The Japanese American Citizens League issued the following statement on Aug. 7.
The battle to win favor in the marketplace of political ideas took a distasteful turn recently with racial rhetoric at a political rally in Wyoming and in an election campaign in Kentucky. Twitter posts attacked Elaine Chao, the former secretary for the Department of Labor, and musician Ted Nugent used a vile racial slur at a political rally.
Chao, who is married to Sen. Mitch McConnell, was the target of a racial attack in an attempt to tarnish McConnell’s campaign for the Senate in Kentucky. In several Twitter posts, Kathy Groob, a Democratic activist and the founder of a group called Elect Women, said, “She (Chao) isn’t from KY, she is Asian,” and “Wedded to free trade China.” The posts were rebuked by the Democratic Party and were taken down.
While speaking before the Big Horn Basin Tea Party gathering, Nugent used the slur “Japs” to underscore his notion of evil. In criticizing the government, he said, “…We have bent over since World War II because we couldn’t believe that good — the universally celebrated good of America crushed the universally understood evil of Japs and Nazis. We couldn’t believe that the government that represented us in good over evil could possibly turn on us …”
The use of racism continues to plague the everyday lives of Asian Americans in the utterances by Groob and Nugent. It’s unfortunate that racist quips continue as a convenient tool to inflame a pliable segment of the electorate. The JACL has consistently railed against these tactics because we know that provoking fear by using racism is often effective.
The JACL has stated repeatedly that it is important to confront racism wherever it appears. We cannot afford to be bystanders, especially when haters seek to spread fear. In the coming months, political campaigns will seek to gain an advantage where the partisan divides are deep and where certain issues are extremely contentious.
It will be important for everyone to remain vigilant and respond where necessary because our best defenses for combating racism are education and the reliance on good people to stand up, speak out, and reject it.