San Jose

SJ Group Stirs Controversy Over Photo That Some Call “Racist” in Endorsement of City Council Candidate

“It’s not only inappropriate, let’s call it what it is,” said Arenas. “It’s a racist tactic"

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A Silicon Valley business group’s endorsement in a San Jose City Council race stirred up controversy after posting what some believe was a “racist” photo.

The endorsement of Jim Zito was put together by the organization’s political action committee. The side-by-side photos of Zito and his opponent, Sylvia Arenas, have been taken down, but a screenshot captured by The San Jose Spotlight shows Arenas photo visibly darker than Zito’s.

“If they oppose me, you know, everybody has a right to free speech,” Arenas said. “But no one has the right to alter the color of my skin.”

She said the posting was dirty politics.

“It’s not only inappropriate, let’s call it what it is,” said Arenas. “It’s a racist tactic.”

The group has apologized, but this isn’t the first time it has been criticized for posting a darkened photo during a campaign.

Arenas said that in a 2016 campaign against city councilmember Sergio Jimenez, the site also darkened his photo.

Eddie Truong, a member of the organization that sponsors the web page, said it was a mistake.

“It’s a very sensitive issue, especially for candidates of color,” Truong said. “It was something that when we recognized it was an issue, we immediately took steps to correct it. And it was no longer on our website.”

In addition to calling out the Silicon Valley organization, Arenas is also asking Zito to speak out.

“I denounce any form of racial or personal attacks in politics or otherwise,” Zito said in a statement. “I want to run this campaign on my and Ms. Arenas’ records of service to the community and the city.”

Although the photos have been removed from the web page, there’s a chance they may be included in fliers that are already in the mail on the way to voters.

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