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Racist campaign ad is brazenly inappropriate

By Daily Cougar Editorial Board
On February 7, 2012

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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