Pete Hoekstra Mocks His Asian-American Neighbors


When I first saw Crazy Pete Hoekstra’s racist ad, I thought the woman in it–who is supposed to depict a Chinese woman who speaks English well–looked more Thai or Laotian than Han Chinese. And while Hoekstra claims that her parents are “100% Chinese” there are unconfirmed reports that the actress is actually Laotian-American.

Which would be particularly galling, given that Hoekstra’s home town has a significant population of Laotian-Americans (note, Holland Township is basically the northern suburbs of Holland city).

Holland Township’s population is 10.1 percent Asian, which includes mainly Laotian and Cambodian families, but also Filipino and Vietnamese. That’s more than double the concentration of the U.S., and five times more than Holland city.

Some Laotians have converted to Christianity, but many still practice Buddhism. The Holland area has two Buddhist temples — one on 112th Avenue and another on Port Sheldon — each with several monks.

Both temples have around 120 members, according to Nace Phimthasak, President of the Lao Buddhist Temple of Holland. But as manufacturing companies downsized, many families moved out of state, putting an added burden on other members, who continue to support the temple financially.

Laotian refugees came to Michigan in the aftermath of the Vietnam war and were often sponsored by Dutch Reform Church communities–Hoekstra’s own faith.

The Laotian community (along with the growing Latino population) gives the Holland area an increasingly diverse feel. Not only can you get superb “Thai” food, but where I lived on the edge of the cornfields and just a mile or so from the MI office of the right wing Family Research Council, I lived closer to a Buddha statute than to one of Jesus (the statue was at the community center described as being planned in the article–in thoroughly American fashion, it watches over a sand volleyball court where members play for hours on warm Sundays).

Hoekstra’s ad was bigoted and wrong in any case. But it turns out he may have been making fun not of a distant Asian community in California or China, but his neighbors and former constituents in Holland.

If Hoekstra can’t even figure out that his neighbors are good Americans, then he’s not the guy to be fighting to defend the American Dream.

24 replies
  1. EH says:

    In an election year he needs to humanize himself by apologizing for something stupid, rather than apologizing for his record.

  2. rugger9 says:

    The Limpbots and Malkin flying monkeys will looooove this, however, and that’s what CPH was trying to do, dogwhistling.

  3. MadDog says:

    OT and caveat emptor – via USA Today:

    “FBI cuts back on GPS surveillance after Supreme Court ruling

    The FBI has begun cutting back GPS surveillance in an array of criminal and intelligence investigations following a Supreme Court ruling last month restricting its use, a federal law enforcement official said.

    The bureau began implementing the change the day after the Jan. 23 ruling in which the court found that attaching such a device to a car amounted to a search covered by the Fourth Amendment, requiring police to seek warrants in many cases.

    The official, who was not authorized to comment publicly on the matter, said the GPS directive was issued until further legal guidance is provided on the use of the technology.

    Meanwhile, the official said, additional FBI agents have been dispatched to cover costly, labor-intensive surveillance operations that had previously relied on GPS technology…”

  4. JTMinIA says:

    Hm. Please imagine this. Someone running for public office in, say, France, accuses his or her opponent of being too cozy with Americans and uses an American who happens to be an Inuit to make the point. A whole bunch of people start jumping up and down, screaming “racist,” because the actor or actress isn’t from the race that most French people associate with the United States. How would you feel about that?

    If your answer is anything like mine, I’d wait and see if the actress in Hoekstra’s add is Chinese before going on about her race. Focus on the part of the ad that is objectively disgusting, instead.

  5. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The actress certainly looks as if she came from SE Asia rather than China, not withstanding the minorities that live in southern and western china. But leave it to a Gooper to think they all look alike.

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    If Laotian, I wonder if her family came from the Plain of Jars, a central plateau that we decimated with more bombs than we dropped in WWII. We, Nixon and Kissinger that is, dropped even more bombs in eastern Cambodia, which killed roughly 600,000 and decimated society, allowing Pol Pot to come to power. His movement killed roughly another 2 million. But we supported him when the Vietnamese army turfed him out. Little wonder that thousands of SE Asians sought refuge elsewhere. They paid for their US entry visas in blood.

  7. JTMinIA says:

    @earlofhuntingdon: Yes, she doesn’t look like a Han. But the only defense of a jump from that to “she isn’t Chinese” is the idea that all Chinese are Han. And that, to me, is as silly as the idea that all Americans are white Iowa farmboys.

    To soften my rant, I should note that China’s use of Hans to represent nearly all of the races of China at the Olympics was ten times more disgusting to me. I am also greatly amused by the rise of Ziyi Zhang who is about half Han but looks more Manchurian. (Full disclosure: Ziyi Zhang isn’t one-tenth as attractive to me as Maggie Cheung.)

  8. P J Evans says:

    If I’d had to guess, I’d have said she’s from Thailand, but I don’t think I’ve met anyone from Laos. Yet. (Not Cambodian or Vietnamese, though: wrong bone structure.)

  9. guest says:

    This is certainly offensive and in bad taste. But how the hell is this offensive to Loatians, Hmongs, Camboidans or Thais just because she might look more SE Asain than Chinese? Would it have been less offensive if she was more genuinely Chinese?
    I’m Irish American and I’ve had numbnut Euros and Asians mistake me for an Englishman, which I didn’t like one bit. But the fact is I’m a generic looking white guy who could pass for Danish, German, Polish or northern Spanish or Italian as well. Should I take it as an insult the next time that happens? Or is it me who is insulting these other ethnicities by not looking Irish enough?
    She reminded me of Michelle Malkin more than anything else. This pukey bitch and Michelle and Crazy Pete are all embarrassments to their respective adopted &/or native countries and races just for being who they are. But I fail to see how this ad is racist for portraying China as a mercantilist job hoarding country. It is.

  10. guest says:

    **Also somewhat embarrassing is white people showing off how adept they are at identifying various Asian nationalities. We get it: you’re better than those guys who say they all look alike. But you kind of ruined the effect.

  11. emptywheel says:

    @MadDog: I’m not surprised FBI has–they have to submit this stuff as evidence, and the ruling very clearly affects them.

    The big question is whether the Intelligence community has. Clapper very clearly distinguished intelligence collection from law enforcement collection, and said they hadn’t decided yet how it’ll work.

  12. emptywheel says:

    @JTMinIA: Uh, first of all it’s offensive because there are significant numbers of Asians in Pete’s town. TO suggest Asians are “other” for someone like that is just dumb. (Also, I have repatedly noted that this stance should also say Korea and the battery factory and other jobs they have brought to Hoekstra’s town shouldn’t be there.

    THis is about pointing out that Hoekstra’s notion of his own home is wrong and blind.

    But the other problem is the language, the poorly acted attempt to mimick pidgin. While I doubt a lot of people working in South Asian rice paddies speak that much language, most of the people “stealing our jobs” in China speak better English than that.

  13. docwatson says:

    Hoekstra’s not even born in America. He’s an immigrant. And he’s calling Americans of Asian descent less American than he is?

  14. earlofhuntingdon says:

    @JTMinIA: Obviously, China consists of more than ethnic Hans. Just as obvious is that Mr. Hoekstra would be as blind to that as he is that “America” has always been a multi-ethnic society – otherwise his name would be Smith or Jones.

  15. JTMinIA says:

    @emptywheel: Then we agree. The issue is how offensive the content of the ad is, not whether the actress is a Han or even Chinese. That was my point from the start: that focusing on the actress completely misses the point and might actually be almost as offensive as the ad, itself. Leave the bit about where the actress might be from to sites like HuffPo. Maybe they can make a claim (that they’ll later have to admit was wrong) that she was photochopped.

  16. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Your first point was always the intention of this post. The ethnic origin of this actress was always a lead in for it, not a primary observation. Its utility was to point out the falseness and one of the hypocrisies in Hoekstra’s claims. So was the related observation that the Clintwood film used an immigrant community from the Upper Midwest and transplanted it to SE Michigan, which already has many of its own. Falseness in fiction is a literary device, as it is a propaganda technique in Hollywood. Either might be excusable. When it comes from congresscritters, it deserves to be outed.

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