Virginia GOP candidate for governor calls Asian Americans 'yellow' in April interview

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Republican Glenn Youngkin will face former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia governor's race in November.

The Republican nominee for governor of Virginia used an offensive term to describe Asian American and Pacific Islanders in an April interview.

Appearing on Republican strategist Chris Arps' "Water Cooler Politics" podcast, Glenn Youngkin said, "I think we need to find ways to bring us together, to bring us together and recognize that we are one body."

"I so look forward to being governor and actually working hard to unleash the potential of all Virginians, of all Virginians, so that people — so that our children can run as fast as they can. So that all Virginians — Black Virginians, brown Virginians, white Virginians, yellow Virginians — can all achieve their aspirations and their ambitions. And this is what America is about. This is what Virginia should be about."

The term "yellow" has long been used as a slur to describe people of Asian and Pacific Island decent. The anti-racism group The Yellow Whistle notes that while "In nature, yellow is the color of daffodils and sunflowers," in the United States, "yellow has been weaponized against Asians as the color of xenophobia."

Two Asian American lawmakers told The American Independent Foundation that use of the term is not acceptable.

Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, said in a email:

'Yellow' is not and has never been the appropriate way to speak about the Asian American and Pacific Islander community – a large and diverse community. With the drastic rise in Anti-Asian hate crimes over the past year, language like this exacerbates the problem and paints AAPIs as perpetual foreigners. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have unique experiences and unique needs. And in recent years, AAPIs – already the fastest growing immigrant demographic in the country – have become crucial swing votes in states like Virginia. Instead of using racial slurs to reduce AAPIs to a harmful stereotype, I encourage all aspiring leaders to put in the work to understand our communities on a meaningful level.

Virginia state Del. Kathy Tran, the first Vietnamese American elected official in the state's history, said in a statement:

Glenn Youngkin's use of this slur to describe our community is not only grotesquely offensive – it is downright dangerous. It evokes "yellow peril," where Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are considered to be threatening and dangerous. At a time when we've seen rising anti-AAPI violence and bigotry, the last thing we need is a right wing politician who will discriminate, continue the otherization of our community, and use this type of language for political gain.

A spokesperson for Youngkin noted in an email that other people, including Hunter Biden, have also used the term "yellow" in the past.

Days after the interview, Youngkin narrowly won the GOP nomination for governor in a low-turnout series of so-called unassembled caucuses, or caucuses organized by a political party instead of the state. He will face former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe in November; current Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam is barred by Virginia law from running for a second consecutive term.

While Youngkin's comments suggest that he wants to help the diverse population of Virginia, his record contradicts that.

Throughout this campaign, he has attacked anti-racism education and vowed to ban schools from teaching "critical race theory," which he falsely claimed is an existing curriculum "brought into our school systems under left liberal progressive leadership in Virginia."

He has also opposed LGBTQ rights, supporting a ban on transgender kids playing on sports teams of their gender and siding with a Loudoun County public school teacher who refused to call trans and gender-nonconforming students by their preferred pronouns.

"As governor, I will stand for excellence in education, we will not teach critical race theory, and I will stand up for teachers and parents against these kinds of cancel culture initiatives," he told Fox News on May 31.

Updated with a response from a spokesperson for Glenn Youngkin.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.