Calls for the resignation of a Massachusetts city council member continue after the discovery of an anti-Asian Halloween costume she once wore. Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) activists in Malden, Massachusetts, are urging Jadeane Sica to step down after a photo from 2019 resurfaced last month showing the woman wearing an Orchids of Asia T-shirt and a bamboo hat while holding a bottle of lotion, NBC News reported.
The incident came to light two years after New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft made headlines after being accused of paying for sexual acts at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Florida. In the photo, Sica's husband, John Bernbaum, is wearing a Patriots sweatshirt, a “Super Bowl Champions” hat, and a large gold chain while holding a replica of a Super Bowl trophy. It seems the two were mocking the incident by wearing those costumes.
While the incident occurred two years ago and the charges against Kraft were dropped, the situation is nothing to joke about and wearing racist costumes was not funny then and is not funny now. Lawmakers across the country continue to be called out for their inability to understand that not only is a culture not a costume, but mocking ones race and identity is far worse.
The image was discovered last month on social media in a post captioned: “Happy Halloween with a Happy Ending!”
“In Malden, if you are Asian: Your city leader will openly and unapologetically wear a racist and whorephobic costume mocking your people with no consequence from the city,” the Greater Malden Asian American Community Coalition (GMAACC) said in a statement to NBC Asian America. The organization added that it was both “horrified” and “disgusted” by the racist Halloween image.
Advocates noted that it not only made fun of a serious situation but mocked Asian Americans due to its use of yellowface and hyper-sexualization of Asian women, an issue that has resulted in violence toward Asian American women for decades.
“The choice to wear a bamboo hat to represent the race of the massage worker, paired with a bottle of lotion or sunscreen, is incredibly harmful,” a statement issued by more than a dozen advocacy organizations read. According to the Boston Globe, the Greater Malden Asian American Community Coalition, Asian Community Development Corporation, Vietnamese American Initiative for Development, and Chinese Progressive Political Action were all among those who signed the statement calling for Sica to apologize.
“Our culture, our people, and our pain are not a costume,” said a statement sent to the Globe. “Our youth, especially our young women, should not see themselves represented and mocked in this way by an elected official of our town. This is racial violence: the appropriation of Asian identity for someone’s amusement.”
While Sica never spoke of the incident publicly, she apologized for the racist costume in a statement on Facebook last month, adding that she “can and will do better.”
“Since that time, many, myself included, have become much more aware of the fact that the women involved in cases like these are all too often vulnerable members of the Asian community who are victims of exploitation,” Sica wrote in the Facebook post. “Looking back at the choice of costume through a more enlightened lens allows me to see now what I didn’t see then, which is that costumes that in any way portray another culture can be hurtful and, in my case, send a message inconsistent with how I’ve lived my public and private life.”
Advocates noted that while Sica apologized, officials must be held accountable because their actions often influence the public and can have severe consequences.
“We need action behind our elected officials’ words,” GMAACC said in its statement. “We do not believe that structural racism can be solved interpersonally, by ‘seeing no color’ and ‘loving one another,’ as described by Councillor Sica.”
Saturday’s rally follows similar rallies across the country in which Asian Americans and others in solidarity are marching to show their support and condemn acts of violence against Asian Americans.
Since the start of the novel coronavirus pandemic, misinformation about COVID-19 and its origin have contributed to a rise in crimes against the AAPI community. According to Stop AAPI Hate, a coalition of organizations dedicated to addressing anti-Asian discrimination, at least 10,370 incidents of anti-Asian bias have been reported from Mar 19, 2020, to Sept. 30. This data comes alongside other reviews confirming a rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans. Last month, data from the FBI found that hate crimes rose by 76% in 2020.
The AAPI community needs our support now more than ever, whether it be checking in on our family and friends, spreading awareness of COVID-19 misconceptions, or contacting members of Congress to do more against anti-Asian hate. Check out this guide on resources and ways to support the AAPI community and our Asian friends. Hate is the real virus, and we must end it.