Sarah Palin’s Discomfort with Asian Americans

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Over at Huffington Post (HT: John Campbell at dailykos) an article quotes Sarah Palin’s father on her being “uncomfortable” with Asian Americans in the state of Hawaii, where she first attended college:

Palin, though notoriously ill-traveled outside the United States, did journey far to the first of the four colleges she attended, in Hawaii. She and a friend who went with her lasted only one semester. “Hawaii was a little too perfect,” Palin writes. “Perpetual sunshine isn’t necessarily conducive to serious academics for eighteen-year-old Alaska girls.” Perhaps not. But Palin’s father, Chuck Heath, gave a different account to Conroy and Walshe. According to him, the presence of so many Asians and Pacific Islanders made her uncomfortable: “They were a minority type thing and it wasn’t glamorous, so she came home.” In any case, Palin reports that she much preferred her last stop, the University of Idaho, “because it was much like Alaska yet still ‘Outside.’ ”  (Creative Commons License photo credit: sizeofguam)

The issue was first raised a couple of days ago at the New Republic by Isaac Chotiner.

This is just one more small bit of evidence that a great many folks in the current Republican Party are much more comfortable with white folks, including those at the very white University of Idaho. And why some analysts see the current Republican Party as betraying it earlier traditions and leaders, such as those who fought aggressively for black rights (for example, the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments) after the Civil War, and as graduatlly turning into a kind of white-nationalist party.


  1. Illusions

    I like the assumption that Sarah Plain came home because SHE is the racist. I looked, but I could not find any elaboration of the quote by her father, but I can think of at least one other way to interpret, “They were a minority type thing, and it wasnt glamorous, so she came home.” And that is, the “they” in this case could refer to Palin and her friend, who could have been the unglamorous minorities, rather than the Asians and Pacific Islanders.

    Now mind you, from the quote, it could be either, so I am not saying that she is NOT prejudiced. However, I grew up in Hawaii. And if you want to find some extreme examples of anti-white racism in the US, thats a fine place to start looking. However, I dont actually expect any one to do so.

    From that quote alone, however, it could just as easily be either scenario.

  2. Nquest

    No matter how you read the statement attributed to Palin’s father — with Asians/PI’s being “minority” or Palin (and her friend) being “minority” — it shines a light on the kind of person Palin was and apparently still is given “real America” rhetoric she used during the campaign (i.e. Palin referring to lilly White rural America as the “real America(ns)”).

    The idea that Palin and her friend didn’t find being a minority in terms of not being among the dominant racial/ethnic group something that wasn’t “glamourous” or a feeling that wasn’t “comfortable” is hardly flattering especially when went from the diversity of Hawaii to lilly White Idaho. The obvious conclusion to be drawn is Palin is rather “comfortable” in places where her racial/ethnic group is the predominant majority.

    Again, hardly a flattering character trait in an increasingly diverse mainland U.S. society.

    • Illusions

      In Hawaii, particularly at the time Palin would have been college aged, you could be more than “uncomfortable” being white. It was not uncommon to have people call you names, spit on you, harass you, threaten you physically, or just flat out hit you, for being the unglamorous minority. For any person, being singled out in that way because of race is more than a little unpleasant. For someone who has never been mistreated in that way I can imagine it would also be shocking and pretty frightening.

      I wouldnt think that it said something negative about a black persons character that they didnt enjoy being in a place where whites ganged up on blacks and spit on the, hit them, called them the N-word, etc. I would not suspect them racist if they left.

      And I am not particularly fond of Palin and her politics, personally. So I have no interest in defending her character. I think some rather unpleasant things about her myself, some of them perhaps not wholly justified. If she said something clearly racist, I would not mind in the least that she were held accountable for it. But in the interest of fairness, I just dont think what was provided to us here in terms of evidence is enough to make the call that this is racist on her part.

      I wish I could have found more context for her fathers statement.

      • Nquest

        I find it odd that you wish there was more context for her father’s statement but had no qualms making wholesale assumptions about Palin’s experience in Hawaii with absolutely no factual context or information about what Palin’s actual experience was.

        I’ve looked a number of blogs, etc. where a number of people weighed in including people who, like you, said they were from or grew up or lived in Hawaii for a significant period of time. Suffice it to say, that your assumption about the treatment Palin may have been subjected to is myopic and probably doesn’t tell the whole story — a story that includes White racism directed towards Asians/PI’s.

        And since we’re making assumptions about what would not be uncommon… it stands to reason that if Palin was subjected to the kind of racism/harsh treatment you suggest is common… Well, it would make sense for Palin to have reported such the mistreatment in her own account(s) but the only thing I’ve seen is Palin’s claim that Hawaii was “too perfect”… TOO PERFECT with the lure of the beaches and overall lifestyle, apparently, being too much of a distraction in terms of her focusing on academics.

        So, in the same tone you started your first post… I like the assumption that Palin experienced racism based on the quote attributed to her father which didn’t mention anything about Palin being subjected to anything other than the loss of racial/ethnic majority status.

        That’s it.

    • No1KState

      Illusions is right that some white people will feel unwelcomed in Hawaii because they are unwelcomed.

      Of course, I feel no great sympathy for them. I do ache for those who’ve been physically assualted. But on the whole, “Welcome to the world people of color live in all over the US.”

      Though, it doesn’t seem as though Palin was spit on. I feel almost certain she’d cry foul if she were.

      All that aside . . . Nquest!! Where have you been?!

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