Using an antiquated term that many people of Asian descent find offensive, Republican candidate for state schools superintendent Frank Riggs touted his work with “Oriental” colleagues during his career as a police officer.
Riggs made the comment in response to a Twitter user who engaged him in a discussion about systemic racism in law enforcement.
"I worked with fellow police officers of all races and shades — white, black (African-American), Latino (Hispanic-American), Oriental (Chinese-American), Native American," Riggs wrote in response. "They were all professional. I encourage you to get to know law enforcement on a firsthand basis."
Trevor, I worked with fellow police officers of all races and shades - white, black (African-American), Latino (Hispanic-American), Oriental (Chinese-American), Native American. They were all professional. I encourage you to get to know law enforcement on a firsthand basis.— Frank Riggs (@RiggsforAZ) October 16, 2018
Reached on his cell phone, Riggs declined to comment on his tweet.
"I’m not going to answer anything," he said. "You guys are practicing gotcha journalism."
Riggs added: "For the record I served in the Army and law enforcement with my fellow officers of different races."
The tweet in question came up during an exchange about Riggs' Democratic opponent, Kathy Hoffman, and her stated position that the state should not increase school resource officers. "Our students of color are punished at a higher rate, disproportionately. We should not increase SROs because we know that discrimination does not stop at the door," Hoffman tweeted.
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Twitter user Trevor Nelson, who uses the handle @skidadesert, asked Riggs whether he had proof that "police officers are not racist?"
Riggs faced plenty of backlash on Twitter after his Tuesday tweet. In response to a Twitter user asking why he hasn't apologized for "the racist description of our Asian citizens," Riggs wrote: "I don't have a racist bone in my body & my lifetime of service shows that. My point was I served in the Army & law enforcement with fellow soldiers & police officers of all races. As AMERICANS, we took the oath to protect & serve. Race wasn't a consideration nor should it be."
Recent polls show Riggs with a slight lead over Hoffman.
Most government documents stopped using the word "Oriental" nearly four decades ago, replacing the term with "Asian American" or "Asian Pacific Islander." President Barack Obama signed legislation in 2016 banning the use of the terms "negro" and "Oriental" in federal documents.