By Guest Contributor: Christine Chen, Executive Director of APIAVote (@apiavote)
Edison town council member Sapana Shah realized something was wrong the moment she checked social media, learning that she and her neighbors received the same anti-Asian mailer Wednesday which featured a “deport” stamp on the photos of two Asian school board candidates. The postcard also read, “The Chinese and Indians are taking over our town.”
Targeting candidates based on bias and hate toward various ethnic, racial or religious identity is not new. And Shah is no stranger to it as a candidate. She recounted multiple incidents to me over the phone. Shah, a long-time resident in the Edison township of Middlesex County, New Jersey, was told to go back to her country when she ran for local elected office. She once found her campaign signs inscribed with the words “dot head,” an offensive racial slur. As a town council member, Shah endured insults from residents who shouted her down at the end of a public meeting for voting to include Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, as a school holiday.
When individuals are targets of hate, it not only affects them but also entire communities.
An unknown number of Edison, New Jersey residents received a racist, anti-Asian campaign mailer in the post earlier this week attacking local school board candidates Falguni Patel and incumbent Jerry Shi. The mailer proclaims that we should “Make Edison Great Again” and that “the Chinese and Indians are taking over our town!”
“Chinese school! Indian school! Cricket fields! Enough is Enough!!” reads the text of the postcard, which also includes images of Patel and Shi above “Deport” graphics.
The back of the mailer lists several anti-Asian stereotypes — including the Perpetual Foreigner stereotype — with the text: “Stop the overcrowding! Stop taking over our sports fields! Stop the McMansions! Stop the multiple families living in the same house! Stop wasting school holidays! Stop the outsiders! Let’s take back our Edison & our schools!”
On September 12th, New York City’s registered Democrats will head to the polls for the Democratic primaries, and voters living in the city’s 20th City Council district – which includes downtown Flushing, Murray Hill, and Queensboro Hill – will be faced with a choice for the first time in eight years between two-term incumbent City Councilmember Peter Koo and challenger, Alison Tan. This race is of particular interest to Asian American New Yorkers: not only are more than 60% of District 20’s constituency Asian American, but issues within the purview of City Council – such as affordable housing, urban development, and public transportation – are of specific relevance to Flushing residents.
The contest between Koo and Tan has turned decidedly acrimonious in recent months: both candidates have drawn clear distinctions between one another with regard to policy, but the contest has also gotten deeply personal from both sides. Last week at a Candidate’s Forum organized by a coalition of New York-area Asian American groups, the personal attacks took a viciously sexist undertone as Councilmember Koo deployed both implied and overt assaults on Tan’s identity as a working woman, mother, and aspiring female politician.