169: Sri Preston Kulkarni on Anti-Asian Racism, Campaign During COVID-19
If a campaign is just knocking on doors or a campaign his rallies or campaign fundraising and advertisements. And Yeah a lot of these. Things are very difficult to do but if a campaign is being that connection being that voice for the community and for the people I mean at the end of the day. It's not that we have a lot of resources in the campaign. What we have is a network of people and when you have a crisis that's the biggest thing. How do you pull people together to deal with crisis together? We have heard today. Not a victory of body but eight celebrate freedom symbolizing and as well as they beginning signifying renewal and well. It came to episode one sixty nine of the law. Majority podcast where we talk about politics. Culture lives that is of three Asian. American FORMER FIELD ORGANIZERS. I am your co host Kevin Shoe. Today's podcast is part three of three part series. We're doing with congressional representatives and candidates on how their campaign is adapting to Kobe. Nineteen and what they're doing to fight back against the Anti Asian hate crimes and discrimination. That's happening across the country as a result of the fear surrounding Kobe. One thousand nine hundred and fanned by Donald Trump. Today's episode is interview. I did with Sri Preston Co Carney. Who was running for Congress to represent the twenty second Congressional district in Texas? It's a super super diverse district and one thing that has really distinguished. Sri Campaign is that he is running multi-language outreach in twenty one different languages to his constituents to make sure they're seen their heard they're cared for and being included in the political process. We discussed how his campaign operation has been adapting to become a source of service and information for his community during Kobe. Nineteen and how they are helping to fight back against the Anti Asian sentiments and really hate crimes and discrimination happening in Texas and also we talked about the state of America's standing in the world which is very qualified to speak on having served in the US foreign service in multiple countries for fourteen years before running for Congress if you are curious about his first congressional run two years ago listen to our previous episode with him in episode eighty three. Also go check out. Part one of this series with Congressman Harley Rueda and partout with congressman. Gil Cisneros arrived without further ado. Here's my conversation with Sri Preston Kocarnik Preston Carney. Welcome back to the model. George podcast today. Thank you very much for having me. It's exciting to be back. Although it's a strange time I'm excited about the program at least so I yeah indeed indeed. Thank you appreciate that Sir. So let's actually start by getting to know your district little bit. I A lot of people may or may not know where you're running for Congress right now. So could you tell us a bit about the Congressional district that you are currently running to represent? Where is it and any sort of interesting characteristics that exist in that particular area of the country? Sure so my district is Texas. Twenty two which is Easy to remember. Because my name is Shirley Preston Kulkarni and the three biggest towns in the district spell sap K. Sugarland pair Landon Katie. Were RIGHT OUTSIDE OF HOUSTON. The suburbs here and something. That's kind of unusual about this is that we have a very high Asian American population about twenty percent and in fact we are the second most diverse county of segments diverse district in the entire country. Right now we're also the fastest growing district in America and the largest by population. We're now larger than five states because we've grown so much since the two thousand and ten cents and we'll see after this census car up the district but I mean there's a tremendous opportunity especially with all these different immigrant groups like my dad who was an immigrant who moved in here and the district has transformed completely from. When I was a kid to now it's I should really Fresh information I didn't know that district is growing population so quickly so one thing want to begin. A conversation with is first of all your campaign running for reelection. You're on this show in the two thousand eighteen psycho to talk about your first run for Congress love to hear first of all just. How is your campaigns operation adapting strategically or otherwise to this new era of cove in nineteen as released to the condition ground in Texas sure So first of all just going back to twenty eight eighteen The way that we did things before I'm a former foreign service officer so I speak six languages myself and when I resigned from the Foreign Service and came back here We started running in fifteen different languages to try and reach out to all of these immigrant communities And before Kobe Nineteen. We were actually running this time in twenty one. Different languages now Now that everything's shut down. Actually that kind of outreach has become even more important than what I mean by. That is that people feel very isolated from each other and so we we are getting out to communities especially senior citizens especially the people who are by themselves but in particular immigrant communities So If you have members of your family that They speak English as a second language. We WanNa make sure and get all that information out to them. So we've been translating information about the disease and about stay at home waters Working with this group on an APP that will help you diagnose whether you should come in for a test drive through tests yourself in multiple languages. we've been doing Virtual town halls with people To get out information about epidemiology palm analogy about About psychiatry. How people should deal mentally and physically. We've been doing a food drive in a blood drive and a personal protective equipment drive but the biggest thing is checking in on people. Because even if you don't have any medical problems even if you don't have any financial problems that feeling of community gets lost and so having all of our volunteers doing what they were doing last year for votes. We're just doing it for our neighbors now. Just calling to see. How are you doing? Are you okay Do you need anything and if you do. How can we help? Fill those gaps. So that's the biggest adjustment that we've been making and I I gotTa tell you people really appreciate those phone calls just to check in when they haven't seen anybody face to face in weeks. It makes a gigantic difference interesting and hearing a very common theme from you and other people's campaigns right because I feel like obviously a typical in a typical climate with campaign. You do all these outrageou voter contact give people to register to vote and actually vote etc etc and it sounds like for your campaign and some of the others have talked to is almost being repurpose into another source of public service already. Even though you're not you know technically in office you're also doing the work that a congress person already does. I mean so that goes back to the basic question of what is a campaign if a campaign is just knocking on doors or campaign rallies or of a campaign is Fundraising and advertisements. And Yeah a lot of these. Things are very difficult to do but if a campaign is being that connection being that voice for the community and for the people then this is how we do it. This is the campaign. This is connecting communities. It's making sure that if people have problems are being addressed You know we were able to connect for example when I I I went out and we did this. Dry for gloves for masks for all those things that the frontline healthcare workers need in order to test people treat them. We were calling dentists. We were calling construction companies and a veterinarian. Anybody who had those extra things to donate and that was one part of it but in the process Physicians and nurses would call me and say we need help here and one of the major hospitals systems here Their supply chain manager. I ended up connecting them with somebody else who had supply they can fulfil an order so we got an order of a million masks so filled for hospital but all of that is just for making these calls. I mean at the end of the day. It's not that we have a lot of resources in the campaign. What we have is a network of people and when you have a crisis that's the biggest thing. How do you pull people together to deal with a crisis together because you know we we realize? Now we're not. We're not all individuals separate in this crisis. We have to face these challenges together and that's true for for The economic challenges the health challenges the education challenges by and we're learning about more and more towns that people are facing every single day. And so for me. That's the basic purpose of being in Congress. Actually solve problems for people whether it's in Washington or right here in our neighborhood right right and one thing I want to expand a little bit on is when we last roughly two years ago one of the things that really distinguished your campaign from others. Is this incredible multi-language outreach to you're doing before and looks like it's expanded even more this time around. How has that program evolved behind the scenes even with or without cove ed? And how important is that to kind of your strategy going forward as we still need to continue to campaign going into November and all that. So how how is that Program evolved in general. Sure so when we first started Like I said Six languages from my time in the Foreign Service and I said why don't we reach out to voters these different communities in multiple languages. And the answer that I was given was. Hey everybody speaks English and be Most of these folks don't both at their immigrants so don't bother with them the easiest way to lose an election is to As they go after people who don't vote and so we said the easiest way to get changes to keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results so We did it. We campaigned In fifteen languages fully last time including Chinese and Vietnamese Hindi at the and African languages. Well Ibo Uraba and the result was that we got over thirty thousand immigrants. Show up who hadn't voted for president but they voted in a midterm election. So we show that this actually can have a huge impact and bring people in and it's and for that question about well don't people speak. English is not really about. Do you speak English or not? But it's really about is saying. Do you see me. Do you see my community. Do we have value? We have a voice and so The same person could call and just sound like any other salesperson on the phone but if you start the conversation in someone's native language immediately everything changes right and it's the same thing if you were going to an African American church and you didn't know anything about African American history or Culture People. Look at you like you're crazy. You're like come both from you. You have to say that your community makes a difference. It's not it's not just You're trying to get their vote from them. If you're trying to talk to them in your specially trying to listen to them and their community and so the weight of that's changed this time even before covert nineteen is we were. We were expanding a lot in terms of the immigrant communities were dealing with so with Asian community. That's very easy to see the just from the voter names here. The Vietnamese Motors. The Chinese voters Gujarat. The that they'll go Nigerian voters would Latino communities just like Asian. They're not a monolith. And that's what we're trying to get Folks understand if you treat all Asians as as one thing you know that they don't have all of these different cultures and communities. Of course you're not GONNA get show. Same thing is true. What is the Colombians and Venezuelans Puerto Ricans and Salvadorans and Mexican Americans who've been here five years and they speak English as a second language and they have Mexican Americans who've been here five hundred years and would laugh at you if you sent them a text message in Spanish? You have to know those community you have to spend the time of those communities and so we were doing that even before the main difference now. Is that all of that entity that we put into building out these networks. It's even more important during crisis because we're not just calling those people saying yes or no. We're actually trying to figure out from them. What did they need right now? And it's specific abandoned at our campaign has no other campaign that I know of the country has to be able to get out to all these communities and a crisis in a disaster situation so has your campaign. Volunteer Corps actually grew during this time or like. They're getting even more involved almost more active in a sense. Then maybe during normal times. Yeah so I mean some people. Of course it depends. You know the answer is always it depends some people if your kids for example or at home right now and you're trying to figure out. How do I educate my kids? And so were kick and still keep my business Flow of course It'll draw more from you. But by the same token I talked to some senior citizens who said man. I'm a senior citizen. I'm I'm living at home by myself. I would love it if somebody called me to check. I'll make as many phone calls as you want. And even some people who are really skeptical of the IDEA I. They came back in there for the man that it makes such a big difference When you hear that Voice of the other end because you know people just they haven't seen friends or neighbors in and week sometimes because you know we're trying to be safe we're trying to be socially distant even from our own family members. I I didn't. I haven't seen my mom and almost a month because I asked her to Stay with my cousin. Just because I came into contact with so many people during the campaign. And it's a tough thing to do. But when you get those phone calls just to check in on you. And then anchors everybody out there you know if you have somebody that you haven't checked in on a while. Just just give them a phone call or send him a text today saying hey how are you doing? Are you safe everything okay? We they'll appreciate that right now more than at any other time And that that we've found in it and it really builds this this strong strong sense of community absolutely one thing I want to explore more with you is of course. There's been a rise of Anti Asian racism and discrimination happening across the country and really across the world and many pockets in parallel to this Kobe. Nineteen crisis is being racial. Lies in people are being picked on as scapegoats. How has your campaign or even you personally been playing a role in this in your district. Had people also come up to you or your responding to this cosworth incidents of hate crimes or how you guys thinking about your operation in the context of that You know discrimination in particular. Sure so I mean just to be clear. I mean this stuff didn't start Just under Kobe. Nineteen we've been dealing with it for a while. There's stuff at the national level. Obviously you know the president when he he talks about you know banning Muslims or you know he he's talking about China all the time during the campaign when he talks about Members of Congress going home even if they were born in the United States. I mean this is. This is happening again and again But this was also happening here in Texas so last year. My my congressman the one. I was running against until he dropped out of the race. He called me an Indo American carpetbagger. Who got his money from overseas Our state representative here. Several Asian Americans started running and he said that the the only qualification they had to run against him was that they were Asian Which is a slap in the face to anybody you know I. I don't know why you would say that in a district that is thirty percent. Asian like his was Asian American. It's it's mind blowing to me that people say these kind of things There was a there is a Republican Party in tarrant county but by Dallas. They they had vice chair. They voted on whether it's remove him from office and the only reason was because he was Muslim literally like they had no other reason but they said that They couldn't have a Muslim in the Republican Party and They they voted on whether to remove him from his position and there was a guy in the in the platform committee Last year who said that? I'm a proud proud white nationalist. I mean this is Texas in in twenty twenty so when Kobe nineteen started you can see under a crisis situation You there's a natural instinct to say whom we'RE GONNA blame. Who are we gonNA eat is right now? Especially if you're if you're the president you're in a leadership role and you're not Solving the problem you WanNa say it was somebody else who Who whose fault it is and you know. Obviously he's he's double down on this. This is the China virus Chinese virus and it keeps changing the name of it from Corona virus to Chinese virus And we had somebody in our district on my opponent my Republican opponent Kathleen Wall. She made an ad thing that China attacked us that we should retaliate against them. We should We should cut off trade to China and some people said. Oh will you know? Why are you being politically correct? You know like don't try to be so woke. I mean everything is named after the place comes from first of all that that's not true. The Spanish flu wasn't from Spain. For example you know but more importantly than that no public health official is saying this right. It's what is coming from Dr Fallacy. This isn't coming from anybody like naming the disease this way. What does that tell you that means and said he would never call it that but it tells you is that it's got a political purpose not public health purpose. So what's the political purpose? Political purposes obviously escaped. Go people and even if you say well. We're we're Talking about the Chinese government not people who are ethnically Chinese. It doesn't seem like a very powerful way to retaliate against the Chinese government. Just call people names here but but we know that that's not true and the way that we know is that the president and his own commercial he he had an image of Gary Locke the governor of Washington American up on the screen saying that Joe Biden soft on the Chinese. Well clearly that that has nothing to do with the Chinese government. He's saying that all ethnically Chinese people are to blame for this. I mean that. That's that's where puts a light? And it's the same thing happens with Latinos win. The president said that people were rapists and drug dealers. And and they're pretending that well this this has to do with immigration doesn't and you you know because he talks about Judge Korea who was from Indiana born here But he says well he can't be he can't be a fair judge all this all has to do with race and ethnicity and trying to scapegoat somebody and what I worry about. Most of all is that we're going back to a time period like the nineteen forties. When Japanese American citizens put into concentration camps? Right here in the United States. Because we felt like there was a threat the bigger threat the more danger there is of scapegoating. Somebody trying to take away their civil liberties than we've seen in the level of hate crimes rise already you know. Fbi warned about it. We had a hate crime just a few weeks ago here in Texas where Asian American family was stabbed. Three of them So I am. I am extremely worried about this Rise in rhetoric. Because you know when you have twenty thousand people dead. Somebody's gotta be to blame. And if the target turns towards the Asian American community that can be very dangerous for us. I mean I one thousand percent share your worry and definitely. There's a lot of frustrating aspect involved if I were to try very hard to pick a moment or some kind of instance of optimism is that there's a lot more hopefully solidarity being built. I've certainly seen a lot of Muslim. Americans and folks with Brown skin in general who suffered a lot and still continue to this day of hey crime rooting rooted from nine eleven and for example coming to kind of support other Asian Americans during this crisis and so on and so forth and your campaign in particular gave the diversity of the district all. Your outreach multi-language wise have access to a lot of these people. Have you seen a lot of kind of cross cultural sollidarity? As well being billed people kind of seeing the connection that the hate crimes that were put against the Japanese Americans in the forties to nine eleven to a Lotta episodes between two now is a common threat as opposed to isolated incidents in our history. Yeah absolutely I mean the the bottom line. Is that any any minority if any minority threatening the United States it threatens all of us and it doesn't matter whether you know we're East Asian or South Asian or Latino or African immigrant Those kind of attack if you're if you're Okay one of them. Then you can be okay with all of them but a good example is The Sikh community right so The community gets a percentage. They get more hate crime attacks than anybody else. Why does it because people have something religion? Nobody actually knows about their religious practice. The very small religious minority from northern India. But they wear turbans they wear beards and so they they look different. They stand out and they they become targets. And what I try to say people's I say look anybody who who looks different could be a target. This is what happened in in the nineteen thirties. in In in Germany is that you know that I it's the Jews and it's you know a the Roma or are they call them Gypsies. Slavs it's it's whatever group Seems like it could be foreign and the truth is there's a lot of people who still to this day. When they see one of our faces they see foreigner. You know Ted Lieu. The other day. He had people attacking him on social media saying that he was putting out Chinese propaganda served this country. I served this country overseas in places like Iraq. I I remember watching a few years ago. there was a hearing For the Foreign Relations Committee in the US OVSERV- resentatives and we had to Us officials one from commerce Named Ruin Kumar and one system secretary from the State Department and who had also been staffer on that committee more than ten years earlier and the congressman starts addressing them with his grievances towards the government of India because he assumed that they were representing the government of India. Because you were just looking at their face. That's that's the kind of attitude that we have for members of our government so I think it's really important that we have people In our government that actually represent the diversity of America. I mean you see you see it on on the Democratic Side. We have more people coming out now. We have we have a greater diversity than we've ever had before on the democratic side whereas on the Republican side. They just getting worse like Right now I think it's going to be at ninety seven point five percent Anglo on the Republican side. They don't have a single Asian American In in Congress And in all of Congress in the house when will hurt retires they're gonNA have only GONNA have one African American out of the House and the Senate and in Congress? I mean that's crazy as the American population is becoming more diverse One party is becoming less diverse. And I think that if you don't feel that if if you don't see those kind of hate crimes you don't see those kind of threats card against you. You don't understand what the problem is. I remember in November of two thousand sixteen. I was standing with a friend who was on election day and he said to me he said. Sri You just saying this metaphorically you know that Donald Trump's in office you feel more threatened or you feel physically more threatened and And I said I feel physically more than are you talking about because like people do like when they yell at you and people like spit you and and and people lash out in violent ways. I mean that's something that All of us of various backgrounds can experience if we quote unquote looked like a foreigner. I mean I remember When the president was talking about his friend Bernard Langer saying people who who looked like illegal immigrants were voting and I asked the question I who looks like an illegal immigrant. How do you? How do you look like in illegal immigrant? What what what is in your face looks like and immigrant and so I mean all of that is to say that it's just more incumbent upon us Not not necessarily just to get mad at the people who are saying these kind of things but to get more people involved him for a process the more that we have Asian Americans forming coalitions together with the Americans and African Americans people who in a progressive democracy. Which is what we should have and we. We've always been striving for in this country and we're going to be better off as a democracy because we have all of these voices in our country but they haven't been represented. They haven't had a table definitely definitely one last topic. I want to kind of explore with you on the street before we wrap up and I think this is something you can speak uniquely to because of your service and the foreign in informed service you've served in multiple countries like you said Iraq at Israel Taiwan etc. You Speak Multiple Languages and in context cove in nineteen. This is definitely shaking up a lot of our international relations and geopolitics already. And I don't have a clear live questioning here. I just want to get your thoughts as you see the News as you monitor everything that's going on and obviously as you continue to campaign and serve your community. How is the place of America in our world stacking up right now or like? How can we see? International Relations going forward with cove in nineteen being now a massive backdrop of everything. Well unfortunately I've seen some Some recent polling America's Standing in the rest of the world is now with the lowest that that it's ever been And part of that has to do with the our response to so I my first tour in the foreign service as you mentioned was in Taiwan and this was right after stars I back Two thousand three to them for And even in that time they understood. I th- elation testing and tracing a virus like this and so when you see the kind of response that that they had in Taiwan and South Korea in Japan for example We all South Korea had their first taste of Kobe. Nineteen the exact thing and the United States. We saw it coming but our response is totally different and so When when it comes to dealing with these global challenges whether it's a pandemic like this whether it's climate change whether it's refugees all of these are our global issues and what we've been doing for the last couple of years of saying. Oh America's just going to go it alone America I You know we. We don't have anything to do with the rest of these countries in the world. And that's just not the way that our our global society works we have a global economy We have global trade you know and unfortunately We have global diseases that can pass from one country to another. The real question is how. How do we react to these things? How do we respond? How do we work together? You know I take another topic nuclear negotiations. It took US years to get several these countries to work together on nuclear negotiations on Iran. And then we tore that we America's not going to be part of this tour of the Paris climate. Accord's we're not going to be part of this Right now we are. Seeing the results have not taken advantage of the last decade or more of Pandemic response around the world. We we have a worse response. There's no way the growth that we had the worst response out of any major country to disease and now This attempt to like I said scapegoat. China what is doing? They were sending experts and supplies over to Europe before they were sending them to us. We can't we can't just try to try to blame other countries for all of our problems. We we need to figure out how we can work with other countries to Solve these global challenges and I hope. I hope it'll get new people into those decision making positions that New People are those positions of power Nbc that have a more diverse background? Maybe come from either. Immigrants themselves or or children of immigrants light like like myself who who see the world for more global perspective we can actually get policies in place in our federal government that take the world as it is and believe in things like science and Tax Evidence. Rather than turning everything into this. This battle of ethnicities or this battle of nationalism. Because we can't go back to where we were hundred years that we can't go back to the nineteen thirties. We can't go back. To the time we could put Japanese Americans in concentration camps or that you blame other ethnicities for all of our problems. We have to live in the in the twenty th century the twentieth century is global and we certainly hope you become one of those people Sri. It's quite depressing and frustrated. You look at a lot of these trends heading forward but I do. Think your candidacy your campaign. The way its run the with reached out to so many people is really a sign or an example of hope and one reserve just kind of the last couple of minutes to give you the platform to do any called call to action to people out there were. Should we do to help you do what you do so you can help the community that you're helping? Yeah so look. We need as much help as possible and Even before this we were getting people from New York from California to help us you know. They're making causing multiple languages. But as of this moment it really doesn't matter where you are in the country you could be a mile away from us or you could be a thousand miles but you can help with this effort right now. That's the advantage that we have the opportunity that we have. This crisis is that Even if there's nobody in your area who you think is a part of this kind of movement you can still be part of it today so I would encourage everybody if they liked what they heard today. Go to our website go to Sri Twenty twenty dot com. Sri Two zero two zero dot com sign up to help volunteer however you can to participate with the campaign obviously donate their two or email us emails at Info at three twenty twenty dot com. That's I- NFO AT SRI two zero two zero dot com. We're taking interns from all over the country. We're taking volunteers from all over the country. If you have someone you wanNA connect us to. I mean we've had You know recording artists. Who Want to be part of this? We have people obviously if you speak other languages. We need your help. If you if you know people in different industries that you think care enough about our democracy care enough about Facts in evidence in science. Care Care enough about all of our communities. Actually having a boy they know. These elections are critically important. And they want to do something. This is your opportunity to do something so please reach out to us. We'd love to have you on the team and I just want to thank you again. Kevin for all the great work. You're doing I really appreciate the opportunity. Wonderful thank you again for rejoining. The modern maturity podcast. Thank you so much.