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Open Letter to Senatorial Candidate Pete Hoekstra

Dear Mr. Hoekstra,

My name is Kyle Kamidoi and I am a second year law student at Wayne State University Law School. I am also the President of the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association (APALSA), and Public Relations Director of the National Asian Pacific American Law Students Association (NAPALSA). I am writing to you today regarding a campaign ad dubbed "Now" that you recently aired during the Super Bowl. In the ad you depict a young Chinese woman speaking broken English and talking about the outsourcing of Michigan jobs to foreign competitors. On behalf of my organization and supporting organizations I request that you formally apologize to the Pacific & Asian American community for this blatantly racist and xenophobic ad.

To see this type of racial insensitivity against the Pacific & Asian American community in this day and age is not only disheartening, but also a sad reminder of the racial strides that this society still needs to take. This blatantly racist ad has shown me that though the Asian American culture has taken strong steps in the past few decades, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.

It has been nearly 30 years since the beating death of Vincent Chin that was spurred by the fear of foreign job outsourcing and the xenophobic ideology of the time period. Since then the Pacific & Asian American community has pushed forward and worked hard to reduce the fear of the "foreign". As we mark the 30th anniversary of the tragic death of Vincent Chin, we should be celebrating the strides that not only the state of Michigan has taken in cultural equality, but the United States as a whole. Sadly however, I find myself instead being forced to write a letter to a politician addressing the same xenophobic issue that the Asian & Pacific community began to take a stand against 30 years ago. In a time when the future of the Asian American society seems its brightest, you have quickly dispelled any type of hope with a sad reminder that racial insensitivity is still alive and well. By displaying this tragically misinformed ad during the most widely watched program in the history of television, I cannot help but feel as though you have absolutely no regard for all of the hard work that the Pacific & Asian community has put in to ending this type of xenophobia.

Perhaps you do not fully understand the racial hatred that has been present against Chinese Americans since their entry into this country and the lives lost of those who were victims of prejudice because they "looked like" and "talked like" this intangible "threat". It was apparent to me that you were playing off this very same fear of the "foreign" by showing an Asian woman using broken English basically taunting the American public and thanking Debbie "Spenditnow" for giving them a "good" economy. I understand that as a political candidate you want to bring attention to what you deem to be the inadequacies of your competition, but this was not the right way to do it. However, by putting a real human face to a non-human metaphysical threat to our economy, completely out of the context of the global economy, you have successfully shifted this ad into a question of race, not politics. Using the "foreign" to threaten voters instead of showing the domestic roots and causes of the real problem of American job loss is wrong, and as an intelligent man, I am sure you can see the flaw in this tactic. Why is there a need to single out an entire race of people? Is there not a more efficient way to bolster confidence in your campaign other than using an entire culture as a puppet for your policy? Having an actress talk about American job loss with a forced Mandarin accent, on a bike, in rural China does not convey job loss to me. This is merely pandering to the idea that the fear of the "foreign" should be a real concern in this day and age, the same type of sentiment that led to the tragic death of Vincent Chin. This is not a political argument, I of course want jobs to stay in Michigan; this is however, an argument of despicable and racist marketing tactics to earn votes. What needs to be understood is that if this were a comedy show, or a television program based upon tongue in cheek misinterpretations of cultures, that may be different. Programs such as the Daily Show and the Colbert Report thrive on tongue in cheek cultural misinterpretation, but they make light of the fact that the content is not meant to be serious. Your advertisement, however, was a serious commercial placed on a major network, during the highest watched television program in history. As a result, the two do not go hand in hand, and you need to understand the gravity of this blatantly racist and fear mongering ad.

I am the President of a group meant to advance the Asian Pacific American culture and perception, which is why I felt the urgent need to write you today. You have sullied an entire race of people simply to garner votes, and you need to understand that what you have done far exceeds the bounds of the political game. The Asian & Pacific American community has worked too hard for racial equality to stand idly by while this type of anti-Asian sentiment litters the minds of this society, and therefore remaining silent on this issue is not something I am willing to do. I truly feel as though a stand against this type of xenophobia and racism is necessary and as a result I am again requesting a formal apology to the Pacific & Asian American community. Thank you for your time Mr. Hoekstra, and I hope that you truly understand the importance of this letter.


Kyle C. Kamidoi
President, Asian Pacific American Law Students Association
Wayne State University Law School


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