A Chinese American group has asked state Sen. L. Douglas Wilder, Virginia Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, to stop emphasizing his Korean War experience, charging it creates images of racial strife.
"While we are appreciative of your service to our country in Korea we must, however, point out that such an overemphasis in your campaign literature may accentuate and bring out negative images of blacks fighting Asiatics," James Tso, president of the Northern Virginia chapter of the Organization of Chinese Americans, said in the group's most recent newsletter.
"This issue in light of current events is particularly sensitive in Northern Virginia where black American and Asian American relations are going through a period of suspicion, envy and sometimes outright contention," the article said, citing recent "fights between black and Asian high school groups."
Tso, who said he is a Democrat, said the article was intended to inform Wilder that his campaign literature could "create possible problems" in an area where Wilder may "not know or have any intentions of offending any group."
Wilder's campaign slogan, which is featured on many of his brochures and posters, is "From Korea to Richmond: He's still fighting for Virginia."
Wilder, an infantryman in the Korean War, was awarded the Bronze Star for bravery in combat. He describes his military service in some of his campaign literature and wears a lapel pin that denotes the award.
Paul Goldman, a spokesman for Wilder, said the candidate has not seen a copy of the letter. "We're not going to change our literature," Goldman said.
"Sen. Wilder was raised to be patriotic and to express his devotion to state and country," Wilder said in a statement issued through Goldman. "Sen. Wilder was proud to fight for his country and thereby protect our freedoms and values against Communist aggression."
The Organization of Chinese Americans, which reports a membership of about 100, is one of several Asian American groups in the Northern Virginia area.
A portion of a letter Tso said he wrote to Wilder was published in the organization's May 31 newsletter. "We hope that you will understand this sensitive problem and revise your campaign literature to emphasize your fine record as a state senator," Tso said.
Wilder is opposed by Republican state Sen. John H. Chichester of Fredericksburg, a former Army officer, in Virginia's Nov. 5 elections.