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The Gamut

The Gamut

The Gamut

Michelle Steel’s win: A loss for Asian Americans

Michelle+Steels+win%3A+A+loss+for+Asian+Americans
Agnes Lee

With the onset of the Nov. 8 midterms, Northern Orange County saw the rise of two Asian-American candidates — Michelle Steel (R) and Jay Chen (D). As the fight for District 45, consisting of  Cypress, Buena Park, Fullerton, Garden Grove, and Los Alamitos became heated, the power of the Asian vote was put on full display. 

 

Home to the one of the largest concentrations of Asian-Americans in the United States, District 45’s capacity to send an Asian representative to Congress is undoubtedly cause for celebration. While acknowledging that Michelle Steel’s victory in the midterms reflects Asian representation, Orange Country needs to be more mindful of her impact on the rest of the Asian-American community. 

 

In late September, Michelle Steel’s campaign team distributed a flier targeting the Vietnamese-American community in Little Saigon. The flier features a photoshopped Jay Chen in front of a classroom of children, holding a communist manifesto while standing in front of historic communist revolutionaries that are depicted on the walls of the classroom—including Ho Chi Minh, Mao Zedong, and Vladimir Lenin.

 

The words, “Jay Chen invited China into our children’s classrooms,” are written in Vietnamese on the chalkboard. This references Chen’s vote cast more than a decade ago to support the Confucius Institute as a board member of the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District, as a member of the district’s Board of Education. The Confucius Institutes are Beijing-backed language and cultural learning centers that were popular on campuses but have recently faced scrutiny for attempts to censor criticism of China’s human rights abuses.

 

The messaging of these campaign materials is clear considering that District 45 has one of the largest concentrations of Vietnamese-Americans in the country. Many in the Vietnamese community share a deep historical disdain for communism, with many immigrants settling in the U.S. after the Vietnam War. Compounded with China’s growing influence in Vietnam, U.S. foreign policy with China is another key issue for Vietnamese-American voters. Michelle Steel played into their fears in a dishonest attempt to obtain votes. 

 

In doing so, Michelle Steel and her campaign team have red-baited—the act of discrediting individuals by accusing them of harboring communist sympathies. This antiquated tactic was first used in the early 20th century, when fears of communist influence resulted in the United States orchestrating witch-hunts for those with suspected communist beliefs. Those fears are maintained today due to the Chinese Communist Party’s sway in American affairs. 

 

Steel’s actions prove that she is no ally to the AAPI community. Her campaign team purposefully sowed seeds of distrust among the Asian-American community by perpetuating harmful stereotypes about Jay Chen, a candidate of Taiwanese descent. By labeling Chen a ‘communist spy’, she encourages anti-Chinese sentiment by associating support of Chinese culture with the support of China’s highly-criticized government and its ideology. After a pandemic where such sentiment led to an influx in AAPI hate crimes, her inflammatory messages are not only blatant misinformation, but destructive. 

 

As someone who frequently appealed to voters through her Asian-American identity, Michelle Steel may provide Asian representation, but not the kind District 45 needs. Rather, District 45 deserves a representative who genuinely serves the Asian community rather than one who divides its people.

About the Contributors
Anjali Suva, Senior Staff Writer
An empathetic, strong-willed, and charismatic senior, Anjali joined the Gamut to channel her talkative energy and express her opinions through writing. Writing makes her feel unstoppable, especially when she knows that every word she writes and everything she says becomes important on paper. Her favorite subjects being history and English, Anjali enjoys watching history documentaries and reading manga, as well as digital art during her free time. She loves diving into webtoons filled with drama, thriller, and action, making Pyramid Game and The Aftermath her favorites. She can often be seen ranting and fangirling about her favorite characters, Denji from Chainsaw Man, Reagan from Inside Job, and, of course, Suji from “Pyramid Game” Wanting to live this year without any regrets, Anjali hopes to have a memorable first year in Gamut!
Agnes Lee, Art/Layout Editor

Agnes Lee serves the Gamut this year as Layout editor. Having started drawing from an early elementary age, she gained an interest for art. However, having felt that she might lose her passion to the academics of Oxford Academy, Agnes decided to join the Gamut. She enjoys the traditional pen-and-ink illustration style of the Gamut’s Op-Ed articles as well as illustrating for the centerfold. Outside of art, she enjoys listening to user-made playlists that feature mellow tunes. She enjoys romance and animation shows, as well as marvel movies, and she claims to have never watched Gilmore Girls, much against the protest of her friend Laura. She involves herself on school campus as part of the board this year for the Gender Equality club. After-school, she heads to her art studio, where she spends an average of 3 hours there working on her portfolio, which she has been dedicated to since August. Sometimes you might also find her riding her RipStik or staying up late doing homework. She aspires to be a graphic designer in the future, and hopes that her portfolio can get her into colleges like USC and Carnegie-Mellon. As a senior who’s about to take the step into the next chapter of her life, Agnes hopes that her passion for art will stay with her through life.

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Michelle Steel’s win: A loss for Asian Americans