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Richardson as Commerce Secretary to Spark Racial Tension?

President-elect Obama named New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson as his commerce secretary nominee today, putting Richardson on track to be the voice of the US business community in Obama's cabinet. Richardson will also lead international trade missions, watch over the 2010 census, and oversee the Patent and Trademark Office and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Office (an agency involved in the climate change debate).

But not everyone is pleased. Chinese-American activists in California have planned a nationwide protest to the appointment of Gov. Richardson, who enjoys popularity among Latino Americans as his demographic's most prominent politician. The Chinese-American group maintains that when Richardson was President Clinton's energy secretary he handled the case of Taiwanese-American Wen Ho Lee in a way that made all Chinese-Americans seem like potential spies. To find out more about this controversy,


In 1999 the Clinton Administration accused Wen Ho Lee, a former nuclear scientist at UCLA, of stealing the "crown jewels" of America's nuclear weapon program to give to China. But later the government admitted that none of the information was classified and 99 percent of it was available to the public. Richardson acknowledged that he made errors in his handling of that case, during a Democratic presidential debate years later. But many Chinese-Americans still wait for an actual apology.

Do you think Richardson should apologize to the Chinese-American community?


Join The Conversation
Grandpa Grandpa 8 years
I remember the segregated South, I remember doing voter registration in South Carolina, and those of us involved never walked around alone, and went back to the house we stayed at before it got dark, I remember Bull Conner, I also remember the race riots, I remember being thrown out of CORE after being a member for 2 years because I was white, I remember when a black man and a white women could not walk down a street, even in NYC, without getting glares from both blacks and whites. I remember white cops being executed on the street by black radicals. Today no one gives a crap if black dates a white, a black family can move into any neighborhood, and buy any home they can afford. The progress in race relations in the last 50 years is beyond my wildest imagination. I think it is about time we all stop picking at scabs, stop putting every slight in racial, ethnic, or gender terms. Some people are just NOT nice people, and are not nice having anything to do with anything other then they are just nasty. You can ask any adult white, and they can list a number of times they were treated rudely, or badly, or pulled over by cops. Any person can hold any job; hold any office without regard to anything other then their ability. Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream of a person being judged by the color of their skin, but the content of their character, has been realized. Crime in the streets is no longer a code word, it means just what it says, crimes in the street. Let go of the past, embrace the present, look forward to the future. Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong said it best “It is a wonderful world”. I now step down from my soap box.
Jude-C Jude-C 8 years
"Where's Jude when you need her? I'm interested to know what she thinks about this." I'm here now :wave: I don't think it's a big issue. I remember the Wen Ho Lee thing, and really didn't think it was that bad (certainly didn't think Richardson, or anyone else, behaved as if all Chinese people are spies, as that group asserts). I DID feel, at points, annoyed because I thought the whole thing might cause some people to be suspicious of Chinese nationals--probably the same people who lump Chinese and Taiwanese people together under one umbrella without realizing we have totally different governments--but a) that didn't bother me, since it would be the suspicion of the ignorant, and b) I blamed Wen Ho Lee for that. I doubt I would feel any differently or more angry if I was Chinese-American instead of Taiwanese-American.
kranky kranky 8 years
"I think he should apologize for that haircut." And the bad make-up (both of them).
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 8 years
I think he should apologize for that haircut.
PiNkY-PiNk PiNkY-PiNk 8 years
indie I completely agree with your comment #22
indielove indielove 8 years
"Marginalized groups need to band together, not continue being divided." I agree. Also I hate that in Los Angeles, they always talk about tensions between black vs. brown. When Obama was campaigning, before Hillary dropped out, it was all over the news that Hispanics wouldn't vote for him cause he's black. I know that they favored Hillary heavily but they really rallied behind him during the GE. The media loves to fan the flames when it comes to race relations. Most definitely.
Captivate Captivate 8 years
Doesn't it seem like media reports are continually encouraging minority group vs minority group drama? They did that earlier with the "Black vs Gay" hype. Even this brief recap is framed in a way that would cause people (like commenters somewhere above said) to place all Asian Americans in one group, or claim they're unneccessarily whining, or jealous of Latinos. Marginalized groups need to band together, not continue being divided. As for the Wen Ho Lee case, the govt DID mess up. The defendant was falsely ruined and imprisoned. The government did announce later their basis for doing this to him was not valid. It is a severe and legit civil rights infringment citizens are allowed to react to without getting flack for it, just as other groups protest and bring attention to their cases of unfair treatment as well.
StolzeMama StolzeMama 8 years
They have always disagreed, it's just that someone in the AP finally thought it was newsworthy.
indielove indielove 8 years
Where's Jude when you need her? I'm interested to know what she thinks about this. Hillary's going to be SOS. I've accepted it, I just don't like it. She always gets what she wants...almost. ;)
ladychaos ladychaos 8 years
Basty, I was thinking the same thing. I was like "Wait, Taiwan and China are two different countries..."
stephley stephley 8 years
I'm thinking that Hillary isn't eligible thing is a non-starter. It's been kicking around for a couple days now, and no one appears excited about it. It sounds like an easily fixed (as it has been in the past) technicality.
Michelann Michelann 8 years
Indie, he may yet be Secretary of State. I hear Hillary isn't eligible.
indielove indielove 8 years
For me, this is a non-issue. They're just trying to kick up dust due to jealousy. Pretty lame. Richardson should have been Secretary of State. I'm still a little sore over Hillary being picked for the job.
stephley stephley 8 years
kscincotta, I used to live by it but can't remember the explanation for why it's part of Commerce but from the website, I think it goes back to the agency's roots and the fact that they were in place before the EPA was formed: "Millions of passengers and trillions of tons of cargo have safely come to our shores while guided by the charts of the Coast Survey and its descendant organizations. The American citizens whose lives have been saved by the warnings of the Weather Bureau and its descendants and the dollars saved by our national economy as a result of better forecasting are beyond measure. And the fight to save our fisheries for future generations has been led by the Fish and Fisheries Commission and its descendants." em, it's complicated.
em1282 em1282 8 years
Wait, what about slaves? And Richardson? And race?
kscincotta kscincotta 8 years
Does anyone else find it odd that the Oceanic and Atmospheric Office is under Commerce? Shouldn't they be in something more environmental/science-y? I mean, I get that they play a role in shaping the environmental restrictions on businesses, but I still feel like the environmental people should speak for the environment first rather than as a subcommittee of commerce.
stephley stephley 8 years
Hainan, where have 'they' voiced their lack of trust in him in the past? People, especially slaves, were pretty clearly against slavery from the get go - the comparison doesn't work at all.
bastylefilegirl bastylefilegirl 8 years
While I see your point Hainan, I do think that this particular group may have another agenda i.e. may have not wanted Obama in office etc etc. Because if Sarah Palin was correct being governor of a state is a big deal and Richardson has been governor after the Wen Ho Lee situation. I'm also willing to bet that there are Chinese Americans in New Mexico, and if this was such a huge deal why wasn't this same group out "in force" during his gubernatorial campaign???
StolzeMama StolzeMama 8 years
And to say that it took them 9 years to get upset. That is ridiculous. That is like saying blacks took 100 years to get upset about slavery. It's just not true. It is about him getting placed in a high cabinet post and they want to continue voicing their lack of trust in him.
bastylefilegirl bastylefilegirl 8 years
Um since when are Taiwanese Americans and Chinese Americans one in the same? I find it weird that the Chinese American would protest and Taiwanese Americans would not. I know there is some overlap in the communities but there is a clear difference. Also what kind of apology does this particular group of Chinese Americans ( I find it hard to think they speak for all Chinese Americans) want, didn't he admit that he was wrong and that he made errors. If we ( all of us) continue to to go as far as demanding personal apologies to from every politician ( George W. Bush Included) we will never get anything done. If anything he should apologize to Wen Ho Lee but even that is pushing it.
StolzeMama StolzeMama 8 years
ok, but you want them to get over it?? Maybe the devil's advocate in me, but you are saying they should be more worried about the economy, but yet you think we shouldn't get over racism? correct me if I'm wrong.
nyaradzom2001 nyaradzom2001 8 years
i know stephley i mean really come on now, it took them 9 years to decide that they were pissed off??
stephley stephley 8 years
I'm not sure I buy the idea that for at least part of the past decade, anyone thought all Chinese-Americans seemed like potential spies. And the article isn't clear on whether this is an organized group or a handful of guys.
nyaradzom2001 nyaradzom2001 8 years
no we can't hainan cos that's just the realiy of the world we live in, racism is not dead, more's the pity
StolzeMama StolzeMama 8 years
I hate anything racial. Can we just leave race out now?
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