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Staff Editorial February 6, 2012 //  by  // 4 Comments

Racist campaign ad is brazenly inappropriate

As they passed around potato chips during commercial breaks this Sunday, Michigan fans of the Superbowl were subjected to a brazenly ethnocentric and inappropriate campaign ad — an ad so inappropriate it makes MIA’s halftime finger slip look like the Sign of the Cross.

The ad, in support of US Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra (R-MI), has his opponent, US Senator Debbie Stavenow (D-MI), and several Asian-American groups crying foul.

The ad begins with the sound of a Chinese gong and video of an Asian woman riding her bicycle through rice paddies. The traditional Chinese music clues the viewer into the fact that the woman they are looking at is not in America, but is instead in some frightening foreign country — possibly China, but the viewer won’t know if this is correct until looking up Hoekstra and reading his rants on how China is stealing US jobs.

The Asian woman continues her biking towards the viewer before stopping abruptly in front of the camera. The racism of the ad loses its subtlety as soon as the woman opens her mouth to speak.

“Debbie spend so much American money you borrow more and more from us,” says the American actor in carefully-chosen broken English.

“Your economy get very weak. Ours get very good. We take your jobs. Thank you, Debbie spend-it-now.”

The racism of this ad harkens back to the ethnocentric media landscape of the early to mid 20th century. It conjures images of Mickey Rooney’s Mr. Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and racist ads of the 1950s.

Hoekstra should apologize to Asian-Americans for the insensitivity of his commercial. Instead of stoking xenophobic fears, Hoekstra should focus on the real issues. He should see if he can make an honest win against Stavenow, a win not obtained through the use of a blatantly racist commercial.

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  • jason bergman

    This add, while in poor taste is more xenophobic than racist. It is meant to stir up the fears of his constituents in attempt to blame the 'other' as the cause of high unemployment. It is a very classic example of stoking the nativist fears that has been a main stay in U.S. politics since it's founding. The man is simply trying to say, without actually uttering the words, "They're taking our jobs." Which by the way is exactly what progressives and liberals do when they go after corporations for outsourcing. I want to stress that I think the add was/is in poor taste, that the add is highly xenophobic and relies entirely on scare tactics, and that I think he very well could have gotten the same message across without the over the top theatrics.

  • Caleb

    While the ad may be in poor taste (that is debatable), we need to remember what message the ad was trying to get across- Stavenow likes to spend big and tax big, which results in jobs being sent out of state or overseas. Political ads are supposed to be jarring and catchy, and this ad is both of those.

  • Aviana

    Saw the ad on Fox this morning, and I thought it was actually very effective. I don't see why Asian-Americans are getting upset about this, because a) they are American, not citizens of China, and therefor the ad was not targeted at them and b) the ad is completely accurate. Just look up Foxconn and you'll see that. It would have taken Apple 9 months to get enough industrial engineers to make a plant here in America for making iPads. It took them only 14 days in China. I can guarantee that's because of this country's ludicrous economic downturn, which was in turn caused by out-of-control government spending. Shocking, yes; insulting, not really, unless you're a liberal and therefor support spending until China becomes the most powerful nation in the world instead of us.

  • Mac

    You have to think that if the government is borrowing 40 cents of every dollar they are spending, who is big enough to loan us that kind of cash?

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