Emil Guillermo: Year of the Monkey, my father's birthday, & Sacramento Kings' DeMarcus Cousins' ignorance
February 7, 2016 5:00 AM

Oakland Raiders quarterback great Kenny Stabler getting elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame made my Super Bowl Weekend. For me, that overshadowed the corporate juggernaut known as the Super Bowl, with its 100 million-plus viewers worldwide. 

And considering there are 1.4 billion people in China, and another 50 million overseas, there's only one super bowl left that matters, and it better be filled with bananas.

Happy Year of the Monkey everyone!

On Monday, Feb. 8, may your life be a red envelope filled with good fortune as the Lunar New Year officially begins. 

Every 12 years, monkeys rule. But looking back, 2004 seems like a mixed bag dud: Facebook launched, Google released G-mail, and George W. Bush beat John Kerry. 

2016? As an Asian American of Filipino descent, I take this as a special year. The Lunar New Year begins on the birthday of my father, who came to the U.S. from the colonial Philippines as a "national," a special status that made him neither fish nor fowl. To come here in the '20s, he didn't need any papers. He wasn't a Philippine national. And he definitely was not a U.S. citizen. He was a second-class colonized American "national." 


Filipinos--so special because they weren't.

In San Francisco, Filipinos like my dad found comfort on the edge of Chinatown on Kearny Street, where they formed Manilatown. Their Asian-ness gave them common ground with the Chinese, particularly when it came to eating, drinking, and gambling.

But the mostly male population of Filipinos often ventured out into the city and the rest of the state. Not only did they take jobs few whites would take, they started taking their women too.

That was the thrust of a white-led Filipino exclusion movement that came complete with violence and drove down the numbers of Filipinos entering the country from a high of around 11,000 in 1929 to 1,300 in 1932.  

During that time, the epithet of choice was clear. 

They called us "monkey." 

Through my father, I know what it's like to be not good enough because we weren't white. We were sub-human.

But when I hear that it's the monkey year, and it starts on my dad's birthday, well, that bit of karmic coincidence is just cause for celebration. 

I'm looking forward to a good year.

And If I can have a good year, maybe DeMarcus Cousins, with all his monkey baggage, can too. Although truthfully, playing for the lowly Sacramento Kings makes it highly unlikely.

Last week, Cousins, a high schooler from Mobile, Alabama who went to Kentucky, played one year, and then jumped to the NBA for $7 million, showed why it's not a bad idea to finish up four years of college.

He might have been able to take an Asian American history course.

Cousins objected to the Kings having a T-shirt giveaway featuring a monkey in the team's purple colors on the day that kicked off Black History Month.


Cousins found it offensive. 

Surprisingly, some people agreed.

magazine reported: "DeMarcus voices his displeasure and to the Kings credit they pull the Monkey T Shirts," Marques Johnson, who is now a Milwaukee TV analyst, wrote on Twitter.

"Good move Kings. Year of Monkey Tees on 1st day of Black History Month not a good look. Thanks DeMarcus," he also tweeted.

This kind of thing shows how ignorance can spread on social media. 

But what do you know, the Kings front office folded. 

The team removed the T-shirts to placate King DeMarcus.

The Kings should have sat down with Cousins and explained that the Year of the Monkey is important to the largest Asian minority in the state, the second largest minority group after Latinos (African Americans are third), and a big part of the fan base in Northern California.

The Kings then should have explained the monkey is no slur, not in the Lunar New Year context. And that even Asian Americans like Filipinos, who know the general term as an epithet, still consider Year of the Monkey not as a source of ire, but as reason for celebration. 

Instead, the Kings were bullied by a star of their own making. 

Since the $7 million paid to Cousins in 2009 to go pro, the Kings are into the player for a whopping $15.8 million for this year alone.

That tends to cloud judgment.

The big loser? Diversity, the truth, and anyone who wants a purple monkey T-shirt.

I thought I may have been the only one offended by Cousins' display of ignorance. But there was Comedy Central's The Daily Show chiming in with comic Ronny Chieng, suggesting that Cousins' objection could be avoided if Black History Month were moved to May.

Uh, that's Asian American History month. I'll excuse the Malaysian-born, Australian-educated Chieng.

But the best takedown was by New York's Charlamagne on WWPR in New York:

In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., "Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance than conscious stupidity." DeMarcus, you sound stupid as hell. You sound as stupid as white people who thought Cam Newton dabbing had something to do with gangs, OK?  DeMarcus Cousins, we aren't the only culture in the world. You need  to apologize to Asian Americans, let the Kings do their T-shirt giveaway, and then go eat some dim sum and some duck sliders with your Asian American fan base.

Charlamagne then went on to proclaim Cousins "Donkey of the Day." 

An apology would be nice. 

But the Kings need to do some apologizing too. Its shallow pandering to the Asian community was exposed when team officials couldn't even deal with Cousins on a rational basis.

By placating him, they rewarded his lack of knowledge, made a mockery of diversity, and spoiled a nice cultural celebration for Asian American fans of the Kings.

Fortunately, most fans have gone down the road to root for the world-beating Golden State Warriors, who never lose a game and know what diversity means. 

The Warriors, who have had lunar new year shirts for some time, featured a Chinese New Year beanie for Saturday's game. And just last week, star guard Klay Thompson met with Chinese youth in San Francisco's Chinatown. 


Chinese New Year during Black History Month in the NBA? 

It can happen. Especially when we aren't cowed by ignorance. 

But I'm willing to give Cousins a break.

If he really wants to do something for Black History Month, how about challenging all the top rappers who insist that their sexist and racist lyrics are a celebration of African American culture?

That would be worth a dab, and make up for his bogus objection to Year of the Monkey T-shirts. 

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Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator. 
Updates at www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.
The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF's views or policies.

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Emil Guillermo: Why I'm not watching #SuperBowl50, but rooting for Kenny Stabler instead
February 4, 2016 6:01 PM

If you're not a fan of the Carolina Panthers or the Denver Broncos, what team do you root for if you even bother to watch Super Bowl 50?

You might go ethnic.

When it comes to football, Asian Americans must go deep into a team's DNA to find a rooting interest. And my Filipino friends have discovered that Jordan Norwood of the Broncos is one-quarter Filipino! 

Let's see if he plays at least a quarter.

Norwood's brother actually is a big time jock in the Philippine Basketball League in Manila, which is a lot cooler than your doctor from the U.S. who, because of bad grades in college, ended up in a medical school in Manila. 

On the Carolina side, coach Ron Rivera is also at least one-quarter Filipino based on his mom's grandfather, an immigrant who worked the fields of Salinas. That's according to Rivera's wife Stephanie, who is Filipino American.

To top it off, Roman Gabriel, the first Asian American to play quarterback in the NFL, when he played for the Los Angeles Rams, and the MVP of the whole damn league in 1969, is a Carolina native son and was once part of the Carolina organization. 

romangabriel.jpgGabriel is the son of a Filipino immigrant. Just like me. 

Only at 6-foot-5, a bit taller.

I would like to say I rooted for Gabriel as a kid, but I didn't.

I grew up in San Francisco, and we had the Forty Niners. They were as bad then as they are now. Gabriel played for the Rams, and in one game I recall in 1969, he scored a touchdown for a come from behind win. That year, Gabriel was NFL MVP. 

But my all-time favorite player was the quarterback in Oakland they called "The Snake."

Kenny Stabler.
And he's the reason I just don't feel like watching Super Bowl 50.

The game's practically in my back orchard in California. 

But I'm not buying a ticket for the game where the ticket prices reached $292,505.25 for a suite or $26,915.25 in the semi-nose bleeds (the highest prices I saw when I checked on StubHub). 

I'm not even going to watch it on TV. 

I may take a glance just to see if there's news. But football isn't something I enjoy much anymore. Not my teams. Not the game I remember. That's a key word, "remember." 

Fortunately, I can still remember.

Many players I used to root for can't. 

I remember watching the very first Super Bowl back in 1967, before the game became the mega-corporate display of greed and barbarism in American society. 

My buddy Frankie Veracruz and I were at his house on 18th St. by Dolores Park in San Francisco. No one had Super Bowl parties back then. No one had TVs as big as their house.
We just watched and rooted for Bart Starr and the Packers as they beat the Kansas City Chiefs, 35-10.

They had a guy named Jim Taylor at running back. And another guy named Elijah Pitts. I always liked that name.

I had to Google all that, such is my memory these days.

You see, I actually played football.

I didn't play in the NFL, but I did play hard-hitting, full-contact football. Let the Kennedys play Touch. I played tackle.

Starting from a young age from Pop Warner to high school. It was organized but still very primitive. And even with a helmet, it didn't matter. Pound-for-pound, it's still football.

Your brain gets rocked.

Either from direct hits to the head, or from falling and having your head naturally snap back with a slam to the ground, your brain gets rocked.

I know, my detractors will say, "So that's why you write the @>X*** you write."

Only in part. I write what I do from the heart.

But after playing in unimportant youth league games up to high school, I had one career-ending concussion, where I blacked out for a second but never reported it--because tough guys kept on playing, right?

Now my head hurts. 

And then I read stories like the one about Kenny Stabler this week, and it makes me cry.

Stabler died last July at age 69. Now The New York Times and ESPN report Stabler had severe C.T.E.

That stands for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease caused by repeated blows to the head.

Of course, last year, the official cause of death was colon cancer.

But Stabler had seen what was happening to veteran players struggling with physical and mental disabilities. Before he ultimately passed, he consented to have his brain matter tested by scientists at Boston University. 

After months of testing, the results confirmed Stabler had Stage 3 C.T.E., a step below the highest stage.

"He had moderately severe disease," said Dr. Ann McKee, chief of neuropathology at the V.A. Boston Healthcare System, a professor of neurology and pathology at Boston University School of Medicine, and the person conducting the examination, according to the New York Times story. "Pretty classic. It may be surprising since he was a quarterback, but certainly the lesions were widespread, and they were quite severe, affecting many regions of the brain."

That's what football does at the highest level. Forget about footballers at every level down the line. No one cares about them.

And even at the pinnacle, no one cares what the game can do when you play it to win. You lose.

Now Stabler's name is on a list of more than 100 players similarly afflicted, some of whom are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, like Mike Webster, Frank Gifford, and the first Polynesian-American Samoan player in the Hall of Fame, Junior Seau.

It's practically become the NFL's Hall of Dementia.

For me, the news on Stabler was the final blow.

I know no one saw "Concussion" with Will Smith, the movie that told the tale of the doctor who blew the whistle on the NFL. The movie, which opened in December, ended January with just $35 million in box office.

Compare that to "Star Wars," now approaching $2 billion in box office.

People don't want to see the sad truth about its gladiators who pummel each other on the gridiron. 

They'd rather root and spend their cash. This year's Super Bowl 50 is estimated to generate more than $15 billion in consumer spending. 

No one is willing to say no to football. 

But after seeing the effects of football on a generation of players, it's clear that something's got to change.

Take the head out of the game. Remove the helmets and pads. Make it an aerial game. Just a few ideas.

But would that satisfy the bloodlust of fans? 

People have pointed out I like boxing and have questioned my disdain for football. But boxing has changed some rules to make it less brutal. These days, compared to MMA, boxing is a tea party. The way Floyd Mayweather fights, it's a hugfest. 

But boxing is also an anachronism and is nowhere close to what it was in the past. 

Football continues to grow, and now it is at a crossroads.

This weekend, as far as I'm concerned, the game can come and go. If I watch it, it will be by accident. But I'm not Super Bowl partying. And I'm not reveling in the Super City B.S. being staged in San Francisco for a game being played an hour from the city.

Don't even mention the sexism and the league's history with domestic violence against women.

We'll stay focused on what the game does to its players.

So this week, I'm rooting for my hero Ken Stabler's election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, where he's on the ballot. 

He'd better get in.

The game has become so much a corporate spectacle that stories like Stabler's remind us of that missing human element in the game. 

It's an element that has purposefully been lost as the game has pursued the goal of achieving its status as the crass, heartless, business mega-enterprise it has become.

The NFL has taken a simple game and made it a phenomenon, which, of course, must be protected at all costs.

That's why it's heartbreaking to know Stabler's circumstances. He's part of a class action suit brought by the players against the NFL seeking damages from concussions. The suit was settled last year but is under appeal.

Will Stabler's family see any compensation?

Because his C.T.E. was diagnosed after the April 2015 cutoff date, the answer is no.

Fans need to throw the red flag at Big Football. Now. 

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Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator. 
Updates at www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.
The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF's views or policies.

Posted by:Emil Guillermo | 2 comments

Emil Guillermo: Iowa? More than 90 percent white, but Asian Americans will caucus in Election 2016
January 29, 2016 11:26 AM

Donald Trump not on the debate stage on Thursday night? Big deal. Neither was an Asian American. 

But Asian Americans in Iowa are hoping to make some noise at the Iowa caucuses.

There are some Asian Americans there, you know.

You can't tell from the street, but Ingersoll Wine and Spirits is not just a landmark on the main road in town--it's Korean American to the core.

It's part of a two store operation in Des Moines, Iowa, owned for nearly 30 years by the Jung family and now run by Ben Jung, 45, a Korean American and native-born Iowan.

He almost left it to do a typical Asian American thing.

"As many fellow Koreans know, our parents often push us to become doctors and lawyers," he said. "I thought, If I'm going to get an education, I'm going to have to find somewhere else to go."

He did so gradually, first a few hours away to the University of Iowa, then for graduate school in Washington, DC. 

But ultimately, Jung came home to Iowa, where he's watched the Asian American population climb from a micro-speck to a full speck and some--2.2 percent of the state (the nation is about 5.4 percent Asian), according to the latest Census data. 

The state's data center puts the actual number of people who say they are Asian at 63,291.

Imagine a fraction of the population of any big city Chinatown as its own state. That's Iowa.

And it's not just Chinese. Asian Indians are actually the largest group at 23.6 percent; then Chinese at 22 percent; Vietnamese, 10.9 percent; Korean, 8.8 percent; Laotian 8.1 percent; Filipino, 6.9 percent; Burmese, 5.6 percent; and "Other Asian" (including Taiwanese), 14.1 percent. 

The state at more than 90 percent white isn't so diverse. But the Asian American community sure is. And nearly 80 percent arrived since 1990.

It makes the native-born Jung kind of a go-to-guy in the state, and one of the state's Asian American leaders. For the last four years, he's been on the Iowa Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs, where he serves as chair. 

Normally at this time of year, he'd be in California scouting the next vintage of fine wine.

This year, he stayed home for caucus season to sample the campaign whine.

In June, he thought the Trump phenomenon would peter out by January. Now, he's resigned to say Iowa is likely to go Trump or Cruz. But generally, he's been disappointed by the discourse and the anti-immigrant, anti-Obama attack-style rhetoric he's heard.

And he's a registered Republican. 

"I feel like we don't have a bleeding heart conservative, and that's kind of gotten us lost," he told me wistfully. "I almost wish there was a Jack Kemp of the 21st Century."

Jung recalled how in 1988, Kemp, the former HUD Secretary and frequent presidential candidate, visited Jung's high school.

"We're known to be the anti-immigrant party," Jung said of the GOP. "And I don't feel like that's the true party, based on what I remember back then meeting Jack Kemp. . .I look back and think, why can't we have someone like Kemp who doesn't apologize for tackling issues like poverty. . .Those voices are being drowned out because in primary season, it's easier to boast your conservative credentials and oftentimes that means how fast we can secure the border, for example, or how we can keep out refugees."

Jung remembers how meeting Kemp in the 1988 campaign influenced him so much he attended his first caucus as a high school student.

The rhetoric, while strong, isn't keeping him away from attending his precinct caucus this time around.

He said he has friends supporting Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush. This is the community fun of Iowa politics during caucus season. Jung says he's accepted the new reality and the trend of embracing outsider, anti-establishment candidates. 

But Jung's pick is an odd one: former congressman Rick Santorum.

"He's conservative," Jung said. "But he's not strident. . .He doesn't fit my personal view on immigration, but I'm trying not to be a one-issue caucus goer. . .I just feel like when I show up Monday, I'll speak for my candidate and say, you can be conservative but you don't have to be name-calling and strident; that's what [Trump and Cruz] represent."

Jung hopes others get energized enough to participate. "To be vocal and be visible," said Jung. "I'm doing my part as an Iowan. But I'd like to see others do so too." 

He was especially critical of his own Republican party.

"They're not doing enough," Jung said. "The Republican Party of Iowa has done very little."

He was concerned that the Brown and Black Forum, held every year for both Democrats and Republicans, only had a Democratic version this year. The Republican event was cancelled in the fall and never rescheduled.

"The Republican Party of Iowa seems to be happy it didn't happen," Jung said. 

Ironically, it's a status quo mindset in the midst of a campaign known for its anti-establishment feel.

It's just status quo to be slow to acknowledge diversity.

The Asian growth in Iowa is up 72.8 percent since 2000. 

Jung says every time there's a mock caucus training for Asian Pacific Islanders, people show up. 

But he says because of lack of outreach by the Republicans, he estimates that more than half of all Asian Americans who can will be going to Democratic caucuses and not Republican ones.

"It's a missed opportunity for the Republicans," Jung said. "This is going on in our back yard. But they're keeping the blinders on." 

That's modern minority politics in Iowa. But change is happening. In 2016, Ben Jung assures there will be Asian Americans caucusing.
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Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator. 
Updates at www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.
The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF's views or policies.

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Emil Guillermo: Vincent Rodriguez III as the love object of Rachel Bloom? CW's "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" is my kind of show
January 21, 2016 3:37 PM

I've talked about the lack of diversity in movies and TV forever in my pieces on this blog. And though the Oscars are once again all-white and deserving of our ire, Asian Americans of Filipino descent have reason to cheer at least for network television.

You can add Vincent Rodriguez III as a Filipino American diversity trailblazer.

A generation ago, I shunned an acting career in favor of TV journalism because of a lack of roles. I couldn't play the lead in a TV series, but on the local news, I could be the lead simply by standing in raging flood waters and getting all wet. 

Or from standing next to a five-alarm fire and risking smoke inhalation. 

Rodriguez, on the other hand, is part of a new day, and a new headline. And now he gets the girl.

I mean, when was the last time you saw a Filipino American male love interest on TV?

Who is that SAG-AFTRA member named Never?

If the recent comic wave of "Fresh Off the Boat," "Dr. Ken," and "Master of None," has established that Asian Americans are back on Hollywood's TV radar, "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" (CW, Monday nights) has gone one step further for a broadcast network show. 

In a TV universe where Filipinos are hardly visible, the show has lifted Rodriguez to a new level: Rom-com hunk.

Not the driver, the cook, or indiscriminate minority guy No. 3.  

Rodriguez gets the girl, rejects the girl, gets an even hotter girl, and then is pursued by somewhat less-hot girl (the "crazy ex-girlfriend).

That girl would be Rebecca Bunch, played by Rachel Bloom, the star, writer, and co-executive producer of the show, along with Aline Brosh McKenna. 

Considering Bloom's recent victories at the Golden Globes and Critics' Choice Awards for best actress in a comedy, she's far from crazy.

Especially as to diversity and having Rodriguez' Josh Chan as her Filipino Object of Desire.

In SMH parlance, that would acronymize into FOOD, and wouldn't you know that's what got me hooked on the show.

Filipino Thanksgiving is not much different from any other Thanksgiving, though if the turkey doesn't have a roast pig as a companion, there is likely to be the entree of dinuguan. 


It's a pork blood stew that's cooked until the blood is thick and grainy, drenching little bits of pork butt, pork belly, and maybe sliced pig ears for crunch.

They ate it on the show. 

Another American Filipino first on network TV. And I have monitored these things ever since I watched JFK's funeral on the family black and white TV.

Filipinos' beloved dinuguan, a vegan's high-cholesterol nightmare, a punchline on a network show! And in-language, not sanitized  by referring to it as  "chocolate meat." 

Happy Thanksgiving, indeed.

Rodriguez said dinuguan wasn't just a prop.

"Her plate legit had dinuguan on it, and each take the food would disappear," Rodriguez said. "She told the prop guy to keep filling her plate. She said, 'I'm going to eat it. It's there. I'm hungry. I love Filipino food. I'm eating it.'"

Rodriguez explained that Rachel grew up in Southern California around Asians and Filipinos.

"Our show is normalizing Filipinos, but we were always here. We've just never had this kind of exposure," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez grew up in the San Francisco Filipino enclave of Daly City, the Northern California version of the show's West Covina.

He said he got hooked on musicals watching "Newsies." And then as a martial artist. he saw Gene Kelly and realized that dancing was a more "non-violent martial art."

Now 33, (a fact that he somewhat regretted being public, although I reassured him as a Filipino, he will look 33 for the next 50 years), Rodriguez is on a show that has "heat" and is getting noticed. He's auditioning for roles in movies and TV that would normally be cast with a white actor.

In fact, it was an issue he brought up with his bosses, Bloom and McKenna, at his audition.

"I asked them this question at my final call back," he told me. "I said, 'Why is it Josh Chan and not Josh Smith, or Josh Leibowitz? You could have very easily gone with some other white heartthrob...' I was flattered to be there, but I also thought why am I here right now? Why did you guys make it this way? Because Aline and Rachel are head writers on the show. They're both executive producers, and they both made this choice. And Aline was saying that she and Rachel both grew up in Southern California and of all the hot surfer bro types, there were definitely Asians among them just as hot as the white guys. So [they said] they wanted Josh to depict that because it was something they had never seen on television. And then after getting the job, Rachel admitted when she was younger she had some huge crushes on some Asian guys. . .She would go out of her way to go to the place where this guy worked, on the chance of seeing him."

It sounds like the show.

"It's all based on truth and their upbringing and background and where they grew up. And after hearing that, I said, I grew up in my own West Covina, up north in Daly City. And I went to school with Josh Chan. I feel like I know who this person is. I actually feel like him. It feels like me."

Rodriguez would seem to be a perfect match for Rachel/Rebecca. 

But the show is not called "Crazy Ex-Boyfriend," and something tells me a twist is coming. Or as they say in the proverbial "writers' room,' things will be revealed.

In the meantime, there's no guarantee for a new season, so the next few weeks are a test of sorts.

Frankly, I'm rooting for Rodriguez' character Josh, and for the show.

In an odd way, I see myself as a Flip-side of the Rebecca character. I went from the west coast to the east coast to attend Harvard and date Jewish girls.

That didn't quite work out either.

I've often said that when we all have a love interest in each other, diversity would simply happen and through our hearts work its way into our lives.

Ultimately, it did for me.

But I can't help but think of my dad when I see the show.

For Filipinos, who were called "lusty rabbits" and faced discrimination for interracial love when they first arrived in the 1920s and 1930s, it's been a long time getting to "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend."  
Rodriguez told me they weren't really aware of it when they were shooting the show. But the image of a Filipino family through Rodriguez' Josh on "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" is much more groundbreaking than anyone can imagine.

Good thing, he had the courage not to give up.

 "A family member two years ago, when I was borrowing money, said I should consider another line of work in case the acting thing doesn't pan out, because if I needed help, I couldn't run to them anymore," Rodriguez told me. "It was a very powerful member of my family, and that really shook me and made me very afraid to pursue what I wanted, knowing that it was going to be a dice roll."

But he'd been in New York for more than a decade at that point, doing every odd-job imaginable.

"I've scrubbed the dirtiest toilets; I've painted bathrooms, bars; I did what it took to survive in that city to do what I love," Rodriguez said. "To pay for the dance class, the acting class, the seminar. My agent said I have a lot of perseverance and that whatever I have, they should bottle up. I just had this feeling inside--it's not just about me anymore. I am Filipino. But I also love what I do. I'm very passionate about it, and that's made me stand out in not always good ways. But I'm living my life happily and doing what I love. And not everyone gets to say that. Having this job is its own ultimate reward. But also rewarding is knowing that me being here means so much more to other people, and gives other people hope for our culture, and for where the entertainment industry is going."

Rodriguez the actor is hopeful. 

But even star and executive producer Bloom knows how hard it is to get a project produced. In her Golden Globes acceptance speech, she talked of almost not having a TV show. 

"We made a pilot for another network, and they rejected it," she said. "And we sent the pilot to every other network and we got six rejections in one day, and we felt like crap. But we knew it was good."

Time for Hollywood to learn its lesson. 

It if wants to tell the new stories that reflect the modern audience, it will need to pay more than lip service to diversity. 

The boardroom folks with the purse strings should take a tip from improv.

Say yes.

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Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator. 
Updates at www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.
The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF's views or policies.

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Emil Guillermo: Obama's one last appeal for a United States that works--together
January 13, 2016 11:31 AM

State of the Union addresses are usually more "I have a list," than they are "I have a dream."

But for this last go-round for President Obama, his list was shorter than normal, and the dream part was much larger.

And this comes from a list-worthy president, whose accomplishments were far greater than anyone seems to be giving him credit for. 

ObamaC.jpgPeople of color know how that goes in a world that's still "last hired, first fired." One that demands that you be twice as good to be good enough.

Sure, Obama has had his stumbles. Government surveillance wasn't mentioned in his speech. But he did mention Guantanamo. 

"That's why I will keep working to shut down the prison in Guantanamo," the president said. "It's expensive, it's unnecessary, and it only serves as a recruitment brochure for our enemies."  

The promise of a shutdown made seven years ago that stays dangling.  

Still, balance that with Obama's impressive "good" list: Health care, climate change, the freedom to marry, cheap gas, the economy.

Remember back to 2008 when the world seemed to be falling apart, and Chicken Little was Chicken Big. Unemployment was around ten percent, mortgages were underwater. and people were scared of banks.

Well, we haven't jailed any bankers. But the economy has gotten a lot better. 

Now we're just scared of terrorists and each other. 

It was the speech's two key themes for me: Fear and diversity. 

We've become a phobic nation.

That's why we got this speech for Obama's final State of the Union.

The nation's great. Our politics? Do you hear a giant sucking sound?

The speech was a vision of what our democracy and our politics could be like in a new America. 

The president had to remind us, as if we were a country that had forgotten its civics lessons.

"We the People," said the president. "Our Constitution begins with those three simple words, words we've come to recognize mean all the people, not just some; words that insist we rise and fall together. That brings me to the fourth, and maybe the most important thing I want to say tonight.

"The future we want--opportunity and security for our families; a rising standard of living and a sustainable, peaceful planet for our kids--all that is within our reach. But it will only happen if we work together. It will only happen if we can have rational, constructive debates.

"It will only happen if we fix our politics."

We know what that means, as Obama seemed to point a finger at GOP front-runner Donald Trump.

"That's why we need to reject any politics that targets people because of race or religion," the president said. "This isn't a matter of political correctness. It's a matter of understanding what makes us strong. The world respects us not just for our arsenal; it respects us for our diversity and our openness and the way we respect every faith."

The president continued: "When politicians insult Muslims, when a mosque is vandalized, or a kid bullied, that doesn't make us safer. That's not telling it like it is. It's just wrong. It diminishes us in the eyes of the world. It makes it harder to achieve our goals. And it betrays who we are as a country."

Who are we? In state of the union addresses, the president usually likes to slip in what I call "the diversity litany." More than a shoutout, it's the reminder in these speeches that we are all one.

But this year, it came with a twist. 

Obama2.jpgHe talked about a future when he is no longer in office, when he'll be one of us, a citizen, inspired by those who help see ourselves in a certain way and "who help us see ourselves not first and foremost as black or white or Asian or Latino, not as gay or straight, immigrant or native born; not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans first, bound by a common creed. Voices Dr. King believed would have the final word--voices of unarmed truth and unconditional love."

Was he talking about us? 

I like to call myself an American Filipino, and identify American first. But was Obama really lamenting the hope that never was, our faux post-racial America? After Obama, what kind of post-racial will we get?

I knew then I had heard this speech before. Working together. Bipartisan appeals. Fixing our politics. It has been an appeal throughout the Obama presidency. 

Seems like I heard it first in 2009, when the president came to Washington. 

I remember standing in the cold of Washington in January covering the inaugural, and wondering how long the euphoria I was witnessing would last.

Had that proverbial time come to American politics? Was the hell of politics freezing over? Or was any sense of achieving some new political plateau just temporary?

That inaugural week was a Washington I hadn't seen before. People were high-fiving and excited. There was a kind of giddiness and a genuine spirit of cooperation. It was a country that had elected its first black president. 

The feeling didn't last long. But Obama's still done a lot. 

That's what I was thinking throughout the final state of the union speech. Imagine how much could have been done if the country were truly united? 

That would have made this last year a real victory lap. Instead, we're looking at the future, trying hard not to backslide into our fears.

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Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator. 
Updates at www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.
The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF's views or policies.

Posted by:Emil Guillermo | 0 comments