AZ just passed a bill that would allow businesses to blindly discriminate against… uh, anyone.

same-sex-arizona

It’s been about three years since I’ve lived in Arizona, but while I lived there, I used to contribute to the best political blog in the state – Blog for Arizona; in this capacity, I was privy to a lot of the sheer ridiculousness that the Legislature of that state passes off as “doing the people’s work”. I didn’t think much could surprise me anymore — not when they outlawed ethnic studies; or banned affirmative action; or passed SB1070; or even passed the birther bill after Arizonans were convinced then-Senator Barack Obama was secretly born in Kenya.

But, I gotta tell you, SB1062 — which passed the Arizona State Senate yesterday by pretty wide margins — has thrown me for a bit of a loop.

Continue reading “AZ just passed a bill that would allow businesses to blindly discriminate against… uh, anyone.”

Asians Behaving Badly: Shashank Tripathi spread false updates during Hurricane Sandy

This past week, the East Coast was slammed by Hurricane Sandy, a category 1 hurricane that caused widespread flooding and power outages throughout some of the country’s most populous areas and left more than sixty people dead. During the hurricane, one anonymous Twitter account, @ComfortablySmug, was caught red-handed engaged in unspeakably irresponsible behaviour.

This Twitter user was, for reasons known only to himself, spreading false and alarming reports about the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy — everything from reporting that all power was going to be shut down throughout the entire island of Manhattan to Governor Cuomo being trapped in a flooded building to flooding of the New York Stock Exchange — to his over 6000 Twitter followers. (This Tumblr contains screen caps of many of ComfortablySmug’s alarming and false reports.)

This was a made-up report. The NYSE building did not flood during Hurricane Sandy.

The report of the NYSE building flooded was picked up by CNN and re-tweeted (apparently with no additional fact-checking done) for several hours, before it was later recanted by both CNN and refuted by the official NYSE Twitter account. But damage had already been done: this and the rest of ComfortablySmug’s false reports spread rapidly throughout Twitter — some being re-tweeted over 600 times  by users believing the reports to be fact — and causing unknown panic and confusion during an already hysterical time.

In the wake of this bizarrely trollish behaviour, Buzzfeed’s Jack Stuef outted ComfortablySmug as Shashank Tripathi, a hedge fund analyst and Republican political consultant working as campaign manager for Republican Christopher Wight’s congressional bid for the 12th district this year. Tripathi may also have served as a volunteer coordinator for the Romney campaign.

Shashank Tripathi is pictured on the left with Congressional candidate Christopher Wight another hedge fund analyst. Tripathi served as Wight’s campaign manager until today, when he was summarily fired for his irresponsible tweets during Hurricane Sandy. I’m not responsible for the editorializing in this picture, but I agree with the sentiment.

Tripathi, who appears to be of Asian Indian descent, offered the following apology on his Twitter account today along with news of his “resignation” from the Wight campaign (which was quick to condemn and repudiate its former campaign manager):

Yeah, we all believe that he voluntarily resigned. Before he could be fired.

Tripathi offered no explanation for his bizarre behaviour over the last 48 hours, but in truth there was probably no explanation that could be satisfying. Anonymity, assholery, attention-whoring, narcissicm — it may be all of these things and none of these things. In the end, there can be no rational explanation for leveraging one’s Twitter fame to spread false reports that only serve to cause confusion and panic during a natural disaster.

All I know is that Shashank Tripathi, you win today’s award for the worst person in the world. You’re a disgrace to the race.

Can the Ku Klux Klan Re-Brand Itself?

The KKK wants to adopt a highway.

Earlier today, CNN’s inAmerica‘s Alicia Stewart posted about efforts by a North Georgia Ku Klux Klan chapter to adopt a local stretch of highway. That application was recently rejected, despite claims by KKK leaders that the Klan is a misunderstood, and ultimately peace-loving, organization.

“We do not hate anyone,” said Frank Ancona, the imperial wizard of the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. “The true Ku Klux Klan is an organization that is looking out for the interests of the white race. It is a fraternal organization, and we do good works.”

Ancona’s words are a contrast to criminal acts historically associated with the Klan – a divergence from intimidating images of hooded figures with lit crosses cutting through a dark night.

“We look out for the interest of our family first, I feel that other races feel the same way – it’s a natural instinct, ” he adds.

According to CNN’s reporting, the Georgia Department of Transportation makes the Adopt-A-Highway program open to “any civic-minded organization, business, individual, family, city, county, state or federal agency”; participating groups are provided vests and other equipment by the state to keep a chosen stretch of highway clean of litter. Adopt-A-Highway programs are funded locally (and receive no federal money), but do fall under the purvue of the laws of individual states.

Legally-speaking, I’m not sure whether or not the KKK have a “right” to adopt a stretch of highway. Article One of the Georgia constitution delineate the rights of Georgian residents to equal protection under the law, as well as the freedom of religion and peaceable assembly; all of these rights seem relevant in this case. Is it fair for the contemporary KKK members to be prevented from participating in this state program, based almost solely on who they are? On the one hand, this seems like clear discrimination against the Klan and its members by the Georgia state government.

A Missouri chapter of the KKK successfully won a lawsuit to adopt a stretch of highway, but were eventually kicked out of the program for failing to keep their highway clean. Also, the state of Missouri responded by re-naming the highway in memory of Rosa Parks.

That being said, it’s impossible to extricate this incident from the mission of the Ku Klux Klan, and its violent history in carrying out its aims. The Ku Klux Klan is the nation’s oldest domestic terrorist and white supremacist organization, and during its hey-day, was given free reign to legally and extra-legally intimidate, assault, and even murder men and women of all races and creeds. The Klan of the twenty-first century claims to be a peaceful organization rather than a hate group, but actions speak louder than words: KKK members have continued to conduct lynchings as recently as the 1980’s, and former KKK leaders founded Stormfront, the Internet’s leading white supremacist website wherein racial hatred and intolerance runs rampant.

Most importantly, the KKK has yet to openly denounce its violent history and to repudiate current and former KKK members who have committed crimes in the name of the Klan. The KKK has yet to apologize for the countless deaths suffered at the hands of its members.  The KKK has yet to ban cross-burning, despite the historical use of burning crosses to intimidate and terrorize people of colour. One KKK leader interviewed by CNN claimed, “Jesus Christ is our criteria of character. If you look at Romans 12:1-2,  that is how Klans are  supposed to live, that is the standard. We do not burn the cross, we light the cross to show that Christ is the light of the world.”

Because burning the symbol of your religious Saviour is TOTALLY a sign of reverence, faith and devotion.
And, this guy is a patriot.

The public simply can’t be expected to forget the Klan’s crimes of the past, no matter how hard the Klan of today wants to re-brand itself as kinder, gentler and friendlier. And that brings me to the whole notion of the Klan trying to re-brand itself in the first place.

I present the KKK's newest marketing campaign: "Klan WOW!"

The KKK of today describes itself as a civic-minded organization, no different from other groups devoted to Black or Latino pride:

“We’re not racists,” [April Chambers, secretary of the North Georgia KKK chapter] told CNN Monday. “We just want to be with white people. If that’s a crime, then I don’t know. It’s all right to be black and Latino and proud, but you can’t be white and proud. I don’t understand it.”

But, how exactly do you re-brand white supremacy?

Racial supremacy is simply not the same thing as race nationalism or pride. Groups devoted to cultural and racial uplift do just that — they sponsor efforts to increase awareness and focus on culturally-specific histories and traditions. At best, they hope to instill pride into members of traditionally oppressed racial or ethnic groups; in short, to encourage folks not to be ashamed (or ignorant) of their racial identities. In the Asian American community, Asian American nationalist efforts are aimed at encouraging Asian Americans to think of their racial identity as just as worthwhile as any other.

This is in stark contrast to white supremacy, which is by definition based on the idea that Whiteness is superior to other racial identities. This is not about promoting shared racial history and traditions; proving one’s own race as “superior” can only occur when members of other races are proved to be “inferior”. And therein lies the rub: no matter how you try to dress it up, spouting the inferiority of other racial groups is, simply and plainly, racist hate speech.

And, I am still a pig.

Allowing the KKK to sponsor a stretch of highway, and in so doing to plaster their name on signs along that stretch of highway, is — in the end — inappropriate. As long as the KKK remains committed to exclusion, oppression and intolerance towards others, I have a hard time accepting that the public should be inclusive and tolerant of them, and further to defend their right to participate in civil programs.

On the other hand, there is something strangely poetic about the KKK — a formerly widespread and powerful hategroup  –being reduced to begging to pick up my trash. It couldn’t have happened to a more deserving domestic terrorist organization. I don’t normally litter, but if I ever find myself on a piece of highway adopted by the KKK, I might actually make an exception.

Seems somehow fitting for racist trash to pick up the garbage of others.

Kamala Harris Wins CA Attorney General Race

Kamala Harris is California's first Asian American, African American and woman attorney general.

After weeks of vote tallying, a winner in California’s tightest attorney general race has emerged: Kamala Harris, a Democrat, has bested opponent Steve Cooley for the state’s top law enforcement position. Harris’ victory, narrowly eked out with a margin of less than 50,000 votes, makes her the first woman, the first Asian American, the first African American, and the first Indian American attorney general of California.

Despite Cooley having declared victory moments after polls closed on Election Night, the outcome of the race has been uncertain for weeks, with Cooley and Harris trading leads as precincts have reported in. This week, however, Harris’ lead widened as only 150,000 votes remained to be counted. Earlier this morning, Cooley conceded the race to Harris, and his campaign consultant told media, “the margin is just too great to be made up with the votes that remain to be counted.”

Congratulations to Kamala Harris and her ground-breaking victory in California! Since I’m in Arizona, where the Republicans all but swept the state-wide offices, I’m delighted to see a little more sense in our neighbours to the West.

Oakland Elects Their First Asian American and Female Mayor

Jean Quan will be Oakland's first Asian American and first woman mayor!

The hotly contested race for Oakland was called yesterday for Jean Quan, a former City Council member whom The Bay Citizen described as “hard-working but less-than-exciting”.

Quan won the race against Ron Dellums after the city’s ranked-choice voting system was fully tallied. According to The Bay Citizen, voters are able to put down a first, second and third-choice on their ballot, which are considered in the final vote tallies if no candidate obtains 50% of the electorate. After election night, Quan had a nine-point deficit behind opponent Don Perata, who found a loophole in the campaign finance laws to vastly outspend his opponents.

Political observers said the “anybody but Don” movement — voters who were suspicious of Perata’s ethics after a five-year corruption probe by the FBI — helped carry Quan to victory and keep Perata off ballots as a second choice.

“She ran a very focused campaign to be the second-place candidate” for a lot of voters, said Jim Ross, who ran third-place finisher Rebecca Kaplan’s campaign. “She never spoke ill of anyone except Don Perata, and she really became the leader of the “not Don Perata” sentiment in Oakland. And that’s how she became everybody’s second choice.” 

It will be interesting to see how Quan fares after winning by such a narrow margin (less than a percentage point, after the ranked-choice votes were included in the final tallies), and particularly whether Quan will suffer difficulties having won by a majority of “second-choice votes” — hardly a mandate from voters. 

Quan’s victory is the second Asian American “firsts” out of the Bay Area this election cycle: with Gavin Newsom’s victory as lieutenant governor, I wrote last week how David Chu will be San Francisco’s first Asian American acting (or appointed) mayor. It’s exciting to see both men and women making Asian American history this elction cycle!