Millions of people watched former Republican Congressman Pete Hoekstra’s Super Bowl ad that aired in Michigan bashing Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) by playing on and inciting fears of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.
The ad stirs xenophobic fears with an obviously Asian American woman speaking in broken English: “Your economy get very, very weak, ours get very good. We take your jobs.” It plays upon the stereotype of the “China doll” and conflates Asian Americans, who are struggling with the highest long-term unemployment, with Asians. In addition, his website dismissively uses the term “yellowgirl” to describe the actress of said commercial. The whole campaign is offensive to all Americans, including African American ministers in Michigan who spoke out, and even senior Republican strategists who have called the ad “really, really dumb.”
Broadcasting these xenophobic sentiments in Michigan, on the 30th anniversary of Vincent Chin’s violent murder at the hands of men who blamed Japan for the plight of the auto industry, is just fanning anti-Asian American sentiment. Hoekstra dismissed the ad as simply being “satirical” but the fact is that anti-AAPI hate crimes have increased since September 11, 2001. This kind of divisive rhetoric isn’t harmless, it can have real world consequences.
Furthermore, Hoekstra’s anti-Asian American sentiment can drive the same jobs out of Michigan that he is purportedly addressing. In 2010, AAPI buying power in the state totaled $9 billion—an increase of 385.1% since 1990, and Michigan’s 21,589 AAPI-owned businesses had sales and receipts of $7.7 billion and employed 66,293 people in 2007 (Immigration Policy Center.) For those of us who support developing jobs and small businesses that will revive the state’s economy, his message is off-putting and nonsensical.
We would expect our current and former representatives to honor that history and not seek to repeat it. We call on U.S. Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra to (1) apologize for his ad, (2) recognize the strong contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and other immigrant groups in the state of Michigan, (3) and take down his ad and his website.