Sunday, November 07, 2010

Beyond FRUSTRATION: Report Documents Discriminatory Political Rhetoric

My last post mentioned some of the obstacles faced this election year by many national candidates of South Asian descent. Those obstacles include negative remarks made by opponents that directly attack cultural heritage and religious affiliations. SAALT, South Asian Americans Leading Together, recently released a report on just this subject. Called “From Macacas to Turban Toppers: The Rise in Xenophobic and Racist Rhetoric in American Political Discourse,” this report reveals not only that xenophobia and racism are being used to “stir negative responses against political candidates of South Asian descent,” but that citizens who are “South Asians, Muslims, Sikhs, and Arab Americans have been the targets of such rhetoric by public officials and political candidates from both sides of the aisle.”

In an essay posted on New American Media, SAALT executive director Deepa Iyer and policy director Priya Murthy state that while “xenophobic and racist rhetoric has been part of our country’s political life for hundreds of years,” the situation has worsened considerably in recent years. During the 2010 campaign, Mike Pompeo, a Congressional candidate in Kansas, posted onto Twitter a link to a blog post that included the following about Raj Goyle, his opponent: “This guy could be a muslim, a hindu, a Buddhist etc who knows, only God, the shadow and ...goyle knows! One thing’s for sure…goyle is not a Christian! This goyle character is just another ‘turban topper’ we don’t need in congress or any political office that deals with the U.S. Constitution, Christianity and the United States of America!”

Pompeo was elected to Congress last week.

Of all the South Asian American candidates for national office featured in the NPR article noted in my last post, not one won.

But watch for Hansen Clarke, a Detroit native newly elected to serve the state of Michigan in Congress. Learn more about Clarke, whose father was from India, in this HuffPost piece by University of Michigan associate professor of history and American culture, Scott Kurashige, who calls Clarke “The Dem’s Rising Star from Detroit.”

Someday we’ll have a government that truly represents our diverse citizenry, and maybe then xenophobia and racism will no longer be part of our political rhetoric. One can only hope, pay attention, and vote.

Photo of Deepa Iyer ©


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