The anti-immigrant virus

SAN Francisco, California is said to be a bastion of liberal and progressive folks. The city has a black mayor, London Breed, who replaced a Chinese-American mayor, the late Ed Lee. Governor Gavin Newson, who was first to recognize same sex marriage, was mayor before Ed Lee and after Willie Brown, who is black.

And yet, the following disturbing incident was reported on social media by a couple of friends, Lloyd LaCuesta and his wife, Mona Lisa Yuchengco.  Lloyd was South Bay Bureau Chief for the San Francisco Bay Area of KTVU TV’s news division. A Hawaiian-born GI (Genuine Ilocano), Lloyd was a familiar on-camera personality up to his retirement a few years ago.

Lisa Yuchengco was founder and original publisher of Filipinas Magazine and is one of the highly-respected leaders of the Filipino-American community. She also currently publishes the online magazine, Positively Filipino.

I hope Lloyd and Lisa will not mind my reposting and circulating their narrative. I do not want to unduly create any tensions or resentments among those who consider the US home – whatever their race, creed, nationality or political persuasion and whether native born or naturalized citizens, immigrants or are in the process of making their stay permanent. However, I believe we should all be aware of what is happening in our midst that can – or will – affect us, the better for us to be prepared for it.

The Facebook narrative of Lloyd LaCuesta and Mona Lisa Yuchengco (Posted Juy 9, 2020):
My wife and I live in the “liberal” San Francisco Bay Area and yet this is what happened to her this morning:

Dear All,

We have seen so many videos of white racist people attacking Asian Americans lately, and you do not think it would happen to you. Well, this morning, I had a very close call.

I went to the office to pick up the mail. Since the concert is already tomorrow, I wanted to see if there would be additional donors that needed to be included in the credits. So this was not a regular trip as I only go in on Fridays. I thought it would be an opportunity also to buy my favorite kronuts (croissant and doughnut fried together). I parked in the handicap zone. Beside me was another car with two white male occupants who were just getting out of their car. I think they were father and son. The older man was already grumbling. My car door was open as I was about to get out of the car. Then I heard the older man yell at an Asian lady who just exited from the doughnut shop, “It took you fucking 20 minutes just to get coffee?” At that point, the younger man, started cursing too: “Fucking people. Why don’t you go back to your fucking country? I served in the war, but not for fucking people like you (something like that).” And he kept going on cursing for another 30 seconds maybe, saying the same things, and at the same time walking near my car (he went around his car to go to my side) since he saw I was Asian. I was tempted to take out my phone to record the incident, but feared that it would just further anger them and didn’t want to be spat on! So I just quickly got out of the car, ran to my office to pick up the mail and got out of there. The irony is, the doughnut shop they went into is owned and run by Asians!!!

The hate is very real, friends. If you need to go out, have somebody else accompany you.
Please be careful and cautious.

Lisa

The reactions to the incident ranged from shock to outrage to pugnacity, to one that could only have come from a military man, retired US Army Major General Antonio Taguba:
“I would turn on my cell and calmly confront him and his son. This hate will not go away but I would want to know why he hates so much. And offer to buy his coffee and his happy pill his donuts!”

Of course, not everyone can face enemy bullets as calmly as a military officer, either. A pair of racists would hardly rattle the general.

The reaction of Jon Melegrito, founding executive director of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) and “forever” information officer of the federation, as well as the entire Fil-Am community, was typical of someone who wouldn’t budge an inch during the repressive years of President Ferdinand Marcos:

“This is no longer an isolated incident. It’s happening everywhere, almost daily. But we’re not going to let these haters drive us out. This is as much our country as theirs. Their forbears were immigrants too. We are staying and we’re not moving an inch.”

My own reaction was more prudent and, I think, practical:

“Hi Lisa and Lloyd, it was prudent to avoid a confrontation, but I suggest that the next time this happens, we should take a photo of the car license plate so that the bullies can be traced and exposed.”

The harsh fact is that there is a virus that has infected America. The people whom Lisa and Lloyd described are just two among a group of Americans who may be characterized as “anti-Asian” or “anti-Chinese” or “anti-immigrant” or “anti-colored,” depending on where they stand in the American racial spectrum.

“Anti-colored” obviously refers only to white folks. Among them, there are those who believe that only they have a right to live in the U.S. because “they were here first.” The bigoted father and son apparently belong to this group.

That attitude, of course, is an exercise in self-denial because it glosses over the fact that native Americans were in this land ahead of these father and son’s ancestors, as well as Christopher Columbus, the Vikings, the Spaniards, the Portuguese, the Pilgrims and the Puritans.

That means that these bigots who verbally assaulted the Asian woman could also be told to go back to their country. But that kind of trash talk sets back America several hundred years.

This anti-immigrant virus has been around for a long time, but folks were more discreet about displaying their affliction. Unfortunately, President Donald Trump made it fashionable to openly bare the virus when he recently told a group of non-white members of Congress to “go back to your country.”

Trump may not have realized that he was spitting in the wind, because he also can be told to go back to Germany, where his relatives reportedly had their roots.  And his wife Melania could be told to go back to Slovenia.

Aside from the anti-immigrant virus that Trump unleashed he also made it fashionable to attach an anti-Chinese label to the other virus that the world has had to struggle with: COVID-19, also called Kung Flu by Trump.

It is, in fact, possible that in Trump’s bigoted mind, Kung Flu applies to everyone who isn’t white.  We could all come from South of the border, for all he cares. It’s the attitude of white supremacists and neo-Nazis – including the father and son in Lisa’ post.

Fortunately, not everyone who is white is a bigot like Trump. There are many enlightened Americans who don’t care about race, color, creed or even sexual orientation. Being a human being is good enough for them.

But what is sad is that there are some Filipino-Americans who have mindlessly jumped on Trump’s anti-Chinese bandwagon, conflating the coronavirus with other perceived Chinese “sins,” from fake products to the trade war.

What these anti-Chinese Pinoys may not realize is that they are also showering in their own saliva like Trump, mainly because, to many non-Asians, everyone who comes from “that part of the world” (i.e., Asia), is “Chinese.”

And that includes Pinoys.

That brings to mind that classic Mad Comics strip where the Lone Ranger and his faithful sidekick, Tonto, were surrounded by Indians.

“Hey Tonto,” the Lone Ranger warned, “looks like we’re surrounded.”

At this, Tonto replied: “What you mean we?”

* * *

(gregmacabenta@hotmail.com)

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