More than a dozen groups signed a statement calling on Sica to apologize, including the Greater Malden Asian American Community Coalition, the Asian Community Development Corporation, the Vietnamese-American Development Initiative, and Chinese Progressive Political Action. .
“Our culture, our people and our pain are not a costume,” said the statement, a copy of which was sent to The Globe on Wednesday. “Our youth, especially our young women, should not be represented and mocked in this way by an elected official from our municipality. It is racial violence: the appropriation of Asian identity for someone’s pleasure. “
Some of Sica’s colleagues on city council, as well as the city’s legislative delegation, released statements on Wednesday denouncing her choice of costume and calling on her to apologize.
Sica said in a statement Wednesday that she “can and will do better,” adding that she has reflected on her costume choice from two years ago and now sees that wearing clothes that in any way portray that it is “another culture can be hurtful”.
The costume was an apparent reference to the prostitution sting at Orchids in January 2019 that led Kraft and 24 other men to be charged with prostitution offenses for allegedly paying spa workers for sex. Charges against Kraft were dropped in September 2020 following court rulings that dismissed the footage.
In his statement, advocacy groups said they opposed Sica’s costume for several reasons, including what they said was the advisor’s use of the “yellow face” in the photo, which “Historically leads to the dehumanization of the Asian people”.
Malden, a city of just over 60,000, has a sizable Asian population which accounted for 22.5% of its population in 2019, according to census data.
Lawyers also voiced his objection to the “hypersexualization” of the photo of Asian women, which they say can lead to tragedies like the Atlanta shooting in March that left eight people dead at area massage parlors. Most of the victims were women of Asian descent.
“The choice to wear a bamboo hat to represent the masseur’s race, paired with a bottle of lotion or sunscreen, is incredibly harmful,” the statement read, referring to a bottle Sica is holding in the photo.
Additionally, advocacy groups criticized the photo for “deriding” the challenges faced by Asian Orchids workers, some of whom suffered more severe legal consequences than Kraft and other men who allegedly sought prostitution.
Sica said she and her husband two years ago attended a Halloween party that “shed light” on the Orchids case.
“Since that time many, including myself, have become much more aware that the women involved in cases like this are too often vulnerable members of the Asian community who are victims of exploitation,” Sica said. . “Those who know me know that I have love in my heart for people of all backgrounds, races and religions. I also recognize that bad intention is not a necessary ingredient in actions that are hurtful to others. “
Sica said she now sees her choice of costume that night from a very different perspective.
“Reviewing the costume choice through a more enlightened lens now allows me to see what I did not see then, namely that costumes that in any way portray another culture can be hurtful and in my case send a message incompatible with how I lived my public and private life, ”said Sica. “I can and will do better. “
The groups asked Sica to apologize and said they were asking her to “throw her support behind policies and plans that support her immigrants, people of color” in Malden.
Sica, meanwhile, said she values all voters in her district.
“As a mother, daughter and civil servant, I never stop learning,” Sica said. “I value every member of our community, regardless of background, race or religion, and I remain committed to making Malden a welcoming home for all. “
One of her colleagues, Councilor Debbie DeMaria, suggested via email that an apology from Sica would be appropriate.
“I believe that the counselor and [her] husband wearing the costumes in question never wanted them to be harmful, but rather got drawn into the excitement of the Halloween festivities, ”DeMaria wrote. “However, as I have read on social media, chatted with people in our community, and paused for personal reflection, they have indeed done some harm.”
DeMaria said that one of the “deepest interactions humans have is the power of our words. While our actions speak louder than our words; verbal apologies acknowledge our personal failures, humiliate us and focus us; and can certainly restore broken relationships.
DeMaria continued, “Speaking personally, if it was me… I would accept an apology. Without a doubt, this is a learning experience for all of us!
Sica has already come under intense scrutiny.
In May 2020, a petition was launched calling for his resignation after hosting a large family party in a parking lot that critics said drew dozens of people in violation of strict social distancing protocols in place at the time.
Sica then apologized for having organized the party.
Another Sica colleague in city government, Councilor Stephen Winslow, on Wednesday said in a statement he was “disappointed” with Sica’s “callous” costume choice in the photo reported by defenders, adding he was always “deplored” by mocking the ethnicity of people. and victims of sexual exploitation.
“I hope Councilor Sica who worked to eliminate sex trade activities in her own neighborhood will apologize for her choice and work with it.” [Greater Malden Asian American Community Coalition] to confront such representations as well as with groups that help protect victims of sexual exploitation, ”said Winslow.
Malden’s delegation to State House also addressed the controversy in a joint statement Wednesday afternoon. They noted the “long-running count” that has taken place in recent years around racist stereotypes, as well as the “shameful increase” in hateful acts directed against the Asian community amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lawmakers – State Senator Jason Lewis and State Representatives Paul Donato, Kate Lipper-Garabedian and Steven Ultrino – also thanked advocates for “courageously” denouncing racist stereotypes.
“All people deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, and we strongly condemn any action that harms or disrespects a racial, religious or ethnic minority group,” lawmakers said. “We are also committed to continuing our efforts to support and pass legislation in Massachusetts that advances racial justice and fairness in our schools, institutions and communities. … It is important that we all strive to be advocates and not passive spectators in order to dismantle systemic racism in Malden and elsewhere.
Deanna Pan of the Globe Staff contributed to this report, and Associated Press materials were used.