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Candidate commentary

Schubert: Councilman Kozachik and Asian hate

Miranda Schubert is a Democrat challenging City Councilman Steve Kozachik in the Ward 6 primary election:

First-time candidates for public office receive a lot of advice – outline your ideas; don’t be too detailed or people won’t connect; be likable. While canvassing to collect signatures, I met an engaged activist who wanted details. We discussed local issues, and after signing my petition, she advised me just to be myself. During this primary season, you will see me “be myself” in my actions and words, which brings me to something I must call out.

The first time I saw a report on the Georgia shootings, I said to my bride that whatever else drove the guy to the murders, the women were also trafficking victims. As it turns out, the investigation into the motives for the killings is uncovering some complexities inside the guy. They were victims of his demons and discrimination, and they were victims of trafficking. — Ward 6 newsletter, 3/22/21

This knee-jerk association of Asian massage parlor workers with sex workers sexualizes and fetishizes Asian women and femmes and is a product of patriarchal white supremacy and colonialism. Referring to the “complexities inside the guy” gives wiggle room to the perpetrator of a massacre that exemplifies a hate crime. “Whatever else” motivated him to do it was living in a culture that enables racism, toxic masculinity, and misogyny.

After making the unfounded claim that Yong Yue, Soon Chung Park, Suncha Kim, Paul Andre Michels, Delaina Ashley Yaun, Xiaojie Tan, Hyun Jung Grant, and Daoyou Feng were trafficking victims, the newsletter announced that time would be devoted in an upcoming Mayor & Council study session to identify strategies to make it easier to shut down “illicit” massage parlors. No local massage parlor owners or workers were invited.

Copies of this newsletter were handed out at a recent rally against Asian hate and China-bashing. Some days later, the item was quietly pulled from the study session agenda without explanation. Instead, an Asian, Pacific Islander, and Desi American forum was hurriedly announced for the following evening. Close to 100 people called in.

There have been previous events and forums in our local APIDA communities, but this was different. Several speakers indicated having the city of Tucson host was new and much needed. People shared their experiences with racism and Asian hate in Tucson. There were clear calls to action to make our community more welcoming and inclusive, to truly stand in solidarity against white supremacy. Calls to invest in people and communities through access and funding to mental health services and healing spaces.

Several people gave specific examples of their experiences with Asian hate, speaking with a level of eloquence, authenticity, and rigor that shook me to the core. They shared the harm and hatred they felt upon reading the newsletter item about “illicit” massage parlors. Their stories aren’t mine to tell, but I am a witness calling attention to the fact that they were not given the apology they deserve. They should not have had to demand one in the first place.

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When someone shares with you who they are, that you hurt them, and explains how your actions stem from the same place that motivated the Atlanta shooter’s actions, the appropriate response is not to act as though nothing happened. Nor is it the case that you are not racist just because you have friends who are minorities. The community deserves better.

This is who I am: I will not isolate myself from people who deserve a seat at the table and propose detailed solutions. I will offer approaches that are opposite the toxic masculinity and arrogance that excuse or explain away racism in all its forms in our community. I ask you to join me in this endeavor.

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