconscious.
While some Democrats may talk about race when they can’t defend their records, as Ciaramitaro pointed out, Republicans use race and racism to get elected when they don’t have anything of substance to run a campaign on. Pete Hoekstra has joined a long lineage of conservative politicians, from Strom Thurmond and Ronald Reagan to Jesse Helms and Newt Gingrich, that’s proving this political theory to be a scientific fact.