New Report Takes on Racist Rhetoric Among US Politicians

Cover of SAALT's report, "From Macacas to Turban Toppers: The Rise in Xenophobia and Racist Rhetoric in America's Political Discourse," (SAALT, October 2010)

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a non-profit group dedicated to raising awareness of issues facing South Asian Americans, recently released the report tracking racist rhetoric against South Asians in American political discourse since 9/11. (You can download the PDF here)

Unfortunately, the report puts into black and white some of the many insensitive or downright xenophobic comments that American political leaders have made since 9/11. The authors decry that in their view such remarks have become increasingly acceptable. 

The study was limited to only comments made by elected or campaigning officials, which makes the recorded remarks all the more damning. 

Some themes the author's observed were comments about Muslims and Arabs as terrorists, South Asians generally as unable (or unwilling) to assimilate, and South Asian candidates for office as a political liability. 

The authors also mention how similar rhetoric was employed against the Japanese in America during WWII. Unfortunately, that historical perspective has been lost on some of today's politicians. 

Here are some particularly upsetting statements included in the report: 

“. . . since this nation was founded primarily on Christian principles. . . . personally, I prefer someone who I know who has a solid grounding in my faith. I just feel that that’s an important part of our qualifications to lead.”
-- John McCain, US Senator from Arizona

“I’m usually not prejudiced, but I don’t want an Indian in my government. As far as I know, he could be a nice guy, but these kind of people get embedded over here.... you remember 9/11.”
-- Don Sherrill, City Council candidate from Orange City, Florida

Islam is a “hateful and frightening religion. Even if they have gotten citizenship, they are not true Americans in my opinion. They all want to kill us.”
-- Mary Ann Hogan, Republican Party Chair from Florida

Some of the statements are so baseless factually that they would be laughable if it were not clear that some American's believe them.   


Join the coversation:

Do you agree with the findings of the report? What do you think can be done to change the rhetoric from politicians?