Emil Guillermo: No "Asian American Privilege" here--Baseball stars Travis Ishikawa and Kolten Wong steal the stage in America's national pastime
October 17, 2014 3:31 PM

I was too busy watching baseball this week to catch Bill O'Reilly on "The Daily Show," where he defended his belief in the Model Minority myth and how it's evolved into a sense of "Asian American Privilege."

Who needs that bunk when there was a very special Asian American event happening at the San Francisco Giants' AT&T Park.

There has rarely been such a moment for those of us who identify as Asian American, even though it may have been unremarkable to others.

Travis Ishikawa? Kolten Wong? Heroes? What's the big deal, right?

Travis Ishikawa at bat tues.jpg

Travis Ishikawa hit .385 and drove in 7 runs vs. STL. (© 2014 Photo by Emil Guillermo)

Oh, I wish we were at that point in our nation's history. Post-racial, Asian American-style.

But truthfully, we aren't there yet. The idea of two Asian Americans as the critical stars in America's pastime, baseball, is really quite remarkable in the history of diversity in our country.

It happened just this past week when the St.Louis Cardinals played the San Francisco Giants for the National League Championship.

For a while, the hottest player on the ball field was a 5-foot-9-inch second baseman from Hilo, Hawaii, a star at Honolulu's Kamehameha School, and the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Was there anyone hotter in the game than a guy with the improbable baseball name of Kolten Wong?

For a few days, no.


(© 2014 Photo by Emil Guillermo)

In a league where the best players of Asian descent are actually established pros from Japan or Korea, the native-born Asian American has rarely shined as brightly in baseball.  

The major exception, perhaps, has been the Giants' Tim Lincecum, who is part-Filipino. He has twice been the National League's best pitcher, twice thrown a no-hitter, and twice been a World Series champion.

That's quite the exception.

For most Asian Americans, Wong's experience is more normal. Deemed a can't miss star as a rookie last year, he was a goat in the 2013 World Series when he was picked-off in a critical Cardinal rally by Red Sox pitcher Koji Uehara.

That brought out the racist tweets, as documented last year by the website, Public Shaming.

Tweets went after both the native born and the "foreigner." It was all the same to the twitterverse.


And they went after the baseball acumen of Wong.


Incidents straight out of the Jackie Robinson era, I'd say.

This year, Wong again struggled, spent most of his time in the minors, then was called up in the latter part of the season where he blossomed like a hibiscus.

Wong hit a home run to help his Cardinals beat the Dodgers and advance in the five- game division series.

Then in the National League Championship against the Giants, Wong hit another game ending home run in game 2 that tied up the series as it went back to San Francisco.

Wong continued to terrorize the Giants with his quick left-handed bat. After the first four games he was the Cardinals' Hawaiian Punch: two doubles, a triple, two homers, four RBIs. He was playing like the Cardinals' MVP.

But in Game 5 on Thursday, the Cardinals were still down 3 games to 1 and were threatened with elimination. In the 9th inning , with the score tied 3-3, Wong sparked a rally attempt to load the bases. But the team failed to get a go-ahead run home.

Better luck next year.

Giants' turn. In the bottom of the ninth, Pablo Sandoval, whose roundness has earned him the nickname "Panda" singled. Then Brandon Belt walked.

Next up, the 31-year-old Travis Ishikawa.

Travis Ishikawa about to touch home on historic night. (© 2014 Photo by Emil Guillermo)

At 6-foot-3-inches, 220 pounds, Ishikawa is far from your typical Asian American. Born to a third generation Japanese American father and a mother of European descent, Ishikawa is half-Japanese American. But his background includes the worst of the Asian American experience. His paternal grandfather was interned during WWII in Colorado.

Ishikawa's big break came in 2002, when the Giants drafted him straight out of high school in Federal Way near Seattle. He was offered a reported $995,000 bonus to skip college and go pro.

But it wasn't easy money. In 12 years, he's been an example of how difficult it is to play pro baseball, with multiple trips from obscurity to the bigs and back.

For the Giants, Ishikawa's been both the hope and the nope.

At one time, billed as the first baseman of their future, he even played on the Giants' 2010 championship team, only to lose his batting touch and be released the following year.

Since then, Ishikawa has been on six different pro clubs and started this season with Pittsburgh. After being released, he knocked around, got no takers. He even considered quitting. 

"I've been 30 all year, and it gets to the point, you're in the minor leagues and not only are you in the minor leagues but you're struggling," he told reporters. "There's times it crosses your mind if God is continuing to put me through this trial, or it's him telling me to hang it up and do something else."

Ishikawa described how bad it got: "I was putting every effort I possibly could into the hitting and no matter what, I was 0-for 4 and didn't look like I could hit a ball off a tee if you put it there."

But Ishikawa didn't give up. He worked hard and was given a second chance in July by the Giants to be a role player.

Hero was not necessarily the role.

He was on the margins, not a star, but in the glow of others.

Still, injuries have a way of altering the course of events in sports, and due to a depleted roster, the Giants had no choice but to put Ishikawa in left field for the post-season.

Having only played a few games at the position, he was a risk. It was averted for the most part. But not on Thursday.

Ishikawa had made a few good catches in the series, but in the third inning he badly misread a fly ball that sailed over his head for a double. It made him look foolish. More importantly, the misplay gave the Cardinals a 1-0 lead. And if the Giants lost by that margin, Ishikawa would be the goat.

But he would get a chance to do something about that in the ninth inning. With the score at 3-3, it was a surprise even to see Ishikawa still playing. Ordinarily he'd be replaced late in the game by a better defensive player.

Not tonight.

Ishikawa rounds second after hitting home run, as Giants storm the field. (© 2014 Photo by Emil Guillermo)

With the two-balls and no strike count, Ishikawa said he figured a fastball would be coming. And he guessed right.

"It was just nice to hit that ball," he said.

From where I sat, Ishikawa hit the ball right in the sweet spot, on a line but with just enough loft to get over the high brick wall in right field.

He rounded the bases and could hear the loud crowd cheering him on. In one swing, Ishikawa delivered--a three-run homer that ended the game, gave the Giants a 6-3 victory, the National League Pennant, and a ticket to the World Series.

"I don't remember touching third or touching home," he said. "It's unbelievable."

Believe it.

The walk-off home run could immortalize Ishikawa, no longer the star in the margins, as the latter-day Bobby Thompson.

You'll recall Thompson hit that legendary game-winning home run that won the pennant for the New York Giants and sent them to the World Series in 1951.

Travis Ishikawa, a name to remember?

Surely, he's a baseball hero if you're a Giants fan.

But for all America, he's something more.

He's diversity's hero.

*     *     *
Updates at www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.

Posted by:Emil Guillermo | 1 comments

Emil Guillermo: On the Trans-Pacific surveillance of Filipino writer Carlos Bulosan
October 12, 2014 10:11 PM

These days, in the internet era when Bush's NSA policies continue under Obama, it must be presumed that everyone is under some kind of surveillance.

Even innocent Asian Americans.

And given the global nature of things, it would take a real leap of faith to believe foreign governments of our ancestral countries of origin are not interested in what some of us are doing as well.

Paranoia? We live in that kind of world.

It didn't used to be that way.

Ah, the good old days, when the FBI would only hound innocent people like artists, writers, and activists thought to be Communist Party members.

And that brings us to the subject of today's American Filipino History Month Lesson, the writer Carlos Bulosan.

Among Filipino immigrants to America in the 1920s, Carlos Bulosan stands as the community's literary lion. His semi-autobiographical novel, "America is in the Heart," (1946) endures as the seminal story of the American Filipino migrant labor experience during the Depression.

In that novel, Bulosan wrote: "I came to know that in many ways it was a crime to be Filipino in California. . .I feel like a criminal running away from a crime I did not commit. And this crime is that I am a Filipino in America."

It wasn't just his imagination.

Despite mainstream success, including publication in the Saturday Evening Post, from 1946 to 1956, Bulosan was hurt by accusations that he was a member of the Communist Party.

In 2002, I wrote about two Asian American scholars, Lane Hirabayashi and Marilyn Alquizola, who used the Freedom of Information Act to seek the truth about how the FBI targeted Bulosan.

Last year, the scholars wrote about the FBI files they obtained that showed the bureau had its eye on Bulosan between 1946 and 1956.

The FBI ultimately determined Bulosan was not a member of the Communist Party.

But it didn't change what the surveillance had done to Bulosan, who found himself essentially "blacklisted" and unemployable, unable to make a living as a writer. The surveillance coincided with Bulosan's heavy drinking and ill health. He died on Sept. 11, 1956.

Recently, Hirabayashi and Alquizola found it wasn't just the U.S. interested in Bulosan's activities. The Philippine government also wanted to know the writer's links to the Huks, Communist rebels who fought for land reform in the Philippines.

That fact was first revealed by Professor Augusto Espiritu's "Five Faces of Exile: The Nation and the Filipino American Intellectuals," (Stanford University Press, 2005) from research in the Bulosan archive at the University of Washington.

However, Hirabayashi and Alquizola found the actual newspaper article in the Manila Chronicle, dated January, 30, 1951, that shows U.S. military intelligence was somehow involved in working with the Philippine government.

"Link Between PI, US Commies Bared," blares the front page headline.

Army investigators said they had found letters from Bulosan to members of the Huks. And it cites how the Philippines Military Intelligence Service was working with the "intelligence service of the U.S. Army."

But according to the newspaper, the only letter signed by Bulosan was written to one of the Huk leaders and reads: "I like to extend my congratulations to you through Amado, whose presence in America cemented the progressive spirit of peoples on this continent and in that island, with the fond hope that I will be able to put all our efforts into a big book for the world."

It's exactly what Bulosan did in his last novel, "The Cry and the Dedication."

But membership in the CP or the Huks?

Alquizola said it only shows Bulosan's research technique for an eventual book, not his membership in any group that would require his surveillance.

Remember, the FBI ultimately concluded that Bulosan was not a CP member.  

Alquizola and Hirabayashi will be among the scholars presenting at a Bulosan conference at the University of Washington on Nov. 14. (It's his birth month, though there's some dispute on the exact day and year. Some say Bulosan was born 1914, making this Bulosan's Centennial year.)

Scholars who love Bulosan care about all this because it's clear: the unnecessary government scrutiny from two governments curtailed the life and art of an innocent man who is considered an American Filipino treasure.

All the rest of us who love our freedoms should care because what was done to Bulosan can happen to any of us today--more easily and more efficiently---than ever.

Updates at www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.

Posted by:Emil Guillermo | 3 comments

Emil Guillermo: American Filipinos, political polls, and "The Voice"
October 1, 2014 9:49 PM

October means new TV shows, the best baseball, and my favorite ethnic heritage month--Filipino American History Month.

Or, as I like to call it, "American Filipino" History Month.

I flip it. On purpose. It's my linguistic revolution to force others to see the community with new eyes and get beyond the traditional name that may only lock in the stereotype of the highly marginalized community.

Filipino Americans? They're the "other." The modern phrase "American Filipino" says, "We're here--in America. We belong. We count."

No papers required. Citizenship? That's another matter. You here? You're in. It's a name that unifies the immigrant and the native born by blood alone.

Meanwhile, did you see that 15-year-old girl on "The Voice"?
Katriz Trinidad represents the new American Filipino pop culture stereotype. That would be the little girl with the booming voice. She's like Asian American found art. Trinidad has actually been an underground phenom in the San Diego Filipino community for years.
Here she was as an eleven-year-old:

And this is Katriz on "The Voice" at 15:

With your back turned, you hear her voice and expect to find Etta James. Aretha. Some big- voiced woman.

And then you see her, a smallish Filipino person.

That's sort of the way it is in real life for many Filipinos.

On "The Voice," Pharrell Williams went crazy for Katriz and picked her for a chance at stardom.

Colorblind works on "The Voice."

But in real life, in activities other than singing, a hiring manager sees the person is Filipino American and too often passes over him or her.

It's a pattern in the Filipino American community. People ignore us, marginalize us, take us for granted.

Basically, we get no respect.

I've used that Rodney Dangerfield line too many times over the last 30 years.
Some people may think they can get away with that treatment because Filipino American life was built on a legacy of discrimination. And in some ways, Filipino Americans are used to it.

When they first arrived in America in the '20s, formerly colonized Filipino nationals came over during the exclusion as a replacement for Chinese labor. That meant more men than women were brought in to California, and that made for some interesting socio-biology.

The gender ratio imbalance of 10-1 or more was like a form of birth control. No one wanted Filipinos having families in America.

And just to make sure that didn't happen, California passed anti-intermarriage laws to ensure Filipinos and whites didn't mix.

That made it tough and lonely to be a Filipino bachelor in America from the '20s through the '40s. But with World War II came more relaxed immigration rules. Filipina women were allowed to enter. Along with the Baby Boom of the mainstream came a corresponding Filipino birth explosion.

I was part of that, and in San Francisco's Filipino community of that time, Ricardo Alvarado was the de facto photographer laureate. In years past, an exhibit of his images has been displayed at the Smithsonian. Starting this month, you can see it at the San Francisco Main Library until December.


The black-and-white prints show Filipino families and the women whose arrival propelled the community forward. You'll see the social hall of the official Filipino Community, Inc., the gathering place for christenings, birthdays, graduations, weddings, and wakes. You'll see the social functions, such as the beauty queen contests. There are shots of the flats they rented (Filipinos couldn't own property). The markets where they shopped for rice and vegetables. The places they worked as cooks and houseboys.


Mundane? Maybe a tad, and certainly no one valued the images when Alvarado's daughter, Janet, found the negatives in a box more than 20 years ago and began going through them.

She found more than mere snapshots from an old Kodak Brownie camera. Ricardo Alvarado used a view camera, as if the community was worthy of art. In fact, the photographs document the community as if it really mattered. It was the American Filipino community, at that time perhaps the largest in the nation.

But most deemed the pictures of no value. Not even Filipinos themselves. Decades later, Janet Alvarado rediscovered her father's brown box of images, and she let them out again for all to see.

It's all evidence. Filipinos were here.

We were just invisible.

And in some ways, we still are today.

For sheer modern-day invisibility, there's nothing like a pre-election poll. With a month to go before the midterms, soon they'll come in bunches--and you won't find many Asian Americans. There's not enough in a normal random sample to make any claim for our general group, let alone specific ethnicities.

That's why we still must applaud the efforts of California's Field Poll. In conjunction with the UC-Riverside Professor Karthick Ramakrishnan, the Field Poll released a survey last week that actually took the time and expense to poll our community.

Their findings: "Asian Americans are ambivalent about the direction of the country, and positive about the direction of the state. They give President Obama a net positive approval rating, and a net negative rating for Congress. They are supportive of the death penalty, but are more divided when it comes to speeding up the process to avoid long delays. Finally, they are supportive of affirmative action programs that relate to jobs and education, and this support also holds true for detailed origin groups such as Chinese Americans and Vietnamese Americans." 

It can all be said with confidence (within acceptable margins of error) because the poll oversampled for Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean, and Vietnamese voters and conducted some surveys in-language. Great. But Filipinos--the group that is essentially in a virtual tie for top Asian American ethnicity in California? Nothing.
Mark DiCamillo of the Field Poll told me it really was a matter of money. And because most Filipinos speak English, there's an assumption they will be part of the random sample.
Still, that's a big assumption.
No knock on the Field Poll. At least, DiCamillo represented groups that never show up, such as Vietnamese and Koreans. The Field Poll has been a leader in multilingual, diverse polls.
But in general among pollsters, Filipinos remain a polling blindspot. Conveniently ignored, invisible still.
It's our history. It must not be our future as American Filipinos.

*     *     *
Updates at www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.

Posted by:Emil Guillermo | 0 comments

Emil Guillermo: Heather Marlowe and Emma Sulkowicz know rape is no joke, why don't the Simpsons?
September 25, 2014 1:49 PM

I'm a big believer in art when justice fails. I'm doing an excerpt of my solo performance show, "Emil Amok," at the San Francisco Public Library on Oct. 9 at 6 pm. It's part of "Compositions," the Alvarado photo exhibit that is the anchor of the library's Filipino American History Month activities.

Part of my show deals with my experience with the SF Police and the District Attorney in regards to my cousin's murder in the South of Market.

That drew me to Heather Marlowe's show.

She's smiling. But her show's no joke.


Her solo performance has a few more runs through the weekend in the 49-seat Costume Shop at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. 

The self-proclaimed daughter of a Filipino Tiger Mom and an abusive father tells her story as a rape survivor. In this tale, the alleged perp is a man she met in the infamous semi-nude foot race known as "Bay to Breakers." But the story is about being raped twice, first by the perp, then by the system.

Marlowe wound up drugged in a Richmond district flat after a night she can't totally remember.
But when she reported her experience, she found almost an official sense of indifference, as if rape really weren't taken seriously. Her case was caught in a bureaucratic slow roll, where it took nearly two years for the key evidence in her rape kit to even be evaluated.

Marlowe also discovered she wasn't alone. Along with Marlowe's case, San Francisco had more than 750 untested kits. Wait. . .there's more. Over 2,000 kits remained untested in cases in which the 10-year statute of limitations had expired.

That's how seriously they take rape in San Francisco.

Marlowe tells her story effectively, with a sense of wit and humor.

But you're so stunned by the ordeal, especially when she describes her rape exam, that the idea of having all her clothes taken by the police as evidence and then released to the streets in nothing but her emergency room gown loses its comic punch.

If Kafka had been raped, he would tell this story.

But even Marlowe's line about how enforcement and sensitivity would improve if more men were raped, a satirical modest proposal, fell flat for me and the audience I was in.

Once again, we are just stunned by Marlowe's testimony; the laughs are muted.

But it's all true. SF Police Chief Greg Suhr has admitted to the backlog and is trying to change the law on the expired kits.

And that's been the power of Marlowe's small show. She has no day in court. Just nights on the stage.

And despite the wit in her words, it's clear from her story: Rape is no joke.

She certainly doesn't have the platform "The Simpsons" will have on its premiere on Sunday night.

Unfortunately, "The Simpsons/Family Guy" season opener will have a joke about rape.  
In this preview (around :47 in), Bart Simpson is with Stewie Griffin and asks the little tyke if he wants to make a prank call.

Stewie says yes and Bart obliges by calling a bar and asking for "Lee Keybum."

It's not really a common name. But neither are urologists named I.P. Freely.

I suppose the Keybums of Virginia, or wherever, may have a sense of pride about being mentioned in "The Simpsons"/ "Family Guy" hybrid extravaganza.

But I heard it as Lee Kee Bum, not of Virginia, but of somewhere in Asia.

It reminded me of when KTVU, the Fox station in Oakland, reported during the Asiana Airlines crash last year. After receiving a prankster's call with bad information, the station went on the air with the unconfirmed source naming the Asiana crew members, which included the now infamous "Ho Lee Fuk."

Well, Lee Kee Bum could be his cousin.

That would be bad enough.

But as comics do, Stewie has to top Bart--with a rape joke.

It's strange, because we know instinctively that rape is no joking matter.

But some people still don't get it.
When I was in college, a big story was how New York City TV weatherman Tex Antoine made a "quip" about rape.

On Nov. 24, 1976, Antoine infamously said on WABC-TV: "With rape so predominant in the news lately, it is well to remember the words of Confucius: 'If rape is inevitable, lie back and enjoy it.'"

I think it's safe to say Confucius was misquoted. 

That the rape in the news at the time involved an 8-year-old girl didn't help matters. Antoine said he didn't know that, but still, his comment drew the ire of many viewers, mostly female.

Antoine was replaced soon after.

The damning phrase was uttered again years later in 1988 by Indiana University basketball coach Bobby Knight who said it on an interview with newswoman Connie Chung.

Once again, the remark was greeted with the appropriate derision.

So here we are nearly 38 years after Antoine's remark, 26 years after Knight's.

I thought when it came to rape, we had finally come to our senses as a society by expressing our unequivocal and universal scorn for rape.

We haven't.

There's a new generation of jokesters who still think rape is fair game. They would gladly steal the Confucius joke.

Look at how institutions deal with rape and sexual assault. From San Francisco to Florida State and the local cops who failed to investigate the sexual assault charges against Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston. And that's just the most publicized of the more than 50 schools with open cases on what could be called the Department of Education's "Dis-honor Roll."

That's the real joke. And it's not funny.

We're in a time when survivors are forced to find solace not in the justice system but in art.

That's why Emma Sulkowicz, the part-Asian student at Columbia University, vows to carry a mattress around campus as a form of performance art until the university takes action against the student she says raped her.

That's why Heather Marlowe shares her story on stage, and maybe soon to college campuses.
They are just the latest voices of strong women, easily negated in our culture by one dumb Stewie joke.

*     *     *
Updates at www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.

Posted by:Emil Guillermo | 0 comments

Emil Guillermo: On Obama's bombing of Syria and our "non-war" war
September 23, 2014 1:37 PM

Forty-seven tomahawk cruise missiles in fighter bombers were sent to bomb 14 targets in Syria, the Department of Defense told NBC and other news media, which this morning released a DOD tape of some of the action.

And now you can go about your business. Everyone else seems to be.

Members of Congress, too busy thinking of upcoming midterm elections, are very willing to let Syria be the president's problem. On executive action on immigration, they might fight him until he turns all the way white.  

But bombing Syria? Pass.

Meanwhile, the president is on to New York, trying to secure Iraqi support and build his coalition among world leaders at the UN.

Bombing is a little political show business. It shows some strength, semi-resolve even. But mostly, it buys the president time. It doesn't stop ISIL/ISIS. It doesn't make them go away. Indeed, bombing only angers them, and all others who harbor anti-western sentiments. 

That's why bombing ultimately doesn't work. 

And make no mistake, even if the War Powers Act was ignored, the airstrikes are an act of war, with real American lives are at stake. We've just started our "non-war" war.

Whatever you want to call it, the president in his statement on the White House lawn this morning acknowledged this was no drone attack. Real Americans were flying those fighter jets. The president  thanked the pilots who flew the mission for their "courage and professionalism." 

But what of the politicians? Where is their "courage and professionalism" when we really need a little?

Is bombing really the only answer? 

Just for good measure, the president mentioned one other factor in these strikes: the Khorasan Group, which is not a law firm but a gang of Al-Qaeda terrorists that Obama said was about to inflict some kind of unidentified threat against the U.S. and the west.

And on that say so, it was bombs away.

Obama.jpgAs the president reminded: "America is always stronger when we stand united and that unity sends a powerful message to the world that we will do whatever is necessary to defend our country."

Even before anything has really happened. Lawyers can preempt bad jurors. Hard to preempt war with war. Indeed, you've preempted nothing. You've started a war.

The president has a starting five in his coalition that includes Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, and Qatar. (Admittedly, it was more impressive than when George W. Bush announced that his coalition included the Philippines.)

Obama also mentioned bipartisan majorities at home that include such strange bedfellows as Ed Markey (D-Mass) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla) on the Senate side. Even House leaders Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Speaker Boehner (R-OH) could get together on this.

Why not? This ain't no government shutdown. It's a costly terrorist takedown. 

Surely, we will have to have that debate--not just the one we had on funding the Syrian rebels who could turn against us, but on the War Powers Act. Congress and the president have successfully avoided that for now. 

But somehow, I think after a round--or two or three--of bombings, there won't be much of a question.

By then, ISIS/ISIL will already be committed to a 2,000-year war. Maybe a 3,000-year war. The enemies here have long memories.

And then there will be no other answer for Washington, as all the remaining political pros and lame ducks finally gather to officially debate the war we're already in.

*     *     *
Updates at www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.

Posted by:Emil Guillermo | 0 comments