Analysis

How The Rest Of The World Deals With Racist Remarks From Politicians

Mosese Bulitavu is not the first MP to make such remarks targeting one particular group. Politicians world over have been called out for their remarks as well. How were their outbursts handled?
09 Jul 2019 17:36
How The Rest Of The World Deals With Racist Remarks From Politicians
Political figures who have made controversial and racist remarks in the past - From left: Shane Bouchard, Kyle Kashuv and Ali Sadjady.

Analysis:

Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) Member of Parliament Mosese Bulitavu’s recent remarks targeting the Indo-Fijian community while unfortunate, are not the first.

He is not the first MP to make such remarks targeting one particular group. Politicians world over have been called out for their remarks as well. How were their outbursts handled?

Let’s see what MPs and public figures from around the world did after they were called out:

In January 2019 in Canada:

A politician who was vying for a local government position in Canada had to resign after she wrote in a WeChat group that she was the only Chinese and that her opponent was an Indian.

Canadian media reported:

Karen Wang is stepping aside as the Liberal candidate for Burnaby South.

Ms Wang, a daycare operator, became the subject of controversy after she posted a message on the social messaging app WeChat that urged voters to support her as the only candidate of Chinese origin and singled out New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh, who is also running in the riding byelection, as being “of Indian origin”.

That message, first reported by the Toronto Star, was translated as reading, “If we can increase the voting rate, as the only Chinese candidate in this riding, if I can garner 16,000 votes I will easily win the byelection, control the election race and make history! My opponent in this byelection is the NDP candidate Singh of Indian descent!”

She issued a tearful apology as she announced her decision to step aside.

Karen Wang.

Karen Wang.

March 8, 2019 in United States of America:

The mayor of Maine’s second-largest city resigned in the wake of a controversy over his leaked text messages, one of which included a racist remark, and authorities confirmed he’s being investigated by the state attorney-general’s office and the city Police.

Republican Shane Bouchard stepped down as Lewiston’s mayor effective immediately. Text messages made public by a woman who said she had an affair with Bouchard when he was a mayoral candidate revealed a racist remark he sent her while the two were working to undermine a political opponent.

The woman, Heather Berube Everly, has said that she was the source of emails the Maine GOP used to attack Democratic opponent Ben Chin. A website created by Maine Republican Party leader Jason Savage published emails from Chin’s campaign, including one in which Chin said he’s run into “a bunch of racists.” Bouchard went on to defeat Chin in the December 2017 runoff.

The Sun Journal reported Everly has now made public more than 150 text exchanges with Bouchard. In one, Bouchard describes elderly black people as “antique farm equipment”.

April 19, 2019 USA:

The Chicago Tribune reported: A government email scandal has ensnared a second state worker who was accused of sending and receiving sexist and racist messages, including ones that referred to then-President Barack Obama as a “mutt” and disparaged first lady Michelle Obama.

Donald R. Johnson, an investigator for the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, “immediately expressed his desire to resign” when confronted in mid-February with investigation findings, according to a report released by the Office of Executive Inspector General. Mr Johnson had worked for the state agency since 2008 and made US$77,200 a year.

The 76-year-old Mr Johnson is the second workers’ comp commission employee to resign over the sending and receiving of sexist and racists emails.

In July 2017, Frank Capuzi, who had worked for the agency for more than four decades, retired following a state review of his conduct prompted by Tribune inquiries into offensive emails sent from his personal email address to a high-ranking Chicago water department official and others. Among those emails was one describing a fake “Chicago Safari” adventure tour that made light of the shootings of children in black and Hispanic neighbourhoods.

April 23, 2019 in United Kingdom:

A candidate for new centrist party Change UK was forced to resign the same day as the party’s campaign launch, after he caused a race row with comments about “Romanian pickpockets”.

Ali Sadjady, a former Tory who was standing for the European parliament elections in London, was accused of joining in “hate speech” against EU citizens.

In a series of controversial tweets he had said he was tempted to support Brexit if it stopped Romanian pickpockets coming to the UK and suggested that advocates of a second referendum did not “believe in democracy”.

“When I hear that 70  per cent of pickpockets caught on the London Underground are Romanian it kind makes me want Brexit,” Mr Sadjady had said in a tweet from November 2017.

His social media profile also revealed other comments that could be regarded as derogatory to women.

May 5, 2019 in United States of America:

Following reports that Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada’s chief of staff Cade Cothren sent sexually explicit text messages to an intern and a lobbyist, used cocaine in the legislative office building and sent texts disparaging African Americans, the embattled staffer tendered his resignation.

May 23, 2019 USA

Parkland shooting survivor and TPUSA leader Kyle Kashuv stepped down from his role as director of high school outreach following the uncovering of racist comments that he made a few years back.

Turning Point USA is a right-wing nonprofit organisation that presents itself as a safe haven for young conservatives — a group that has become infamous for ties to white nationalist ideals within its ranks.

Two Parkland teens confirmed with HuffPost that former-member Kashuv made racist remarks within texts, Skype messages and a shared Google document for a class study guide.

January 19, 2018 USA:

American President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the government’s volunteer service organisation has resigned after a CNN report revealed that the appointee made racist and other inflammatory remarks.

Carl Higbie, chief of external affairs for the Corporation for National and Community Service, made racist, sexist, anti-Muslim and anti-LGBT comments while appearing on the “Sound of Freedom” radio show in 2013.

“I’m sorry,” Mr Higbie tweeted later. “I’m not sorry that my words were published, I am sorry that I said them in 2013. Those words do not reflect who I am or what I stand for, I regret saying them.”

In the 2013 segment, he made several comments against African-Americans, Muslims and homosexuals. He also said that soldiers suffering from PTSD had “weak mind[s]” and said that gun-carrying Americans should be permitted to shoot undocumented immigrants.

Carl Higbie.

Carl Higbie.

October 10, 2018 USA:

A local Kansas Republican official has resigned after making disparaging remarks about Kansas congressional candidate Sharice Davids, writing “Your radical socialist kickboxing lesbian Indian will be sent back packing to the reservation.”

Michael Kalny, former GOP precinct committeeman of Shawnee, Kansas, made the remarks in a private Facebook message to Anne Pritchett, a chapter president of the Johnson County Democratic Women.

This is not the entire list of politicians and public figures who resigned after being outed for remarks made either on their social media platforms or even through private messages.

There have been many others who resigned immediately after being called out for their racist views.

This could be a start if SODELPA wants to know what other political parties have done over the world when confronted with such situations.

The law:

Many countries have anti-discrimination laws. Be it our neighbours Australia and New Zealand, or even India, strict anti-discrimination laws are in place for very good reasons- to stop this kind of behaviour.

SODELPA MP Mosese Bulitavu.

SODELPA MP Mosese Bulitavu.

Should Mosese Bulitavu resign? Yes, most certainly.

Will Mosese Bulitavu resign? Knowing Mo, he will not.

What will Ro Filipe Tuisawau do? Time will tell.

Feedback: jyotip@fijisun.com.fj

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