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The Race Debate

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NYCD1ELECTIONS_011 Last week we reported about a dust-up between the two Asian candidates running in the First District City Council race. Margaret Chin's campaign accused rival PJ Kim of using "racially charged language," when he asserted that Chin was running to become the "Mayor of Chinatown."  A couple of Lo-Down readers took note of those stories – and were displeased that we had not also reported another story with racial overtones, involving Chin's campaign manager.

Fair point. Last week's episode (both Kim's remarks and Chin's response) have opened the door to a discussion about race in the District 1 campaign. So, here's the story. Last month, Chin's campaign manager, Jake Itzkowitz, wrote on his personal Twitter account:

“@CityHallNews Politicians should be able to use the 'N' word in
attacking ignorance & racism. Aren't we a mature enough culture for
that?”

The tweet was apparently a response to a City Hall News interview with Carolyn Maloney:

There is Carolyn Maloney, ripping into Kirsten Gillibrand broad and
hard for voting against the two stimulus bills and for changing her
positions on several core Democratic issues, sounding out her case on
the fly as, “It’s the NRA, it’s immigration, it’s all these other
things. In fact, I got a call from someone from Puerto Rico, said
[Gillibrand] went to Puerto Rico and came out for English-only
[education]. And he said, ‘It was like saying n—r to a Puerto Rican,’”
she said, using the full racial slur. “I don’t know—I don’t know if
that’s true or not. I just called. I’m just throwing that out.
All of
her—well, what does she stand for?”

Maloney later apologized for using the word. Itzkowitz sent a written statement to a political blogger: 

I'm not saying it should be used w/o thought, but I think in the context of chastising ignorant statements/ppl, it is valid. When I worked for the Obama campaign, some volunteers believed it was appropriate
& valid to use the N-word in a sentence criticizing those who
opposed his campaign on racial grounds. I obviously don't have the racial background to speak from experience on the N-word in particular, but as a member of a minority w/ it's own derogatory terminology, I do think there is a place for the use of language in deconstructing stereotypes. I would love to hear your opinion.

There you have it. Ultimately voters in the First District can decide whether either "race issue" is relevant to their decision- which candidate is best suited to represent their interests on the New York City Council.

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