Sarah Palin’s Dad Chuck Heath and ‘The Minority Type Thing’

Sarah Palin, then Sarah Heath, left, with classmate Stacia Crocker at a dorm party at the University of Idaho.

Sarah Palin’s school years come back to haunt again, this time with a quote from father Chuck Heath. During the presidential campaign, the media scrutinized her college history, which begins in — of all places — Hawaii, Obama’s home state. Back in 1982, Palin and her high school buddy Kim “Tilly” Ketchum left Alaska for the Aloha State, eventually attending Hawaii Pacific University. But after one semester they returned to North Idaho College. Both blamed the weather for their departure. [Tip to Hyphen]

Ketchum told the LA Times:

“When you’re used to having some cooler weather, you get tired of the heat.”

While Palin echoed this explanation in her new book “Going Rogue,” her father gave reporters Scott Conroy and Shushannah Walshe a different reason. The New Yorker’s Sam Tanenhaus points out:

[Palin] is equally circumspect on the issue of ethnicity, pointing out that Todd, whom she met in high school, is “part Yupik Eskimo” and opened her to the “social diversity” of Alaska. (Wasilla is more than eighty per cent white.) Palin, though notoriously ill-travelled outside the United States, did journey far to the first of the four colleges she attended, in Hawaii. She and a friend who went with her lasted only one semester. “Hawaii was a little too perfect,” Palin writes. “Perpetual sunshine isn’t necessarily conducive to serious academics for eighteen-year-old Alaska girls.” Perhaps not.

But Palin’s father, Chuck Heath, gave a different account to Conroy and Walshe. According to him, the presence of so many Asians and Pacific Islanders made her uncomfortable: “They were a minority type thing and it wasn’t glamorous, so she came home.” In any case, Palin reports that she much preferred her last stop, the University of Idaho, “because it was much like Alaska yet still ‘Outside.’ “

Whether “they” refers to Asians or to Palin and Ketchum isn’t clear. Either way, the “minority type thing” roused the anti-Palin masses who called her racist and xenophic in her “disgust” and “terror” of Asians and the “too ethnic” Hawaii. A blogger for Hyphen, an SF-based magazine that covers Asian-American issues, also expressed his disdain:

I had heard about “white flight” from Asian Americans before, where white families moved to nearby suburbs to avoid their Asian neighbors, but this is the first time I’ve heard of someone flying 3,000 miles away from a tropical paradise to live in a population that’s 97 percent white. I just looked this up, and it’s a six-hour flight to Idaho. Wow Sarah, Asians must really terrify you.

Supporters shot back, saying the quote was misconstrued and that Palin was just a young Barracuda out of water:

So in the worst case scenario, Palin went to a place where the culture and people were radically different than what she was accustomed to, found it uncomfortable, and wanted to leave for someplace where she felt more at home. Outrageous.

Palin eventually moved on to her father’s alma mater, University of Idaho. She transferred to Matanuska-Susitna College, near her hometown of Wasilla, before returning to the University of Idaho. She graduated with a degree in journalism in 1987.

Aileen Yoo
SFGate.com

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