By Jenn Fang
For Northwest Asian Weekly
Several of the candidates for the GOP nomination took the opportunity of the Democratic Party’s first presidential primary debate of the season to live-tweet. And, by live-tweet, I mean troll. In stark contrast to the nuanced policy debate taking place on stage in Las Vegas where candidates were searching for respectful differences in opinions and strategies, Donald Trump and Mike Huckabee spent the majority of Oct. 13 composing 140-character insults and ad hominem attacks. Although Trump declared that no former mayor of Baltimore should ever be president, it was Huckabee who made waves with a tweet referencing the racist stereotype that Asians are untrustworthy and barbaric eaters of dogmeat.
Less than five minutes after declaring that American racism is overblown (“America has a sin problem, not a skin problem,” he tweeted), Huckabee wrote:
I trust @BernieSanders with my tax dollars like I trust a North Korean chef with my labrador! #DemDebate
Not okay, Mike. Not okay.
Too often, the West tries to export our specific sensibilities on the culinary habits of other global cultures. We express disgust that any culture might eat meat we would have trouble seeing as a protein source; meanwhile, we express similar outrage that in parts of the world, beef (a meat we regularly consume) is considered sacred. Huckabee’s tweet invokes Western disgust at the notion of dog meat consumption, without exploring how this disgust is Orientalist and culturally imperialist.
But more important: While it is true that some East Asian cultures historically and currently might include dog meat on their menus, Huckabee missteps not because he references this culinary practice but because his tweet associates the eating of dog meat with barbarism and theft. He jokes that an Asian chef would slaughter any dog in sight regardless of the animal’s status as a pet. He suggests that Asian cultures where dog meat is a traditional dish are not currently troubled by the ethical quandaries of its preparation. In fact, the dog meat industry in Asia is limited — few Chinese or Korean citizens say they have eaten dog meat more than once, and there is a growing movement to regulate or ban the practice out of sanitary and moral concerns — and consumption is predominantly limited only to animals bred specifically for food.
Huckabee’s tweet is about the stereotype of Asians eating dogs, but the punchline is that Asians lack the internal moral compass that would also guide us away from stealing another person’s pet and butchering it for food.
This tweet is racist not just because it associates Asians with the practice of eating dogs, but because it jokes that Asians are so unscrupulous that we cannot be trusted.
Two hours after posting that original tweet, Huckabee doubled down. He mocked and dismissed charges of racism with the pointed accusation that his accusers are trying to defend a “brutal dictatorship”. (end)