In a truly unbelievable sight, “Don’t let terrorism take over our town” was the slanderous message on flyers about Hoboken’s first turban-wearing candidate, Ravinder Bhalla. These flyers were left on the windshields of several cars in this New Jersey town where elections for the mayor take place on Tuesday.
Councilman Bhalla is the first Sikh to hold an office in New Jersey, a state that has a high South Asian population. These fliers are linked to one of the candidates opposing Bhalla, Michael DeFusco, who will be the first gay mayor if he’s elected. DeFusco ripped these fliers apart during a press conference, condemning this political stunt.
While addressing this situation, Bhalla said his wife was in tears and he had a tough time explaining to his 10-year-old why people were attacking him for wearing a turban. “There’s been an undercurrent of racism I’ve seen in this campaign,” he added. “That sort of whispering campaign has come to the surface now, where people have the audacity to send a flyer like that.”
A campaign volunteer for Bhalla first spotted these fliers on Friday, Nov. 3. They were being circulated in a popular neighborhood near the Hudson River waterfront. Hoboken Police is investigating it as a potential bias and harassment crime but they aren’t sure of how many fliers have already been circulated.
In a statement, city council president Jen Giattino said of Hoboken incident, “This reprehensible act is completely unacceptable. There is no room for this kind of hateful and cowardly act in our election. We may differ in many of our views in this election, but I know that we all agree that this type of tactic has no place in our society.”
This is a disturbing turn of events, especially because this is the second attack of this sort that took place in New Jersey within a few days. Last week, residents of Edison, New Jersey, where half the population is Asian-American, received mail containing anti-Indian and anti-Chinese fliers. With “Make Edison Great Again” printed in big, bold letters, the flier had two Asian board of education candidates with a “deport” stamp on a part of their faces. It drew national attention and responses from a number of politicians and groups.
Clearly, the current political rhetoric is succeeding in spreading vitriolic messages about race and religion. It’s important to remember what makes America truly great is the fact that it’s a melting pot of diversity and culture. Let’s not try to take that away.