Heidi M. Pascual*
Publisher & Editor
* 2006 Journalist of the Year for the State
of Wisconsin (U.S.-SBA)
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|Thoughts on racism among us
I was appalled, taken aback, and engulfed with sadness upon reading a very recent Newsweek article (by Shane Croucher) about a Black Detroit
Democrat calling her Asian-American primary rival “Ching Chong” and telling her campaign volunteer, “Immigrant,” “You don’t belong here,” and “I
want you out of my country.” Michigan State Rep. Bettie Cook Scott made these remarks on August 7, according to the story, as she told voters,
“Vote for me. Don’t vote for the ching-chong!”
Scott and Rep. Stephanie Chang both sit in the Michigan House of Representatives, and they competed in a Democratic primary for a Michigan
state Senate candidacy. Chang won 49% of the vote, while Scott got 11%.
While Scott has since apologized for her racial slurs after massive expression of outrage from various community groups and the Michigan
Democratic Party, the incident has actually made me think deeper than I usually do when I talk about racism. I want to think that Scott’s feeling
against Asian Americans is an isolated one. Or is it?
I had to go back to my experiences as an Asian American in Madison, Wisconsin, in regard to my relationships with African Americans and Blacks
in general. I came to Madison as an immigrant in 1998, hoping to create a new career path for me after working in the Philippine government for
more than 25 years. Looking for work for a not-so-young immigrant, though highly educated and experienced, was tough. But it was a Black lady
leader, Betty Franklin-Hammonds, who gave me that first opportunity! Betty offered me my first-ever job as her assistant editor in the Madison
Times, the local newspaper that highlighted African American achievements as well as problems, commentaries and interviews about issues in
the Black community. Through my work with Betty, I was introduced to the Black community in Madison, particularly to the other civil rights leaders
and workers who were friends and co-workers of Betty who had been the Madison NAACP president and CEO of the local Urban League. Betty
was the exact opposite of Rep. Scott! Betty, to me, was the true epitome of a civil rights person who believes in equality for ALL and works hard to
achieve it; and the eradication of racism, bigotry and hatred in our society.
My fortune at working for and with Betty was short-lived, however. Betty passed away only three months after I began my work at her newspaper.
But she had planted the seed in my heart to continue part of her work, which I did for another six-plus years. My list of close friends includes many
African Americans, because by then I was thoroughly immersed in Betty’s work, her “world,” and her goals.
Not all Blacks I met in Madison were like Betty, though, in terms of how
they treated an Asian American working in a Black newspaper. I won’t
get into details, though; suffice it to say that yes, I was also mistreated
by a few of them who probably felt I should go back to my country for
reasons that are self-explanatory. [Why was I too hardworking and
knowledgeable in what I did?] And probably they are happy now
because Madison has one less Asian American in its populace
In the bigger scheme of things though, the for-me outweighs the
against-me folks in Madison, Wisconsin. After leaving Betty’s paper, I
started my own Asian-American magazine, Asian Wisconzine, which is
still alive after 13 years. Although exclusively online since 2010, it still
gets readership not only from Wisconsin, but also from other states
and a few from other countries, as well. For several years now, my
magazine caters to issues common to people of color: immigration,
health care, education, race and ethnicity, women, foreign relations,
and government. I have to thank Betty and her successor, Jonathan
Gramling (now editor & publisher of The Capital City Hues), for igniting
my interest and passion for issues affecting all communities of color.
Going back to the unfortunate incident in Michigan regarding State Rep.
Scott and her racial slurs, I must stress that she was just being
herself, a racist Black woman. No amount of apology can ever change
what’s inside her heart. Her expression of “Sorry” was simply a plastic
cover that reveals nothing but a woman hungry for political power, who’
ll do whatever it takes to get it. The result, however, was a slap to her
face. What an undignified politician! If Betty were alive, I am pretty sure
she wouldn’t shut her mouth and would criticize Scott’s remarks and
behavior toward Asians in America.
At a time when people of color need to be united and create that unified
strength to fight injustice and inequality, we do not need the likes of
Rep. Scott. The Democratic Party has to decide on whether or not they
want someone like Scott to represent the party’s values.