San Leandro Council Candidate’s Online Comments Rile City’s Asian Population

ELECTION ’12//SAN LEANDRO DIST 4 | A San Leandro city council candidate is running the risk of alienating the city’s largest demographic, after online comments Aug. 14, since removed, riled Asian American community leaders who now question the candidate’s trustworthiness as a potential city leader.

During the final days of the Summer Olympics, District 4 council candidate Chris Crow posted and responded to a published report quoting Chinese officials who questioned the fairness of its athletes competing against American athletes because of their alleged larger head and chest sizes.

“The Chinese have said they should NOT have to compete with Americans at the Olympics because Americans apparently have bigger heads and broader chests,” Crow wrote on Facebook. “So I suppose they really were cheating in 2008 when they took home more Gold medals than the USA or they are the sorest losers in the world.”

The posting quickly came to attention of several Asian American community leaders who say they were outraged by the assertion Chinese lacked integrity and good sportsmanship. They also questioned whether Crow’s candor revealed discriminatory tendencies.

“When someone coughs up something like that, the heart and mind is discriminating,” said San Leandro resident Ed Collaco.

Another San Leandro resident, Derrick Gee, said he found the comments offensive and states the article Crow references in the Facebook posting includes no suggestion of cheating or bad sportsmanship on the part of Chinese athletes. “I can only believe that these ideas come from his racial despisement of Chinese as an ethnicity,” he said. “For one to be so bold to post on Facebook tells me that he has no fear to show his racist heart.”

Chris Crow

In an email last week, Crow claimed the outrage concerning his posting was concocted by Benny Lee, one of his District 4 opponents this fall, and is unclear how they could be interpreted as racist. “I am disappointed that Benny Lee is seemingly trying to bait me. I would like this campaign to be about the issues. If anyone other than Benny and his supporters are bothered by what I said, I hope they’d come to me and share their views–but as I was making light of the ridiculous statements by the Communist Party mouthpiece in the linked news story I am not sure how that could be interpreted to be anti-Chinese or racist,” Crow said.

As far as representing the Chinese Community, my pledge to them is the same pledge I make to /all/ San Leandro residents. I will look at issues carefully, I will reach out and solicit input from all segments of the San Leandro community, I will analyze all proposals in detail and I will always keep in mind our shared goals of making San Leandro a great place to live for all San Leandrans. I cherish that San Leandro is one of the most diverse cities in the country, and I want to see us be a model of a multicultural yet united community.”

Hendy Wijaya, one of the most vocal members of the Asian American community in San Leandro, says Crow should withdraw from the council race because of the original comment and response from Crow, which he found lacking remorse. “He is accusing every Chinese in the world of being cheaters,” said Wijaya. “If you want to be a city councilman, you should be a person who represents everyone, but this guy is discriminating against the people he wants to vote for him.”

The race in District 4 is shaping up as a potentially lively debate between Lee, the president of the Heron Bay Homeowners Association, Crow and newcomers Darlene Daevu and Justin Hutchison. Even before Crow’s comments this month, his opponents were already ramping up attacks questioning his abrupt move to District 4 earlier this year, despite making strong signals he would run in District 2 against Councilwoman Ursula Reed. However, following a very public rebuke by Reed, who dropped him from the city’s planning commission, Crow moved to District 4 where an open seat is for the offering. Hutchison, who is a lifelong resident of District 4, has already raised the campaign issue, alleging his opponent is a political opportunist without “morals.”

Nevertheless, Crow’s comments risk alienating nearly one-third of the electorate this November. San Leandro’s Asian American population grew to 29.7 percent, according to the 2010 Census, and the city as a whole, maintains one of the most equally diverse cities in the entire nation. However, San Leandro’s City Council has failed to keep up with its changing demographics. Despite a Latino and Asian demographic that encompasses a majority of the population, neither is represented on the current seven-member council.

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