Eighteen leaders in San Francisco’s Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders community signed an open letter today denouncing the dissemination of election materials they deem anti-Asian by groups supporting the recall of District Attorney Chesa Boudin.
“We ask the RecallChesaBoudin.Org campaign to issue an apology to the Chinese and Asian American community,” read the open letter. “We further demand the RecallChesaBoudin.Org campaign immediately cease the use and distribution of your racist poster on social media platforms, as well as traditional media venues.”
Among those present at a Chinatown press conference were former supervisors Sandra Lee Fewer and Norman Yee. The campaign materials they cited feature a faux-Chinese communist portrait of Chesa Boudin, reminiscent of propaganda during the Cultural Revolution. Under Boudin’s giant palm are depictions of tents and drug addicts.
Richie Greenberg, media spokesman of RecallChesaBoudin.Org campaign called the signatories “far left progressive extremists. The scourge of our city.” And, Greenberg called on them to “condemn Chesa for his virtually ignoring the plight of our Asian American community.”
Clearly the Asian Americans who signed the open letter today disagree.
“The Recall Campaign had exploited the use of a Chinese historical jacket to deceive San Francisco voters,” said Henry Der, former California Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction. “I dare the Recall Chesa Boudin campaign to produce one legitimate photo — not a photoshopped one — of Chesa Boudin wearing a Mao jacket, at any time before or during his tenure as District Attorney.”
“The Recall Campaign feels it can walk all over the Chinese and Asian American community by resorting to red-baiting tactics to achieve its political goal,” he said.
Greenberg’s campaign failed to collect enough signatures to recall Boudin. It is not associated with the campaign that ultimately did collect enough signatures, Safer SF Without Boudin.
“Our campaign has no affiliation whatsoever with these misguided and harmful posters depicting District Attorney Boudin,” said Safer SF Without Boudin chairwoman Mary Jung. “We call on whomever created and distributed these posters to stop immediately and to take them down from anywhere they may be in the public.”
Julie Tang, a retired Superior Court of San Francisco judge, laid blame at the feet of the wealthy donors listed as underwriters for the campaign material. “By and large, the majority of them are out-of-towners who feel it is okay to infest our community with racism and hatred by funding campaigns like this.”
The funders listed on the poster are David Sacks, Daniel O’Keefe, Lin Yeaser Coonan, Jessie Powell and Jeff Fluhr.
Tang also believes the poster is ineffective, even as a campaign strategy. “Why is the recall campaign using racist tactics, when they are trying to recall Chesa Boudin because they think he is not faithful to Chinese Americans? It’s really very convoluted.”
“I’m so outraged,” said Bill Hing, Professor of Law and Migration Studies at University of San Francisco. “When I first saw that image, it just immediately reminded me of so many of the images that led to anti-Chinese sentiment.”
“These kinds of images invite anti-Chinese sentiment and encourage vigilante racism against our community,” he said.
Other speakers bemoaned offensive imagery beyond offense to Asians. “Part of what that ad is trying to also evoke is dehumanizing the experiences of people living in poverty, people suffering from drug addiction,” said Shaw San Liu, the Executive Director of Chinese Progressive Association Action Fund “It’s trying to play to fear and deep-seated anti-Blackness that exists in our society at the same time.”
Fewer found the attempt to use racism to win an election “harmful,” “ignorant” and “dangerous.”
“As a victim of this type of racist inflammatory rhetoric myself, first as a candidate for supervisor having to prove that I was indeed Chinese, to having posters plastered on streets, depicting Connie Chan and myself as communist loyalists,” Fewer said.
“To those who funded these racist posters, shame on you,” she said.