WASHINGTON, DC, August 17, 2018 – Yesterday it was reported that outside of Detroit polling precincts Rep. Bettie Cook Scott referred to her opponent State Rep. Stephanie Chang as a “ching-chong” and told one of Rep. Chang’s immigrant volunteers that they “did not belong here”. While Rep. Scott was quick to issue an apology, the JACL recognizes that the language she used is meant to demean Asians and Asian Americans on the basis of their race and further fuels anti-immigrant sentiments. We are saddened that in 2018, even as Asian American candidates make strides towards increased representation in state legislatures, that their campaigns are being tainted by the cultural ignorance of others, in this case by another candidate.
To tell immigrants that they do not belong in America is a dangerous attitude that has fueled many of the hateful anti-immigrant policies of this country’s past and present;the Japanese American community knows all too well where such hateful rhetoric can lead. We believe all immigrants and all people have a rightful place in America, and condemn any attempts to see immigrants, especially those of Asian descent, as perpetually foreign.
JACL recognizes the challenges all women of color, including Rep. Scott, face as they fight for representation in any political sphere. We hope that all women of color have the opportunity to run for political offices judged solely on the merits of their campaign, and are never disparaged for their race.
JACL Detroit chapter president Toshiki Masaki states, “I hope our community can use this as an opportunity to continue building bridges from the Asian American community outward, and that Rep. Scott will join us in this effort. JACL Detroit has a long legacy of seeking to foster better cross-cultural understanding throughout our city’s sometimes strained racial relations.”
We welcome an open discussion with Rep. Scott on how we might combat racism in our community. We expect that our own Asian American community must address the racist attitudes we sometimes perpetuate through anti-blackness or even with other Asian American communities. In these times where xenophobia, ignorance, and racism seek to divide all groups, we hope for and work towards active community healing.