Racist Political Ad from Arkansas Targets South Asians

Check out this racist political ad airing right now in Arkansas:


The ad was created, and is being aired, by Americans for Job Security, a group that claims as its focus issue the problem of American unemployment and outsourcing. This ad criticizes Democrat Bill Halter, the current Lieutenant Governor of Arkansas, who is running against incumbent Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln in the Democratic primary to represent the state’s 1st District.

Now, I don’t blog about this ad because I’m supporting any particular candidate in this race. To be honest, neither Halter nor Lincoln were on my radar before today. As I wrote this post, I turned to the more savvy politcos that I’m currently hanging out with (one being electroman, and another being one of the bloggers of Blog for Arizona) and asked them the following question: “Do you have any particular opinion of Blanche Lincoln?” The unanimous, if relatively non-committal, answer was: “Well, she’s pretty conservative.”

Clearly, all of us in this room have virtually nothing invested in this particular race in Arkansas.

But, what I do have an issue with is this ad, which parrots one of the talking points coming out of the Lincoln campaign. Five years ago or so, Halter sat on the Board of Directors of a company called WebMethods Inc. This attack website charges that during Halter’s time on the board of directors, the company opened an office in Bangalore, India. Lincoln’s campaign is also using this issue to attack Halter; here’s an ad that she is paying to put up on Arkansas air waves:

So, what does all this have to do with race?

Well, first of all, the very idea that outsourcing is negative is steeped in race. While it is arguable that companies opening offices overseas limits American economic growth, the outsourcing hysteria is not based on this point. Instead, fearmongerers who talk about outsourcing in a negative tone draw upon an “Us vs. Them” mentality that falls directly along racial lines. They evoke images of White Americans who are jobless while people of colour find jobs: it’s the same kind of mentality I see here in Arizona when it comes to claims that illegal immigrants are taking jobs from legal citizens. The anger stems from the racist notion that White people are entitled to jobs over people of colour, wherever they may live.

While that idea is veiled in the official Lincoln ad, it is made blatant and obvious in the Americans for Job Security ad. Here, images of South Asians are coupled with stereotypical Asian mandolin music and stereotypical backdrops of India, all to emphasize the foreign-ness of South Asians. This Us vs. Them structure is further established by the juxtaposition of the South Asians thanking Bill Halter in haevily-accented English, while the narrator retorts an accent-free “thanks for nothing”.

The whole ad screams of racist caricature of South Asians, that blames not only Bill Halter, but Asian Indians for Americans’ joblessness. It amounts to a political hate crime against the Asian Indian community.

And beyond the racism, this Daily Kos blog discusses why the charge of outsourcing against Bill Halter may be disingenous and misleading. The long and short of it is that Hater’s company, WebMethods, expanded an international office. And in the same year, they made some money. As Daily Kos points out, WebMethods did not cut any American jobs when they expanded their Bangalore branch, so the charge of outsourcing is based on the notion that potential, not actual, American jobs were lost.

This is the dirty side of the outsourcing debate: the argument that any form of globalization and international business is somehow treasonous towards America. This isn’t based on worry for the American economy, it’s based on sheer xenophobia; further, it myopically ignores the fact that many American-based companies are turning towards foreign markets to expand their businesses. For a country that touts capitalism above all else, this fear of international markets is remarkably non-capitalistic; abject rejection of potential consumers by deliberately avoiding international business only hurts the bottom line.

That being said, my pal who runs Blog for Arizona remarks: “That ad is remarkably racist. But it’s going to work, because it targets fears that Americans (particularly those in Arkansas) have because of the rampang unemployment rate. If you’re going to be a racist Democrat, that ad is the way to do it.”

It’s sad but true that this ad will probably work to attack Bill Halter. If you don’t want it to, you can donate to Halter’s campaign here.

SB 1070: It’s Not THAT Inconvenient…

Folks in support of SB 1070 have argued that it’s not that inconvient to have to carry your immigration papers everywhere you go. Well, I just got this from my local international students and services office:

Be certain to keep your I-94 card safe.  If the I-94 card is lost, stolen or damaged, it must be replaced by applying for a replacement through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.  Currently USCIS charges $320 and the average processing time is 2.5 months.  As a result, it is a costly and time-consuming process to replace an I-94 card.

So… SB 1070 tells international students and legal immigrants to keep your immigration documents in a safe place. As long as that safe place is your purse or your back pocket. And if you lose your immigration papers? Why, that’ll only be $320 of your money, and 3 months of your time when you cannot leave the country.

Yep, totally convenient.

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Categories Categories Arizona, Immigration, Local


Is Arizona’s Anti-Immigration Bill “Already Working”?

Raul Grijalva is leading the charge to protest SB 1070 -- by trying to bankrupt the state with boycotts. Y'know, if state legislators won't listen to reason...

Yesterday, CNN’s Jack Cafferty wrote a (racist) column suggesting that SB 1070 is “already working” to stop illegal immigration. His evidence: Mexico recently issued a travel advisory alert warning Mexican citizens that they may be racially harassed if they visit Arizona. Touting the usual right-wing propaganda, Cafferty cites the  usual, anti-Latino tropes about the illegal immigration “problem”: he thinks all illegal immigrants are Mexican, and all Mexicans are violent, sociopathic drug lords.

That being said — could SB 1070 already be “working”, but in a manner harmful to Arizona’s economy? City officials around the country are joining Congressman Raul Grijalva in calling for an economic boycott of Arizona. And University of Arizona president Robert Shelton sent an email to the campus this morning, saying that campus police will enforce SB 1070 if the law comes into effect. But, Shelton also included the following paragraphs in his statement:

We have already begun to feel an impact from SB1070. The families of a number of out-of-state students (to date all of them honors students) have told us that they are changing their plans and will be sending their children to universities in other states.  This should sadden anyone who cares about attracting the best and brightest students to Arizona.

Additionally, large numbers of UA students, faculty, staff and appointed professionals have expressed concerns that they or members of their families or their friends may now be subject to unwarranted detainment by police.  Many of these individuals are from families that have been residents of Arizona for generations.  While I am completely confident that no one need fear the way that UAPD will approach the application of this law, I nevertheless appreciate the anxiety that friends and colleagues are feeling.  It is a concern and fear that no one should have to harbor.

If Shelton is correct (and there’s no reason to think he would be lying on this point), Arizona is already suffering a blow when it comes to attracting high-quality students to the state. For a state already suffering from enough brain drain that we rank last in the country when it comes to education, Arizona can ill-afford losing this kind of ground when it comes to academia. And we all know that poorer state-wide educatin leads to poorer state-wide economy and fewer jobs — something Arionza should know all too well since Arizona’s state government is virtually bankrupt.

So clearly, SB 1070 is already working — to drive another nail into Arizona’s coffin.

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Categories Categories Arizona, Immigration, Local


Chinese Americans Join Protest against AZ Anti-Immigration Law

Be afraid, for the Asians are mobilizing against racism!

The media seems intent on painting SB 1070, the bill signed into law last week that would make being an undocumented immigrant a state crime, as an anti-Latino law. Everywhere you turn, you hear about the ramifications of this bill against Latino residents of Arizona, both legal and undocumented. But, while the impact of this bill on the Latino community will be profound here in Arizona, I think this insistence on focusing exclusively on SB 1070 as a “Latino” issue creates the same divisive wedge normally used to prevent minority communities from forming coalitions and building bridges. Even Reverend Al Sharpton, who spoke the other night on Larry King Live, failed to talk about the impact of SB 1070 on the non-Hispanic community.

The truth is that SB 1070 is harmful to all Americans, both White and of colour. Yet, we aren’t talking about the fact that the second largest group of undocumented immigrants who cross into America along Arizona’s southern border are ethnic Chinese; Asians in Arizona are also very likely to be targeted for racial profiling by Arizona’s state cops when SB 1070 comes into effect this summer. And we certainly aren’t talking about the dangerous precedent that Arizona’s anti-immigrant law will have across the nation, in terms of state’s rights, legalized racial profiling, and privacy issues; yet, it is these consequences that can have dangerous ramifications for all people of colour.

It is for these reasons that progressive and minority communities should be mobilizing in full force against SB 1070, and not be distracted by the false notion that the law will not affect you. Beyond the fact that we shouldn’t stand idly by while minorities are disenfranchised, we must also recognize how we, too, are threatened by this unjust law.  

New American Media has a short article about Chinese American groups on both the east and west coasts urging their members to participate in protests against SB 1070. Here’s the article:

Chinese Americans to Join Protest against Arizona Law

Chinese American leaders on the east and west coasts urged community members joining the Labor Day demonstration to protest against Arizona’s anti-immigration law. The leaders also called for immigration reform, reports China Press.

Hong Zhen from the New York Immigration Coalition described the Arizona law as “non-American”and an ugly way to criminalize undocumented immigrants. He urged President Obama to reform the immigration system. Li Hua from Chinese Staffs and Workers Association said criminalizing undocumented worker violated human rights.

Meanwhile, Asian community leaders in San Francisco said that even though the Arizona law targeted Latino communities, Asian Americans and members of other ethnic groups should fully participate and show their disagreement on any anti-immigrant law

In addition to the groups described above, the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), chaired by Representative Mike Honda (Democratic Congressman from California) released a statement on behalf of CAPAC on Arizona’s anti-immigrant bill. Here’s an excerpt (read the full text here):

As a Japanese American who spent part of my childhood in an internment camp, I know all too well the effects of scapegoating and racial profiling. I suffered through what happens when governments pass policies based on fear and misguided attempts at law and order.

This law is un-American as it unjustly targets communities of color, in particular immigrant communities, which have been critical to the economic growth of our country throughout our nation’s history.

The law’s enactment also demonstrates the urgent political and moral imperative for the federal government to act now on comprehensive immigration reform.

Comprehensive immigration reform is particularly important for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. There are currently 1.5 million undocumented Asian immigrants who contribute to our communities and economy everyday and who could contribute more if they were legalized. Millions of families are separated for years, sometimes decades, waiting in the backlogs of our broken family visa system.

“This is Alabama. We Speak English.”

Check out this thiry-second TV ad, called “Language”, from Tim James, a Republican running for Albama governor. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

Can you believe this mess?

Tim James is honestly campaigning on a platform of language discrimination. One of his campaign promises is actually to disenfranchise American citizen who don’t speak English by eliminating non-English government documents. 

It’s probably unnecessary for me to point out, but a full 20% of Americans speak primarily a language other than English at home. Of those, roughly 20% speak an Asian language. So, we’re talking about a good chunk of Americans, including a sizeable portion of the Asian American community, who may rely on non-English government documents to function. Further, most of the other 80% of Americans who speak a non-English language at home are Spanish-speaking. Thus, eliminating non-English government documents will overwhelmingly affect members of the Asian and Latino communities — who collectively make up about 4% of Alabama’s population.

Clearly, James isn’t counting on those votes to elect him governor. Although, perhaps he should — a recent poll shows James polling at only 8 points in the Republican Gubernatorial primary in Alabama, behind fellow Republicans Bradley Byrne and Roy Moore. Although, then again, James may also be the joke of the race: not only did his campaign release a whiny press release disputing the numbers of the aforementioned poll (because it shows their candidate doing really badly amongst all segments of Republican voters), but Tim James’ campaign website has to have the single worst example of header image Photoshopping I have ever seen. I mean really — go check out his campaign website. What is up with that header image? Not only are James’ ear and sleeve fading into ghostly non-existence, but that left-over beige background around his neck makes it look like he’s engulfed in a form-fitting plume of desert sand. I guess none of those all-American, English-speaking campaign staff James hired know how to work a background filter, huh?

Oh, and Gawker points out the irony that Tim James, who just hates them foreign languages, is the son of former Alabama Governor Fob James. That’s right — “Fob“.