Korean-Americans have been speaking out against a New Jersey mayor’s mother after she made racist comments.
Holding posters and American flags, hundreds of people rallied in the city of Palisades Park on Sunday, after Lorraine Rotundo, mayor James Rotundo’s mother, posted racist Facebook comments during a particularly tight primary election between her son and Korean-American candidate Councilman Chris Chung.
The comments were posted after it’d been announced that the election last Tuesday was too close to call. Officials recounted the provisional ballots this past Monday and Chung won by just eight votes. However, the mayor has not conceded. His mother claimed that the city’s Korean population engaged in “illegal voting,” arriving “by bus load” to vote.
“Go to hell Palisades Park, let the GD KOREANS have this F’n town,” she wrote. “All of us Americans are sooooooooooo done!!!!!!”
“As soon as I talk to my son,” she added. “I am going to suggest that only ENGLISH be spoken in our Boro Hall at least while an AMERICAN is still the MAYOR!!!!”
The comments have since been deleted, but they have riled the city, which has a population that is almost 60 percent Asian. As screenshots of the remarks were circulated on social media, the Asian-American community, many prominent figures in the city, as well as other civil rights groups, expressed their disappointment in Lorraine Rotundo’s sentiments.
Margaret Fung, executive director of nonprofit Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, told HuffPost that the remarks were “disturbing,” especially given the city’s demographics.
“Such hostility towards Asian-Americans and people who speak languages other than English should be a relic of the past; instead, this hateful rhetoric has become commonplace in the Trump era,” Fung said. “That’s just not acceptable.”
Others said that the statements were hurtful, particularly how the mayor’s mother characterized the Korean residents of the city.
“Especially hurtful is what she said is we Americans and you Koreans. I am an American as well,” Sarah Kim of the Korean American Association Of New Jersey told ABC7.
The mayor has since denounced the comments, describing his mother’s posts to ABC7 as “disgusting.”
“I’m disgusted with her statement. Let me just put that right out there. I think that was a sick comment to make,” he told the outlet. “But my mother’s 80 years old.”
He also wrote in a Facebook post that his mother retracted the statement and “did not mean these hurtful things.”
However, protesters still showed up on Sunday to open dialogue around the racism in the election.
“Calling us ‘GD Korean’ is wrong, and that’s why I stand here,” Dae Oh, a 56-year-old resident told NorthJersey.com. “At this time we have to speak up to protect us and to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
Jimmy Chae, who organized the rally, told the outlet he felt the mayor’s apology does not suffice.
“He’s a public figure,” Chae said. “He should be reprimanding the community that this is not acceptable.”