Readers Write: Why won’t Sen. Phillips condemn anti Asian, anti LGBT hate speech

The Island Now

Thank you Anna Kaplan for denouncing a vile act of hate speech against the Asian-American and LGBTQ community right here in our very own backyard in Nassau County that occurred on Oct. 21, 2018 at the Great Neck Autofest and Street Fair in front of the Great Neck Republican Club’s table.

 From Anna Kaplan’s public statement on Facebook, “The disturbing video of Great Neck Library Trustee candidate Mimi Hu being verbally attacked and harassed by two women who were standing at the Great Neck Republican Club table during last Sunday’s Great Neck Street Fair was an atrocious example of the unfortunate hatred and bigotry that persists in 2018.  

The cause of the incident (to the extent it can be discerned) is Hu’s support of transgender rights, which is an odd issue to arise in a library board election, but in the current political environment, seemingly no election is immune from the same forces of hate and intolerance that swirl through our national and state races.”

 From the Island Now article posted on Oct. 24, titled “Library Candidate Assailed at Great Neck Street Fair,” the account is described like this.  “In a video of the incident, the two women, Mersedeh Rofeim and Valerie Shalit, were heard calling Hu a ‘communist fascist’ and asking, ‘Are you a man or a woman?’  One said, ‘Take that sh*t to China,’ regarding support for transgender people and told her to ‘get out of my personal space’ as Hu tried to walk past a stand.”

 “‘This is who we want,’ she said, referring to [write-in candidate Qiping] Zhang, before pointing to Hu. ‘Not transvestite.’”

 “She and Shalit went on to chant ‘Shame on you!’”

 “Rofeim continued to say, ‘No transgender to Great Neck. No transgender.’”

 I have never in 13 years of living on Long Island seen such blatant hatred for a minority group and against the LGBTQ community.  Hu deserves credit for facing these individuals down, individuals who continued to spew their racist and transphobic bigotry despite knowing they were being filmed.

 Considering state Sen. Elaine Phillips is no stranger to social media, sharing her comings and goings, denouncements, endorsements and photo ops on a daily basis, I find it quite telling that she chose to sit this one out.

I called her office on Oct. 25, a full five days after the incident happened and after pictures surfaced on Twitter of Republican congressional candidate Dan DeBono and Phillips posing with these two abominable characters.  

I was rudely shot down by her chief of staff, Kathy Wade, when I inquired if Phillips would be publicly condemning these acts of hate on Facebook.

 I passionately explained that in this hate-filled environment was perpetuated by our president and other Republican leaders and that slurs against Asian Americans and the LGBTQ community were despicable, disgusting and not to be tolerated, ever. 

Wade was quick to cut me off and doubled down that no statement would be made on Facebook.

 When I challenged the reasoning, Wade basically said, “She doesn’t want to, doesn’t have to and doesn’t need to.”  

Instead, she told me that this incident was between the parties involved and that Phillips has a great relationship with the residents in Great Neck and need not worry.  She also said that she would email me Phillips statement, instead, the only statement she would be making publicly.

 I hung up saying I looked forward reading this official statement.  Afterward, I received a single paragraph by email that appeared to be hastily written and wasn’t even on official letterhead or signed by Phillips. Additionally, the statement included no explicit support for the local Asian American and LGBTQ communities.

 I found Phillips’ tepid response shocking, disgraceful and complicit.  In a post-Trump world, silence is violence.

 Perhaps Phillips’ silence has something to do with the fact that she voted twice to defeat the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act in committee (once in 2017 and once in 2018).

According to the Washington Blade, “The Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, or GENDA, was defeated in the New York Senate Investigations & Government Operations Committee by a 5-4 party-line vote.  The measure would have amended the state human rights law to bar discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression and would have added transgender people to the state human rights law.”

 In fact, Phillips was the deciding vote in 2018.  It’s no wonder her most vocal supporters are transphobic and why she didn’t want to touch the slurs against transgender individuals with a 10-foot pole!  

With Trump set to roll back transgender rights and protections, Phillips has made transgender New Yorkers particularly vulnerable by voting down the bill.

 I will never allow racial slurs and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric to go unchallenged in my backyard.  These women should be ashamed of themselves, and now they are playing the victims.  

The way they conducted themselves is not only an embarrassment but reveals the true hatred and intolerance they have for others and the racism and homophobia they have in their hearts.

 Phillips, as an elected official, has a duty to vehemently call out hate speech in her district.  Hate speech is un-American, and no decent person engages in it or turns a blind eye toward it.  I will be adding this cowardly act to a long list of other reasons why Phillips should not be re-elected.

 Phillips does not accurately represent the majority of her constituents’ views and, instead, panders to the hateful extremists among us.  

Therefore, I hope others will join me in supporting and voting for Democrat Anna Kaplan, who recognizes the dignity of each and every one of her constituents and will fight to make sure New York remains the welcoming, accepting, big-tent state it has always been.

Alethea Shapiro

East Hills

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